Wave power is a renewable form of power that is generated from wave energy, using mechanical and electromagnetic technologies. Wave power advantages and disadvantages are; reliability, renewable operation, sustainability, fossil fuel independence, high potential, versatility, flexibility, consistency, minimal maintenance (advantages); cost, usability, weather susceptibility, technical limitations, transmission challenges, navigation problems, geographic constraints (disadvantages).
The characteristics of wave power and wave energy can be analyzed simultaneously, since wave power is a product of the conversion of wave energy.
This article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of wave power, as outlined below;
Advantages of Wave Power (and Wave Energy)
1). Wave Power is Reliable
When compared to other types of renewable energy, wave energy is significantly reliable.
This is because, unlike solar and wind intensity which change continuously with geographic conditions, wave motion occurs almost on a consistent basis.
Another way to describe the reliability of wave power is to state that, although the amount of wave energy (which is the source of wave power) may vary at different times, it is hardly ever equal to zero. There is an average amount of wave energy that is always available.
Wave power is reliable mainly because it does not depend on one variable. Unlike fossil fuels, solar and wind, wave energy originates from different sources, including solar heat, wind current, and Earth rotation.
The role of gravity in producing wave energy is yet another reason why it is reliable. Gravitational forces cause waves to occur in the ocean, as they try to balance the distribution of momentum across the water body, and to restore equilibrium after the disrupting effects of wind and solar radiation.
This settling effect and gravitational pull constantly works against the disrupting forces, leading to wave energy production. As a result, wave power can always be generated, although it may vary in magnitude at different times.
2). Wave Power is Renewable
Wave power is renewable because wave energy is produced from solar, wind gravity and water, which are all renewable resources.
While other types of power and energy are affected by changes like fuel availability and global warming, the oceans will always exist, as well as wind, gravity and solar radiation.
What this implies is that electricity generation from wave energy will always be possible.
3). Fossil Fuel Independence
Because wave power is renewable and reliable, it can serve as a substitute to fossil fuels, in its own capacity.
In spite of the advantages of wave power, it is an underdeveloped renewable resource . One of the reasons for this is the fact that adequate effort is yet to be made toward the development of wave energy technology.
Fossil fuels, on the other hand, constitute the most developed energy sector. Over-dependence on fossil fuels has economic and environmental disadvantages, which can be reduced by increasing the prominence and effectiveness of wave power.
There are different reasons why wave power is sustainable. These reasons span across the three aspects of sustainability, which are environmental, social and economic.
Wave power is considered by many environment-friendly. The conversion of wave energy does not typically have any negative effects on water, soil or air quality.
The aesthetic impact and spatial footprint of wave power plants are also small, because these plants do not occupy large portions of the ocean, are often partially submerged.
What this means is that wave power generation is a conservative practice. Estimates suggest that a 30MW wave power plant will occupy less than half square mile in the ocean.
Because it is mostly done offshore, wave power generation does not cause any notable damage to the land. This is unlike fossil fuels, which are known to cause significant soil and water pollution , or wind turbines and bioenergy plants that may cause aesthetic or air pollution.
What all of these implies is that wave power is not a potential cause of environmental degradation.
Other advantages such as reliability and renewable production, suggest that wave power is also sustainable and beneficial from social and economic perspectives.
5). High Potential
Wave power has a relatively high potential because wave energy can be produced in large quantities .
A vast amount of wave kinetic energy is generated in the oceans on a consistent basis. A reason for this is the vast scale of the oceans, and the magnitude of wind, solar and gravitational forces that act upon the ocean water.
The result is a very high energy density and energy efficiency of waves.
At the same time, the vastness of the oceans implies that wave energy can be accessed in all parts of the Earth. With availability, reliability, efficiency and high density, it can be said that the potential of wave power is significant.
This potential can be put to use simply by developing efficient technologies to harness wave energy and generate electricity.
6). Versatility and Flexibility of Wave Power Generation and Consumption
Wave power generation is a versatile and flexible practice for different reasons.
The flexibility of wave power arises from the fact that it can be generated under a variety of conditions.
There are different devices, mechanisms and technologies for converting wave energy to wave power. These include barrages, longitudinal buoys, point absorbers, hydraulic piston systems, among others.
Various locations on the ocean are suitable for installing wave power plants, because wave energy is widely distributed across the water body.
This reduces the environmental impact of the wave power generation process, as plants can be installed in locations where there us minimal environmental effect, such as offshore areas.
The scale of wave power generation is flexible as well. It can be scaled up or down based on the size and design of the wave energy converter or power plant.
In terms of versatility, there is a variety of possible uses, of wave power. These include desalination, seawater pumping, and electricity generation.
Compared to other power and energy sources, wave power is fairly consistent.
This is because wave energy is reliable, and its magnitude of output can be estimated with some accuracy.
It can therefore be said that wave power is ‘predictable’, because of the existence of a consistent, average amount of wave energy at all times.
8). Wave Power Requires Minimal Maintenance
Because wave power plants are relatively simple in their design, the amount of maintenance required by these systems is much less than that which is required by other power plants.
While some wave power plants are expensive to design, construct and install, there are various avenues where cost is minimized during the operational life of the plant.
These include hazard control, fuel usage and vandalism, among others.
Disadvantages of Wave Power (and Wave Energy)
1). Capital Cost of Wave Power Plants
The capital cost of generating wave power is relatively high, mainly because it is an underdeveloped sector.
Since there have not been many wave power plant projects so far, the cost of acquiring equipment and carrying out the design and construction of these plants, is yet to be optimized.
Also, most wave power plants at this time, are built as a result of intensive research and development projects that are directed toward improving the efficiency and performance of wave power.
Such research and development projects add significant expense to the wave power generation effort.
Although the power plants are relatively simple and require minimal maintenance, they are susceptible to corrosion as a result of prolonged exposure to seawater .
This means that corrosion-resistant materials must be used for building wave power plants, and these exposed metal parts must be assessed routinely to ensure that they are not damaged.
2). Scale of Usability
Although the amount of wave power produced by a plant depends directly on the size of the plant, there has not been much progress so far in terms of developing and implementing a practical wave power generation plant.
Existing wave power plants are generally not yet capable of delivering utility-scale power for domestic use. This is a major setback, and limits the actual utilization of wave power.
3). Wave Power Plants are Susceptible to Weather Hazards
Wave energy capture devices and other technologies used in wave power generation, are constantly exposed to the elements.
This exposure means that the equipment can get damaged or impaired due to harsh circumstances of operation.
Asides the risk of damage, exposure of wave power equipment to harsh weather elements may reduce the performance of these equipment . The efficiency and scale of electricity generation are therefore inhibited at such times.
4). Impact on the Marine Ecosystem
In order to capture wave energy and generate wave power, facilities must be installed on the ocean.
In addition to occupying the natural habitat of marine species, wave power plants have moving parts that can be dangerous to marine life. Since water is a conductive material, there is also the risk of electrocution by transmission systems that are linked to wave power plants.
Chemicals used to operate and maintain the wave power equipment, such as lubricants, can also act as toxins, and may negatively affect water quality in the marine ecosystem.
5). Technological Limitations of Wave Power Technology
Wave power also has some technological limitations.
These limitations arise solely from the fact that wave power technology is still a developing field and has not seen sufficient inputs and modifications to optimize its potential.
Also, because there are relatively few wave power systems that have been developed so far, there is not much practical information available to serve as a reference point for improvement.
The result of these conditions is a low technical-efficiency form of wave power, which does not meet the existing energy needs.
6). Wave Power Transmission Challenges
There are two main reasons why wave power is often challenging to transmit.
One of these is the fact that wave power technology has some practical limitations. As a result, the transmission mechanism for electricity produced by wave power systems, has not been well developed.
Another reason is the obvious fact that wave power is produced offshore. Aside applications like water pumping where wave power is used offshore, it must be transmitted over long distances to the shore where it is needed.
Such long-distance transport of electricity across the ocean to the land is a notable challenge that affects the use of wave power.
7). Sea Navigation may be Affected
Wave power facilities that have been installed offshore can affect navigation on the sea.
This is because such facilities may become obstacles within the travel route of marine vessels of various types.
The effect of such circumstances can be bad for the economy, as they could affect the marine economy by reducing the speed and sustainability of export and import, sea travel, tourism, fishing, and other marine-based activities.
8). Noise Pollution May Occur
The equipment needed to convert wave energy to power, usually consist of moveable parts and generators.
These components can be loud when operating, and can cause significant, continuous noise pollution, that may affect inhabitants of the surrounding environs.
9). Geographical Constraints of Wave Power Generation
There are geographical constraints involved in the generation and consumption of wave power.
To begin with, wave power generation varies with location. While wave energy is always being produced, not every marine region may produce enough energy to be harnessed in a profitable manner.
There may also be restrictions to the installation of wave power plants in some areas. This is especially the case in places where the marine sector is a notable aspect of the economy.
Lastly, wave power can only be beneficial where there are usable and reliable transmission schemes to send the electricity to where it will be used. In many coastal regions, such schemes and facilities are not available.
Wave power advantages and disadvantages are as follows;
Advantages of wave power are;
- Wave Power is Reliable
- Wave Power is Renewable
- Fossil Fuel Independence
- High Potential
- Versatility and Flexibility of Wave Power Generation and Consumption
- Wave Power Requires Minimal Maintenance
Disadvantages of Wave Power are;
- Capital Cost of Wave Power Plants
- Scale of Usability
- Wave Power Plants are Susceptible to Weather Hazards
- Impact on the Marine Ecosystem
- Technological Limitations of Wave Power Technology
- Wave Power Transmission Challenges
- Sea Navigation may be Affected
- Noise Pollution May Occur
- Geographical Constraints of Wave Power Generation
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