Wave Energy: How does it work?

Climate and environment blog

Wave power

Wave power is a form of hydropower that can be extracted in the seas. It is a renewable energy source that has enormous potential, but the technology has not yet been sufficiently scaled up to make a difference and to be used extensively.

Humans are now completely dependent on electricity for their survival. We use electricity to heat our houses and to cook our food, and many of the earth’s population today cannot imagine a life without electricity. At the same time, the earth’s resources are beginning to run out, and this contradiction means that researchers are constantly searching for new, low-cost ways to produce electricity. One of the methods that have begun to develop seriously in recent years is wave power. However, as with all methods of producing electricity, there are advantages and disadvantages to this relatively new method.

What is wave power?

The ocean waves consist of moving water, and movements can be into electricity in a generator. Since the seas are almost always moving, it would mean a lot if you could use this energy, but it is difficult to develop efficient wave power plants that sustain the stresses of the marine environment.

So far, a vanishingly small portion of the energy used by humans is produced by waves, but the projects are increasing and the technology is evolving.

Advantages and benefits of wave power

Advantages of wave power: Renewable, no emissions, great potential.

The main advantage, which is the reason for investing in wave power, is that it is a renewable energy source. Wave power, as the name implies, is based on harnessing the power of waves to produce electricity, and as long as there are wind and sea, there will be waves on the earth. In other words, it is a sustainable way of producing electricity, which does not emit any carbon dioxide and does not use any of the earth’s resources.

Another advantage of wave power compared to other renewable energy sources, such as wind power, is that wave power can be utilized for more time. One disadvantage, however, is that one is still dependent on nature’s whims, and thus cannot control the production itself: when there is a lot of waves, a lot of electricity is produced, and when there are small waves, less electricity is produced. This means that it is never possible to rely on the entire electricity generation for wave power since another production method must be able to compensate for the periods with less and smaller waves.

Other aspects of wave power are also more ambiguous. For example, wave power has good potential for one day being able to compete cost-effectively with other forms of electricity generation, but so far no one has succeeded in creating a solution for wave power that pays off economically. So far it is far too expensive. There are also differing opinions about how much wave power actually affects the marine environment. Some believe that the wave power plants become a kind of artificial reef, which contributes to greater biodiversity. Others believe that the power plants scare away local wildlife. Also, some people, especially fishermen and trawlers, find the wave power plants disturbing.

As with all renewable energy sources, the positive properties also consider the wave power. Waves are free and do not produce harmful emissions. Admittedly, there are environmental risks associated with the type of energy, but they are small and there is ongoing research aimed at minimizing any potential adverse effects.

Among other things, it is investigated how fish react to the sound that arises when the wave generators are in motion. It is known, for example, that seals, dolphins, and other marine mammals are sensitive to certain frequencies.

There are also fears that the electromagnetic fields that arise around the power plants can affect the orientation ability of salmon and eel. On the other hand, crabs and some fish species thrive on and around the power plants.

Disadvantages of wave power: The technology is not ready for large-scale expansion yet.

You can either capture energy from the surface of the sea or from movements under the surface with different techniques:
Buoys on the surface are exposed to the force of the waves and propagate through a bracket on the seabed where there is a generator.

Buoys, “snakes” or other structures on the surface swing around and a generator inside captures these forces.
Buoys, wings, and propellers under the surface catch underwater movements

A problem with wave power compared to wind and solar is that no technology has become standard yet, which prevents large-scale expansion. When a technology that crystallizes as well as a wind turbine is crystallized, there is great potential to create wind farms that generate stable renewable energy.

An advantage of wave power is that the type of energy can supplement offshore wind power. By combining wind and wave power in the same place, you can get more continuous electricity generation from energy types than if they are used individually. The waves are not in phase with the wind but will come later.

When it stops blowing in an area and the wind power supplies less, the waves can take over energy production. One can also take advantage of the fact that the infrastructure in the form of a connection to the electricity grid can be shared by the Power Act.

Wave power and the environment

Wave power and the other variants of developed marine power are considered environmentally friendly. The motion energy is completely natural and its use is not associated with any emissions. It is also a renewable energy source.
What is difficult to assess is the impact that can have on the local marine environment.

There are signs that buoys and similar somewhat positive for marine animals and plants, which can establish themselves around them. There are also fears that the sounds and the generators’ generation of magnetism can interfere with wildlife. How big this impact will be and what form it will take is the energy kind of young to be able to predict.

More about wave power

The bigger the waves, the more energy they contain. Each time the height of a wave doubles, its local energy quadruples. The energy in the waves is transported long distances over the seas with small losses.

The energy of the waves varies from place to place. The most energy-efficient waves are found in the southern hemisphere outside of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. In the Northern Hemisphere, the waves in the Atlantic are particularly energy-rich outside of Norway, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Since the energy crisis in the 1970s, researchers around the world have been trying to find ways to extract energy from ocean waves. The challenge in developing wave power plants lies in the combination of slow movements with occasional very high waves. The slow motion means that large forces must be utilized in a smart way to achieve sufficient power levels, while storms usually produce too high a power. The plants must, therefore, be designed to withstand both storms and hurricanes but also utilize the energy to the maximum with smaller waves.

There are many different designs and methods for extracting wave energy, where some have proven to work better than others, but there is still no optimal solution.

The functional engineering problems are solved for several types of wave power plants. However, the current beach-based wave power plants of the so-called OWC type are not economical, as they can only be built in a few places. And the sea plants are not included, as risk capital is lacking.

Power plants have placed better offshore, and they can also be built on large areas. However, most constructions have so far focused on getting the technology itself to work and have not put the plants in an economic light

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