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What are the pros and cons of wave power?

Background and context

Wave power refers to the energy of ocean surface waves and the capture of that energy to do useful work — including electricity generation, desalination, and the pumping of water (into reservoirs).
Wave power is a form of renewable energy.
Renewable energy effectively uses natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, which are naturally replenished. Renewable energy technologies range from solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity/micro hydro, biomass and biofuels for transportation. Though often co-mingled, wave power is distinct from the diurnal flux of tidal power and the steady gyre of ocean currents. Wave power generation is not currently a widely employed commercial technology although there have been attempts at using it since at least 1890. The world's first commercial wave farm is based in Portugal, at the Aguçadora Wave Park, which consists of three 750 kilowatt Pelamis devices. The pros and cons surrounding wave revolve around some of the following questions. Is wave power a clean, renewable resource that is a good tool in combating global climate change? Does wave power harm local ecosystems and marine wildlife? Is wave power bad for fishers? How much energy is required in producing and transporting wave energy systems? Can wave power produce a significant enough amount of energy? Are there many locations in the world where wave power systems make sense? Does wave power supply a consistent supply of energy? Is wave power too young an industry? Is wave power generally viable economically and as an industry? Are wave power farms aesthetic or do they violate pristine coastal views? Do wave power systems diminish wave power, and impair quality surfing in coastal areas?

See Wikipedia's wave power article for greater background.

Contents

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Global warming: Is wave power important in fighting global warming?

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Yes

  • Wave power emits no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The most important contemporary environmental concern is that an energy source emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Wave energy addresses this concern, emitting not greenhouse gases in the process of generating electricity.
  • Wave power provides clean renewable power. Wave power provides clean power with no emissions that is fully renewable. Waves will never stop crashing, and so there is no limit to the amount of clean-power that can be extracted from waves. This compared favorably to fossil fuels and other non-renewable sources of power. Wave power is also free in this sense.[1]


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No

  • Producing and transporting wave power machines is energy-intensive. It requires substantial energy to produce wave power generating systems, such as the Pelamis. The system is made from a significant quantity of metal and must be shipped out and installed in coastal areas. This requires substantial energy, much of which comes by burning fossil fuels. This means that constructing and transporting wave power systems can release a significant quantity of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


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Marine wildlife: Is wave power OK for marine wildlife?

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Yes

  • Marine life can avoid wave power systems/harm Tom Thorpe of UK-based Oxford Oceanics. - "Marine life forms are more intelligent than what people make of them and can easily avoid such devices. Wave energy devices [generally] will not affect migratory patterns. They can only have positive environmental effects when deployed away from ecologically sensitive areas. Greenpeace has campaigned strongly and effectively for wave energy, which shows their view of its environmental credentials."[3]
  • Wave power generators will not be placed in sensitive areas. Philip D. Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a supporter of wave and tidal energy projects, said to the New York Times in 2007 that the government was "not allowing these [wave power generators] to go into sensitive areas. We haven’t defined sensitive area, but the point is we’ll be cognizant of that."[4]


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No


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Fisheries: Is wave power consistent fishing industry interests?

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Yes


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No


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Energy: Can wave power supply significant quantities of energy?

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Yes

  • Wave power is more consistent than other renewables. Many other sources of power, such as solar and tidal power, provide energy only at certain times of the day. Wave power, however, provides a much more consistent and reliable supply of energy. This means it supplies more energy and that its electricity-supply can be more easily integrity into the grid system.
"Pros and cons of ocean wave energy". Energy Consumer's Edge - "Economically usable worldwide resources add up to a significant amount of power. The NREL site noted above shows that we have economical global ocean wave energy resources of about 2,000 TWh annually, roughly 12% of world electrical output, if we can find acceptable ways to utilize it."


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No

  • Wave power is young, years behind other renewables "The coming wave". Economist. Jun 5th 2008 - "Alas, harnessing it has proved to be unexpectedly difficult. In recent years wind farms have sprouted on plains and hilltops, and solar panels have been sprinkled across rooftops and deserts. But where the technology of wind and solar power is established and steadily improving, that of wave power is still in its infancy. The world had to wait until October 2007 for the first commercial wave farm, consisting of three snakelike tubes undulating with the Atlantic swell off the coast of Portugal."
"Questions about Wave Energy". Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform - "Wave energy has the potential to provide as much renewable energy as the wind industry. However, wave technology is currently at the same level of development as the wind industry was 10 years ago."


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Economics: What are the economics pros and cons of wave power?

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Yes

  • Wave power installations can reduce coastal erosion. Wave power absorbs some of the energy in waves, thus diminishing the energy of waves that reach the coast. This can help reduce coastal erosion.
  • If people can make money on wave energy, they should. It is irrelevant whether wave energy can become a large-scale industry capable of competing with big oil, wind, or solar companies. If people think they can make money on wave energy, through any of the various methods that are available, then they should do so.
  • Wave power inspires ingenuity and innovation. Innovation has its own important benefits. Whenever someone begins thinking and innovating outside of the box, it is a good thing for economies and for the future of technology in society. In so far as wave technology achieves these things, it should be encouraged.


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No

  • Storms can damage and dislodge wave generators. Repairing generators is a costly proposition, largely because it requires doing repairs at sea or under-water. In addition to the repairs, dislodged wave generators can present a hazard to boats and coastal areas, which creates the prospect of expensive lawsuits.
  • Oceans corrode wave power systems, which is costly. Ocean Power on the Rise". Celcias. - "Waves are not short on power. In fact, the sheer potency of the ocean is a serious issue for engineers. How do you build something that can withstand the constant wear and tear of the enormous weight of ocean surges? And, once you have that figured, add in extra fortification for stormy conditions, and top it off with protection against the incredibly corrosive effects of salt."


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Aesthetics: Does wave power preserve environmental beauty?

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Yes

  • Under-water wave power systems avoid aesthetic concerns. Waves transmit energy at the surface as well as underwater. Therefore, systems are being designed that gather wave energy underwater, avoiding any aesthetic concerns all together; the wave turbines cannot be seen from shore.[8]


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No

  • Under-water wave power is too expensive to solve aesthetics. The difficulty of under-water wave power is that it generally requires being installed further out to see, where water is deeper. This requires that transmission lines go farther out to sea, which is more expensive. This means that under-water wave power is not a very economically viable solution to the aesthetic issues surrounding wave power.


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Surfers: Is wave power a problem for surfers?

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Yes

  • Wave power need not be installed where it damages surfing. Wave power can be a problem in certain areas. Certainly, if it has the potential to diminish recreational surfing, and surfers protest loudly against it, wave power systems should probably not be installed. Wave power simply needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, in this regard.


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No

  • Wave power diminishes wave quality for surfers "Surfers protest British wave power plan". International Herald Tribune. 5 Apr. 2007 - "A political fight is looming over one of the first British wave power projects, the Wave Hub, which surfers fear will drain energy from the waves they ride along the Atlantic coast. Initial reports suggest that wave heights could be cut by up to 11 percent in the most affected area, Chapelporth, a renowned surfing beach backed by rugged granite cliffs and the ruins of discarded tin mines. 'We will not stand by and not fight this,' said Ben Farwagi of the London Surf Club, a regular visitor to the region. 'Imagine the uproar if golf courses were required to close two holes each in order to accommodate wind farms,' Baxendale said."


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Pro/con resources

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Yes


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No


See also

External links and resources

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