JAMAIS CASCIO, worldchanging.com, February 10, 2005
This is older information yet still relevant. – LKBlog
The great renewable energy myth is that it’s more expensive than obsolete sources of power. While that’s arguably true for solar — although less so all the time — it’s definitely not the case for wind. And, as it turns out, it’s not the case for wave power, either. Built in the right locations, wave power generation can be as inexpensive as wind — that is, competitive with more traditional power technologies (and, I would argue, even cheaper when externalities are added in). This comes from EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, following a multi-year study of the economics of wave energy.
Conceptual designs for 300,000 megawatt-hour (MWh) plants (nominally 120 MW plants operating at 40% capacity factor) were performed for five sites: Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii; Old Orchard Beach, Cumberland County, Maine; WellFleet, Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Gardiner, Douglas County, Oregon; and Ocean Beach, San Francisco County, California.The study determined that wave energy conversion may be economically feasible within the territorial waters of the United States as soon as investments are made to enable wave technology to reach a cumulative production volume of 10,000 – 20,000 MW. (Land-based wind turbines, in comparison, generate 40,000 MW.) […]
There are several compelling arguments for investing in offshore wave energy technology. First, with proper siting, conversion of ocean wave energy to electricity is believed to be one of the most environmentally benign ways to generate electricity. Second, offshore wave energy offers a way to minimize the ‘Not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) issues that plague many energy infrastructure projects. Wave energy conversion devices have a very low profile and are located far enough away from the shore that they are generally not visible. Third, wave energy is more predictable than solar and wind energy, offering a better possibility of being dispatchable by an electrical grid systems operator and possibly earning a capacity payment.
The final report gives a good breakdown of how competing wave energy technologies work, and how they compare to other renewable sources. Ocean power has outstanding potential: the report claims that “the total U.S. available incident wave energy flux is about 2,300 TWh/yr. The DOE Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates 2003 hydroelectric generation to be about 270 TWh, which is a little more than a tenth of the yearly offshore wave energy flux into the U.S.”
While wind and solar tend to get a lot of attention, ocean power is quietly becoming a winning pathway to renewable energy. The first ocean power system connected to the grid opened in Orkney, Scotland, in August; it’s a test system producing 750kW. Orkney will eventually be home to 40 such systems in a “wave farm,” producing 30MW of power. Orkney won’t be alone for long: a program is underway to test wave power systems off the coast in Spain, a 254 megawatt tidal power system (a similar technology) is underway in South Korea, and a smaller tidal power system is planned in New York’s East River.