Nearshore Wave Power

A typical onshore turbine can generate as much as 6 million kWh per year.1 That’s enough energy to power some 1,500 homes.2 The question is, could onshore turbines provide us with enough energy to replace our existing fossil fuel power plants?

What Is Nearshore Wave Power?

Nearshore wave devices capture energy contained in waves close to the shoreline.3 Currently, there are a number of different technologies being developed, all aiming to become the future energy source of the seas.4 The most promising appears to be a simple, large vertical flap that swings backwards and forwards within the water.5 This movement drives two hydraulic pistons which force high-pressure water along an underwater pipe where it drives an onshore generator.6 This makes maintaining the device relatively straightforward as the electrical components are located onshore. Currently, nearshore wave devices provide just a minuscule amount of the world’s energy demand,7 however, nearshore wave devices have the potential to produce some 5 PWh of energy each year. That’s around 5% of the world’s current energy demand.8 Nearshore wave devices also take up very little space, and they are exposed to less hostile conditions than if they were located out at sea. They also benefit from waves that generally move in the same direction.9 Despite this, nearshore wave devices are still under development. As such, it is difficult to gauge exactly how much they will cost or how much energy they are likely to generate.

What’s Good About Them?

  • They capture the majority of the energy contained in a wave.10
  • They provide a predictable and reliable energy source.11
  • They are relatively simple to maintain and access.
  • They take up very little space.12

What’s Bad About Them?

  • About 50% of the energy contained within a wave is lost before it gets to the shore.13
  • There is a limited amount of global potential.14
  • They are expensive compared to other renewable devices.15

How Much Area Do We Need?

To meet the UK’s energy demand, we would need to wrap the entire country nearly two times over with nearshore wave energy devices.16 This assumes high energy waves for the entire length of the coast.

What Does Nearshore Wave Power Look Like?

To be completed.

Where Is Nearshore Wave Power Best Located?

Wind creates waves, and the more wind, the larger the wave. As such, nearshore wave devices are best located adjacent to large oceans as they produce the highest wind speeds.17

How Do They Perform?

¢18/KWH1820 Years1917 GWH20
Energy PriceLife Spanper KM² per Year
20 Years218 Months22105 PWH23
Economic OffsetEnergy OffsetWorld Potential

How Do They Rate?

Value for Money|★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Reliability|★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Eco-friendliness|★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Global Potential|★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Overall|★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Onshore Turbines in a Nutshell

To be completed.

Image Credit

Title image taken by Jesus Keller and reproduced under license from Shutterstock.

United States map created by SUPER RADICAL.

Image of Islay LIMPET taken by Peter Church and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0.

World map created by SUPER RADICAL. World map based on all coastlines not covered by ice that benefit from waves 30 kW of energy per metre or higher. Wave power sourced from Mørk et al. – ‘Assessing the Global Wave Energy Potential’ – Page 4. Areas of ice cover sourced from Koistinen, Ville – ‘The Main Biomes in the World’ – commons.wikimedia.org.

Article Endnotes

  1. European Wind Energy Association – 'Wind Energy's Frequently Asked Questions' – www.ewea.org.
  2. European Wind Energy Association – 'Wind Energy's Frequently Asked Questions' – www.ewea.org.
  3. The Carbon Trust – ‘Technical Overview of Wave and Tidal Stream Energy’ – Page 2.
  4. Based on the technologies outlined in Strategic Initiative for Ocean Energy – ‘Ocean Energy: State of the Art’.
  5. Aquamarine Power – ‘How Oyster Wave Power Works’ – www.aquamarinepower.com.
  6. Aquamarine Power – ‘How Oyster Wave Power Works’ – www.aquamarinepower.com.
  7. Based on tide, wave and ocean devices producing just 500 GWh of the world’s energy demand in 2012. Sourced from International Energy Agency – ‘World: Renewables and Waste for 2012’ – www.iea.org.
  8. Please note, figure does not include power conditioning, distribution and transmission losses.
  9. Space requirements based on 3,790 GWh of energy generated per square kilometre. Other advantages sourced from AW-Energy Ltd – ‘Near-Shore vs. Off-shore’ – aw-energy.com.
  10. Based on Henry et al. – ‘Advances in the Design of the Oyster Wave Energy Converter’ – Figure 7.
  11. The Carbon Trust – ‘Variability of Wave and Tidal Stream Energy’ – Page 4.
  12. Based on 3,790 GWh of energy generated per square kilometre.
  13. Based on 50% of the waves energy being lost close to the shore. Sourced from Henry et al. – ‘Advances in the Design of the Oyster Wave Energy Converter’ – Page 2.
  14. Based on just 5 PWh of nearshore wave energy being available globally.
  15. Based on nearshore wave energy currently being the joint second most expensive renewable technology available.
  16. 220
  17. Optimum location based on wind speed being the primary source of wave power. Sourced from Encyclopaedia Britannica – ‘Wave’ – www.britannica.com.
  18. Based on a predicted 2035 price inclusive of accelerated cost reduction. Sourced from The Carbon Trust – ‘Accelerating Marine Energy’ – Page 36.
  19. Sutherland, Andrew – ‘Application for a Marine Licence Under Part 4 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to Construct and Operate 40-50 Oyster Wave Energy Converters Off Staca Mhic Cubhaig, Approximately 2 Km North of Siadar, Lewis’ – Page 12.
  20. Figure based on wave energy providing an average of 350 MWh of energy per year in a one metre length of coastline, a 50% loss due to proximity to coastline and 35% loss due to coastal device inefficiencies. Offshore wave energy data sourced from MacKay, David J.C. – ‘Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air’ – Page 74. Coastal losses sourced from Henry et al. – ‘Advances in the Design of the Oyster Wave Energy Converter’ – Page 2. Losses due to device inefficiencies assumes 24-metre-wide device and is sourced from Henry et al. – ‘Advances in the Design of the Oyster Wave Energy Converter’ – Page 6. Device length assumes twice the depth of the water (30 metres).
  21. Calculation undertaken within the ‘Renewable Solution’ section of the ‘ZERO-FIFTY World Energy Database’ and based on a lifespan of 20 years. Lifespan sourced from The Carbon Trust – ‘Accelerating Marine Energy’ – Page 14.
  22. Walker, Stuart – ‘Life Cycle Comparison of a Wave and Tidal Energy Device’ – Page 3.
  23. Calculation based on extractable energy from waves of 26.1 PWh per year, 50% loss due to proximity to coastline and 35% loss due to device inefficiencies. Global potential assumes all ice-free coastlines above 5 kW of energy per metre and is sourced from Mørk et al. – ‘Assessing the Global Wave Energy Potential’ – Page 452. Coastal losses sourced from Henry et al. – ‘Advances in the Design of the Oyster Wave Energy Converter’ – Page 2. Losses due to device inefficiencies assumes 24-metre-wide device and is sourced from Henry et al. – ‘Advances in the Design of the Oyster Wave Energy Converter’ – Page 6.

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