Wave Power

Tidal power is the only renewable source derived from the moon – seas have been battering coasts and sweeping sailors to their doom for millennia – the prize is huge amounts of clean, reliable and renewable electricity.  An extraordinary array of devices promises to unlock this vital energy potential. The ocean energy sector is frothing with ideas, with hundreds of companies developing an extraordinary array of devices and backed by billions of dollars of investment.  Wave energy can be harvested from very low currents. This resource is abundant. A coalition of 25 ocean-faring nations, called Ocean Energy Sytems, estimates a global potential for wave and tidal energy of 750GW by 2050, almost twice today’s global nuclear capacity. The EU projects 100GW in 2050, providing about 10% of the bloc’s electricity. link

Hydropower provides 75% of the world’s renewable electricity – link



  • Potential of wave power and research
  • UK leading wave power technology
  • Wave power around the world

How wave power works –link    
Short video (2016) showing multiple technology options  – link

 Potential of wave power and research

September 2008: Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world. Despite hurdles to overcome, many see wave’s potential as much greater than wind power. link

March 2014: How oceans could power the future. The oceans contain a huge amount of energy. Ocean current resources are about 800 times denser than wind currents, meaning a 12-mph marine current generates the equivalent amount of force as a 110-mph wind gust. A 2012 report prepared by RE Vision Consulting for the Department of Energy found that the theoretical ocean wave energy resource potential in the U.S. is more than 50% of the annual domestic demand of the entire country. The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts - 2 million megawatts or double current world electricity production  –  could be produced from the oceans via wave power. link

(March 2017) New technology from Germany. Germany is a bit of a late-comer in wave energy, probably due to its short coastline and well developed solar and wind industries. However, in 2014, SINN Power developed a system which floats entirely above the water line, purposely avoiding corrosion and regular maintenance which is much more difficult to handle underwater. The idea is pretty straightforward – the up-and-down motion of the waves lifts the floating bodies of the individual modules. The floating bodies in turn lift a rod that runs through a generator unit. This is how electricity is generated. SINN Power’s modular system is simple enough to be installed at every coast, adaptable to supply both mini-grids and public grids. With Federal Government assistance, which is really pushing for marine technologies now, SINN Power is developing its prototype in Heraklion, Crete. (Video shows how this system operates. link)

August 2012: Orkney Islands, leader in green energy, launches wave competition. In the Scottish Orkney islands there are hundreds of small wind turbines dotted across the islands, and more than a dozen large commercial machines. On Monday, as the wind gusted to 45 mph, they were powering homes on the Scottish mainland with surplus energy, feeding more than 23MW of electricity into the grid. (Pictured at right: A tidal turbine in the fast-flowing waters off Orkney’s Eday Island.) Orkney has quietly but very deliberately become arguably the most self-sufficient community in the British Isles for its energy, and is home to many of the world’s most advanced wave and tidal power machines. The goal for the renewables industry is obvious – to harness the immense energy of the sea, and tap into a global market predicted to be worth £1 trillion. Estimates suggest that around the Scottish islands, tidal and wave power could generate 38,500 gigawatt hours a year, equivalent to three coal-fired power stations as large as Drax in north Yorkshire, the UK’s largest. link  (April 2017: EC-OG switches on the Subsea Power Hub (SPH) for the first time link)

U.S. potential. Tidal resource potential is typically given in terawatt-hours/year (TWh/yr). The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has completed a recent analysis of the U.S. wave energy resource potential, which estimates the total wave energy resource along the outer continental shelf at 2,640 TWh/yr. That is an enormous potential, considering that just 1 TWh/yr of energy will supply around 93,850 average U.S. homes with power annually. link

May 2015: Wales launches underwater kite turbine scheme. A unique renewable energy scheme involving underwater “kite-turbines” is being launched off the coast of north Wales. Twenty  turbines will be anchored off Anglesey and when fully operational should generate enough electricity to power 8,000 homes. Weighing seven tonnes and operating at least 15 metres below the water surface, each kite carries a turbine below it. The kite is tethered by a cable to the sea floor and then “flies” in the tidal stream. It swoops round in a figure-of-eight shape to increase the speed of the water flowing through the turbine. link

 UK leading wave power technology

The British coastline provides almost half of Europe’s wave resources and over a quarter of its tidal energy resources. Britain is sitting on the biggest source of marine energy in Europe. Tapping tidal and wave energy could one day produce about 10% of the world’s electricity consumption, so the incentive to develop turbines, hydrofoils and ducts which can convert this energy into watts is enormous. While the costs of wind power have decreased by 80% in the last 25 years with design improvement and economies of scale, marine power is starting from a lower base and Britain is a world leader in this technology. link

August 2018: SR2000 2MW prototype turbine off Orkney proves tidal energy success. The 2MW prototype turbine generated more electricity in first 12 months than Scotland’s entire wave and tidal sector before it. The SR2000 was installed in the Fall of Warness in August 2017. At points it has been able to power more than a quarter of Orkney’s homes. (Wind has had about 50 years from when it first started, whereas wave and tidal has really been over the last 10 years or so and has actually made quite a lot of progress in that time.) link

October 2017: Blue Energy: The marine renewables sector starts to show promise. The Orkney Islands are home to the world’s leading centre for the testing of marine renewable energy devices at sea. There are two dominant strands to these trials, with tidal energy typically harnessed through huge underwater turbines, often more than 150 tonnes per turbine, and wave power which can be extracted through a range of prototype technologies. In 2011, the Carbon Trust 2011 estimated as much as 20% of the UK’s total energy supply could come from wave and tidal power. link

August 2017: Scottish tidal power station breaks world record for electricity generation. A study shows that the tidal flows between the Atlantic and the North Sea could potentially power nearly half of Scotland’s entire electricity needs, Atlantis Resources, the company behind the Pentland Firth project, said it had generated 700 megawatt-hours of electricity in August, enough energy to power 2,000 Scottish homes from just two turbines. (The plan is for 269 turbines.) In 2014 engineers calculated about 1.9GW of electricity could be harnessed by tidal power plants in the Pentland Firth, equivalent to about 43% of the total used in Scotland. link

August 2016: Tidal power breakthrough in Scotland. A power company in Shetland has claimed a breakthrough in the race to develop viable offshore tidal stations after successfully feeding electricity to local homes. The second of five 100kW turbines is due to be installed in the sound this month, sending electricity on a commercial basis into Shetland’s local grid. link

May 2013: World’s biggest wave farm approved off Scottish coast. Full consent has been given for a 40MW farm off the north-west coast of Lewis, enough to power nearly 30,000 homes. Wave energy firm Aquamarine Power said it would begin installing its Oyster devices in the next few years, once grid infrastructure is put in place. link

Severn Estuary Plan 
The Severn Bore is one of Britain’s few truly spectacular natural phenomena. It is a large surge wave that can be seen in the estuary of the River Severn, where the tidal range is the 2nd highest in the world, being as much as 50 feet. As many as 60 bores occur throughout the world where the river estuary is the right shape and the tidal conditions are such that the wave is able to form. The Severn Bore (one of 8 in the UK) is one of the biggest in the world. (By far the biggest bore in the world is the Ch’ient’ang’kian in China.) The shape of the Severn estuary is such that the water is funnelled into an increasingly narrow channel as the tide rises, thus forming the large wave. link  October 2010: Severn estuary plan scrapped. Plans to build a 10-mile hydroelectric barrage across the Severn estuary in western England, which could generate 8.6GW of zero-carbon electricity from the Severn, the equivalent of eight large coal-fired power stations, have been scrapped. The project was to have supplied 5% of the UK’s energy requirements. link
September 2013 – UK government ruled out proceeding on current plans, but it could be revived and given serious consideration if major changes were made to the scheme, with new environmental studies and reassurances over financing and technology. link

February 2016: Can Scotland become the Saudi Arabia of renewables? In 2008, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond boldly claimed that Pentland Firth, a region in northern Scotland, could be the “Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”  One of the most recent Scottish plans against climate change is to fulfill 100% of its total electricity consumption with renewable energy by 2020. link

August 2010: 1300 tonne one MW tidal power turbine unveiled. (See photo left) The AK1000 device, with two sets of blades, is the largest yet built, and is capable of supplying energy to 1,000 homes. Standing 73 feet tall, it is being transported to a test site in northern Scotland. The turbine’s two sets of blades have been designed to move slowly underwater and turn at six to eight revolutions per minute so are incredibly slow turning and will have zero impact on the surrounding environment or sea life. link Update  September 2017: Atlantis Resources to ask Government for funds to pursue tidal energy project. link

 Wave power around the world

May 2016: UK and Canada compete for tidal power leadership. Two countries with the highest tides in the world, Canada and the UK, both claim to be the world leaders in creating electricity from the tides. They are among a group of coastal states including China, South Korea, the US and Australia that are hoping to harness the enormous power of their local twice-daily tides to tap a new and reliable supply of electricity. Unlike wind and solar energy, tidal power is entirely predictable. If it can be tapped on a large scale as a power source, it will provide reliable base load power for any grid system. link

July 2016: Europe backing ‘limitless’ energy project in France. French energy company ENGIE plans to build a tidal energy project on the western coast of the English Channel aiming to install four tidal turbines with a total generating capacity of 5.6MW. France aims to use renewable energy for 40% of its total electricity production by 2030. link

June 2015: Tidal power shows strength in Europe, Canada. Backers of tidal power technology say 2015 is going to be a big year on the road to commercialization. Utility-scale projects in France, the UK and Canada all show promise, with turbine manufacturer OpenHydro touted as the first company likely to get two machines deployed together in the water and connected to the grid. The world’s first marine energy test facility was established in 2003 in Scotland. France is working on a pre-commercial pilot farm. link

February 2015: First wave power connected to grid. The world’s first grid-connected wave power array of wave power generators to be connected to an electricity grid in Australia and worldwide station has been activated off the coast of Western Australia. During the testing phase, the first 240kW peak capacity CETO 5 wave unit operated successfully for more than 2,000 hours. link

February 2012: Tidal power farm for Gujarat, India. Atlantis Resources Corp. plans a tidal power farm with a capacity of 50 MW with the possibility to increase it to more than 200 MW. When complete, this farm will be the first of its type, not just within the country, but also in Asia. The Gujarat assembly will comprise of 50 turbines of 1 MW each. Atlantis has decided to set up a farm in Gujarat because of its untapped tidal energy reserves in the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Kambhat. The Gulf of Kutch extends over an impressive area of 7,300 sq. km and has an average depth of 30 meters. link

Wave Power in the USA

September 2017: Giant turbine in Canada comes through long-term test. The 52-foot-diameter Cape Sharp Tidal turbine, designed to capture the power of the legendary tides of the Bay of Fundy, endured the winter and spring on the seabed in Nova Scotia, generating electricity. Now in port for upgrades, the 1,100-ton machine looks as if it has survived a couple rounds with a powerful adversary. The turbine can generate 2MW of electricity. Based on new data estimates of power generated in the Minas Passage could reach 7,500MW of which 2,500MW could realistically be extracted. link
August 2016: Wave power support in USA. As much as $40 million may be available to help support the development of a wave-energy testing facility in U.S waters. The Energy Department last year deployed a wave energy prototype dubbed Azura at a test site at Kaneohe Bay off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Developer Northwest Energy Innovations, with help from a $5 million federal grant, tested an earlier prototype off the coast of Oregon in 2014. link

March 2014: FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has approved a 10-year pilot license for the 600KW Admiralty Inlet Pilot Tidal Project to be located in Puget Sound off Washington State. The project will be grid-connected and is the first U.S. undertaking at such a scale. link      

May 2015: China is planning to build three wave energy test sites off Shandong, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces. link

August 2007: Kuroshio Current in Taiwan promises over 1,000MW of power. The Kuroshio is the world’s second-largest warm current after the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean. The Kuroshio is known for its strong, fast flow as it passes seas near the Philippines and Taiwan before running northeast toward Japan. Taiwan hopes to build a power plant that will use a strong current flowing off its east coast to generate electricity. The plant is still in the planning stage, but once built, it would be the first plant in Asia to make use of the Kuroshio Current that flows along the Pacific Ocean to the east of the country.  (Taiwan imports 98% of its fuel and has been seeking new energy sources, including wind power.) link  The Kuroshio ocean current flows from the eastern coast of Taiwan and around the southern parts of Japan. Using just 1% of the seashore of mainland Japan can generate about 10 gigawats of energy, equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants. link 

Update – When it comes to this Kuroshio power, the schedule calls for completing the roadmap by the end of 2016 and performing experiments and improvements in ocean waters by the end of 2018. The major goals of the plan are to introduce renewable energy in Taiwan and foster this industry. link

August 2013: Zero emissions desalination project, plus energy. A new project in Australia aims to create freshwater by harnessing the kinetic force of ocean waves. Run by the Perth-based firm Carnegie Wave Energy in cooperation with the Water Corporation, the plant will use Carnegie’s proprietary CETO wave energy technology to power reverse osmosis desalination. Reverse osmosis desalination has been in use for several decades and works simply enough: high pressure is used to force saltwater through a membrane, producing drinkable freshwater on the other end. Traditionally the pressure is provided with electric pumps powered by fossil fuels, resulting in both CO2 emissions and lots of points for energy loss. But instead of relying on those electric pumps, Carnegie is using the latest technology to supply that pressure with wave energy instead.  Some of that hydraulic energy is also converted into electric power as needed. The resulting system not only cuts out all CO2 emissions, it also greatly reduces the points where energy can be lost. link

December 2010: Scientists worry about ocean energy’s effect on sea-creature migration. Scientists increasingly believe these marine creatures and others use the earth’s magnetic fields to navigate vast distances. link