Platt/McGraw-Hill, August 2008
As well as the US, many other nations are also looking to crack the wave energy market.
In Sweden, for instance, the first wave-powered plant is set to begin delivering electricity to twenty homes on the country’s west coast within a few weeks. Seabased, a marine-energy technology headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden, is using its patented turbine system in the pilot project, which it is financing through a combination of investment capital and grant money. Investors include Finnish power company Fortum, which has invested SEK 6 million ($989,000) as well as Swedish utility Vattenfall and a Swedish state pension fund. In addition, the Swedish Energy Agency gave the company a SEK 13.6 million ($2.2 million) grant earlier in 2008. In the first phase, 10 generators with capacity of about 100 kW will be installed. Seabased is looking to expand the project to 12 MW of installed capacity. That plan, however, could be stopped by the Swedish military. In a letter to Minister for Enterprise and Energy Maud Olofsson, military officers expressed concern that wave power generators could interfere with defense operations on Sweden’s west coast.
In addition, China, with ample potential wave power along its 18,000-kilometer (11,160-mile) coastline, is taking steps to develop marine energy. Israeli company S.D.E. Energy recently signed an agreement to sell wave-power plants in China. The company said that the power plants will be financed by investors in Hong Kong and other parts of China. Two joint venture companies, formed in Hong Kong, will build an initial model in Guangzhou province in southern China. SDE said that if the model proves successful, the joint ventures will establish sea wave power plants across the country. The process is subject to the approval of the Chinese government. SDE executives said the cost of erecting a 1-MW wave power station starts at $650,000. This compares to $900,000 for a similar sized natural gas station, $1.5 million for a coal-fired or wind powered station and $3 million for a solar station, the company said.
All told, wave energy has recently made major strides toward commercial development – progress that could accelerate in countries like Portugal and the UK in the coming months. Winners and losers still must be sorted: Energy analyst Douglas Westwood estimates that more than 80 wave and tidal systems are currently competing for market share. The next challenges will surface as initiatives like the Portuguese Aguçadoura project near the brink of commercial-scale power generation.
Wave energy’s “adoption as a credible renewable energy source is vital,” an industry observer said in an interview. “The technology is still expensive. But it’s a question of how quickly rather than whether it develops.”