In the search to find renewable sources of energy for the future, solar, wind energy and biofuels are often mentioned, but ocean wave energy is yet another option that is already being used successfully in many countries across the world. This type of energy generation has great potential for many coastal areas.
What Is Ocean Wave Energy?
Ocean wave energy utilizes the movement of ocean waves, the differences in heights and speed of wells and the changes in pressure that occur as the ocean waves move. These movements can be converted into a 60-Hertz frequency and added to the electrical grid to power cities. The best locations for the units that collect ocean wave energy are generally in extreme latitudes and on the western coasts of nations. The first ocean wave plant was built on the Isle of Islay, Scotland. Currently, installations are already in use or under construction in Norway, China, Japan, Australia, India, Portugal and the United States.
Types of Technology
Several different types of equipment are used to harness the power of ocean waves. Terminator devices run perpendicular to the direction that the wave travels. They can capture the power of the wave. They are usually installed onshore or near the shoreline, but floating versions can be used further offshore. Another type of energy collection device is called a point absorber. This is a floating device with components that move relative to each other with the waves. The relative motion of the parts drives a converter. Another type of device is an attenuator, a long, floating structure with segments that are positioned parallel to the waves. As waves moves, they flex the segments along the device, which is connected to a converter. In overtopping devices, ocean waves fill a reservoir with water to a level above the surrounding ocean. Gravity causes the extra water to fall, and the energy from this action is captured to turn turbines.
Currently, ocean wave technology is still too expensive to implement in comparison to other forms of green energy. However, the technology continues to improve, and manufacturers expect that costs will continue to go on as new materials and methods of construction are developed.
The technology needed to capture the energy of ocean waves, such as submerged devices, above-water platforms and resulting changes that may occur on the sea floor could potentially have an adverse effect on marine habitats, causing the loss of sea life. The release of toxic chemicals such as hydraulic fluids could also kill off marine creatures. Visual changes and noise generation from these devices could have a negative impact, as well.
Though ocean wave technology is not yet ready for wide-scale use, developers continue to work on further improvements to make it more viable green energy alternative.