Anyone who has ever been pummeled by a wave at the beach understands the immense power released by ocean waves. Although difficult to capture, wave power might be one of our best investments in a carbon-free world.
Here are ten facts about ocean wave power that you may not have heard:
1. Wave energy is essentially stored, concentrated wind energy, since waves are created by the energy from wind as it blows over the surface of the water.
2. Once a wave power station is constructed, the energy is free, requires no fuel inputs and produces no waste or pollution.
3. Wave power onshore wave power systems extract the energy in breaking waves
4. Wave power systems can be placed in deep water (more than 130 feet). Examples of this technological feat include using the bobbing motion of waves to power a pump that creates electricity – like the Salter Duck device does – or using hoses connected to floats that ride the waves stretching and relaxing the hose to create pressure that can rotate a turbine.
5. Wave power can be portable, employing floating platforms that create electricity by funneling waves through internal turbines and releasing the water back into the sea.
6. Wave power can also be deployed close to the shoreline, capturing the energy from breaking waves to power hydraulic pumps or turbines.
7. Some areas of the world have better wave power potential than others. A few of the best areas include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northeastern and northwestern coasts of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest alone, wave energy could potentially produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline, and the west coast of the U.S. is more than a 1,000 miles long.
8. Wave power is relatively predictable compared to sun and wind, which could provide utilities a dependable source for baseload power that is clean and non-polluting.
9. Sea water is more than 850 times denser than air at sea level, meaning that wave power installations can produce a lot of power with only a small amount of equipment and real estate.
10. Worldwide, venture capital investments in ocean power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million in 2008, according to the Cleantech Group.
For more information see the fact sheet on Ocean Wave Power from the U.S. Department of Energy
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