This guest post is by Sarah of the wave hub in Hayle.
It is an exciting time for renewable energy, as engineers work to apply innovative design concepts to untapped sources of clean, sustainable power for the world’s electrical grids. A part of this wave of green R&D is the recently spirited interest in making wave power an economically viable energy source.
Wave power refers to the practice of harvesting the kinetic energy inherent in sea waves for the mass production of clean electricity.
This technology is in its infancy, but engineers of wave energy generation devices hint at the unlocked potential of the ocean. As development continues, it is important to evaluate the pros and cons of those devices charged with the experimental first generation of wave harvesting: What have we learned about wave power technology in recent years?
We have learned that there are both pros and cons to wave power technology with regard to its environmental impact, costs and maintenance, and its value as a reliable resource for renewable energy.
Pro: Most wave energy recovery devices have no carbon footprint in themselves. While the complete cycle of electricity production is likely to have a larger overall impact, the core mechanical model does not consume or alter any material resources from the environment. Wave energy is thus a 100% renewable resource that emits no carbon pollution – an essential feature of green tech in the era of climate change.
Con: However, wave power devices do alter their surrounding environment. There is evidence that installations on seashores may threaten the fragile habitats of indigenous flora and fauna in proximity to coastal wave farms.
Costs and Maintenance
Pro: Once established, wind power pays for itself. Relatively low overhead for maintenance is required once a wave farm is fully operational. Mature devices can also provide a constantly sustained supply of efficient electricity because they uniformly distribute wave power into grid-connected generators.
Con: The initial costs of getting wave power infrastructure up and running are formidable compared to more tested industries like solar and wind. Wave power proponents are hopeful that the currently high per-kilowatt startup production costs will diminish with increased investment.
Pro: Ocean waves are unparalleled as a reliable energy source. While wind turbines can sit motionless for whole seasons, the ocean delivers sustained wave energy day and night, by transmitting the inexhaustible energy of the sun.
Con: Man-made wave energy conversion devices are vulnerable to constant corrosive battering by the sea. This factor tends to drive up construction costs and undercuts the reliability of wave processing systems.
The current trend predicts increased interest in wave energy generation devices as the industry works to find itÕs footing among competing renewable resource technologies. There is no doubt that we will understand more about the relative balance of these pros and cons as research accrues and technical innovation unfolds in the years ahead.
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