Wave Energy Overview
The world’s oceans are a large potential source of clean, renewable energy that, at present, remains relatively untapped. The U.K. Carbon Trust estimates ocean waves can supply about 10% of global electricity needs and the Electric Power Research Institute (“EPRI”) estimates about 7% for the U.S. which is the equivalent of all hydroelectric generation currently in operation.
Wave energy has several advantages over other renewable energy resources with the first being that it is in close proximity to electricity demand centers. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the 28 U.S. coastal states consume 78 percent of the nation's electricity, but only six can meet even one-fifth of their power demand with land-based renewable energy technologies. According to the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) division of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), approximately 40% of the world’s population lives within100 kilometers of the coast and population density is expected to increase markedly over the next several decades in response to climate change effects.
Waves have an energy density over 800x higher than wind which means that more energy can be extracted from a given area which translates into an offshore and onshore footprint that doesn’t require the sacrifice of large tracts of valuable coastal real estate. Wave energy has additional benefits related to its predictability (accurate localized estimates of wave conditions can be made up to 72 hours in advance), consistency (24/7 availability and less dramatic short-term variations in energy flux) and low visual impact (RME’s wave energy converters have a minimal surface presence).
Wave Energy Industry Growth Drivers
Developing new technologies that cost-effectively supply energy from clean, renewable energy resources is critically important to our future health and welfare. It is widely accepted that the U.S. must: lower its carbon footprint, reduce its dependence on foreign energy supplies and provide enough clean energy to support continued economic growth. RME expects that changes in public policy in response to these three factors will have a long-term positive impact on its business. Other factors that will attract additional interest and investment in wave energy technologies include:
- Establishing a pricing mechanism for emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases;
- Continued population growth in coastal areas;
- Increased adoption of a distributed energy production asset model;
- Addressing the energy needs of remote island and coastal communities;
- Being better prepared for post-disaster relief operations;
- Continued growth in ocean uses (wind, aquaculture, tourism, industry, etc.).