Harnessing the power of ocean waves might just be the next big wave of innovation the renewable energy space has been waiting for. Sea Wave Energy Limited (SWEL) has developed a wave converter that can supply significant power at a low cost and with low maintenance.
The U.K. and Cyprus-based company has spent over 10 years developing and testing its floating Seawave Magnet device that it claims can provide power on par with fossil fuels. The device would beat the industry’s reference rate, pushing down the cost of raw mechanical power output to 1 British penny (less than $0.01) per kWh.
“Waves have the highest energy density of renewable energy sources, compared to others like wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal,” wrote Victoria Masterson in a World Economic Forum analysis. “This means waves have the greatest potential to be an important contributor to the world’s ‘energy mix resilience,’ say researchers at the University of Plymouth. The challenge is that wave energy is far behind in its development compared to other renewable energies.”
Sea Wave Energy has tested its devices in live sea environments and offshore wave tanks for over a decade.
It expects to provide a full-scale prototype demonstration and deploy its device in the ocean connecting to the electrical grid within three years.
Its Waveline Magnet (WLM) technology can work in almost any wave environment and under extreme weather conditions. The harvested energy could also be used to clean desalinated water, for hydrogen production, coastal erosion prevention, off-grid solutions for remote regions or islands, and fish farming.
The device is made up of a series of flexible assemblies that are linked by a spine power system. It floats on the sea’s surface, becoming one moving mass with the wave itself. This provides an opportunity to extract energy from the wave in a controlled and efficient manner.
The WLM can also increase power production as wavelengths go up, allowing it to produce large-scale power volumes that the company estimates could be ten times higher than the comparable industry methods. The company is looking for strategic alliances and partnerships to integrate its WLM technology.
To be sure, SWEL isn’t the only player in the wave energy capture industry. Several global startups, funded by private and public capital, have been involved in developing wave capture devices. Israeli-based and Nasdaq-listed Eco Wave Power (WAVE) has been considered an industry leader.
WAVE has already deployed a wave energy power station at Jaffa Port in Israel. Its first U.S. pilot power station will be installed at AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles. AltaSea is a public-private ocean institute that brings together the community of Los Angeles and some of the brightest experts in marine science, business, and education. The organization seeks to develop solutions for energy supply, climate change, and global food security.
“It was great to visit Eco Wave Power’s pioneering wave energy power station at the Port of Jaffa and witness firsthand the generation of clean electricity through waves in action,” said Terry Tamminen, president, and CEO of AltaSea, who previously served as Secretary of California’s Environmental Protection Agency. “I am excited to have the pilot station on AltaSea’s campus in the coming weeks. Eco Wave Power’s technology will create a new way of generating renewable energy to help both California and the United States reach their goals to decrease our carbon footprint and use more innovative clean energy sources. Blue economy is the future.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that waves off the coasts of the U.S. could provide a theoretical annual energy potential of as much as 2.64 trillion kilowatt-hours. This is the equivalent of about 64% of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation in 2021.
“The west coasts of the United States and Europe, and the coasts of Japan and New Zealand, have potential sites for harnessing wave energy,” states the EIA. “Many different methods and technologies for capturing and converting wave energy to electricity are under development. These methods include placing devices on or just below the surface of the water and anchoring devices to the ocean floor.”