Survey of Energy Resources 2007
The Prospects for Wave Energy
In addition to the large size of the resource and the lack of associated greenhouse gas emissions, wave energy has two important advantages:
- outside the tropics, storms are usually more intense and frequent during winter, which results in wave power levels being higher in that season. Therefore wave energy provides good seasonal load-following for those regions where peak electricity demand is produced by winter heating and lighting requirements (e.g., northern Europe, western Canada and north-west USA).
- wave energy is predictable for one to two days ahead, because satellites can measure waves out in the ocean that will later impact on devices around the coast. This predictability will allow for less spinning reserve than is often required to support more intermittent renewable energy sources.
The generating costs of the first wave energy devices are high (≥ US$ 300/kWh), because all the high fixed costs associated with a wave energy scheme (permits, surveys, grid connection, R&D) are defrayed against the output of a single device. In addition, prototype devices are, by definition, immature, so they will perform less well than follow-on schemes and savings in costs through design optimisation and mass production cannot be achieved on the first devices. The UK-based Carbon Trust (2006) estimated a central range of generating costs between 22 and 25 pence/kWh (~ US$ 0.44 and 0.50/kWh) for a typical project financed commercially. However, the same study predicted that the generating costs could be significantly reduced in future to a cost comparable with other renewable energy sources, but that this would require some form of subsidy until these lower costs were achieved.
In the short term, several road maps for wave energy will be produced, which will deal with the subject in detail. Reviewing the status of those devices at the demonstration/prototype stage and those still in R&D, the time chart shown in Fig. 14-7 indicates the likely progress of various aspects of wave energy in the future.