The Ocean’s Waves: A Natural Resource for Energy

The need for cleaner renewable energy sources has created some remarkable new technologies in the past few decades such as solar power, wind power, and geothermal power. One other that seems promising is harnessing the power of ocean waves. This is primarily known as wave energy conversion and the concept was first put into practical application in 1910 by a Frenchman, Bochaux-Praceique. He constructed a device that provided power and light to his home called an oscillating water-column.

Between the years of 1855-1973 no less than 340 patents had been applied for in the United Kingdom alone, however, success was minimal in practical working systems. The oil crisis of the mid 1970s saw the renewed interest in waves as a potential energy source. In 1974, Stephen Salter of Edinburgh University introduced what became known as Salter’s Duck a wave energy device that in small scale controlled tests was able to stop 90% of a waves motion and convert 90% of this kinetic energy into electricity giving it an 81% efficiency rating. Unfortunately, as oil prices fell throughout the 1980s so did the interest in wave conversion and no large scale application was (3)

It wasn’t until 2003 that the first marine energy test facility was constructed in Orkney, Scotland, U.K. and the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) deployed more tidal and wave devices for testing than anyone else. Although, there are many ways to go about wave conversion one that holds promise is the principle of using buoys attached to cables where the rise and fall of the buoys with the waves drives hydraulic pumps and this is used to generate electricity.

Other systems include the hydraulic ram and the hydraulic turbine. It is inevitable that the never ending kinetic energy in waves will soon be a clean source for the production of electricity.