Wave Energy - Harnessing the Incredible Power of the Ocean Waves
Being as our planet has almost three-quarters of it covered with water, it should come as no surprise that the continual exploration for a real, viable and clean form of alternative energy should turn to the seas.
Ocean wave power, more commonly known as Wave Energy, along with tidal energy and also hydro power have been used by man over the millennia. But now, with rapidly advancing technology, we have far more advantageous ways of harnessing, storing and using that power.
For anyone who is cynical about the power that the waves of the ocean are capable of generating, you only need look at the devastation caused by tsunamis in recent years to see how much energy is contained in the waves. The ocean is one of the most powerful sources of energy available to us, although there are naturally obstacles into how we do this.
Turning Wave Energy into Electrical Power
To understand how we can gain electricity from the sea, it's first necessary to understand a little about the process used. Rather than using the back and forth flowing and ebbing motions of the tides (such as is used in Tidal Energy), wave energy is about using the vertical up and down movements of the water that creates the tidal waves we see on the shore. The ocean waves are a mass of kinetic energy moving about from one land mass to another, so if we can capture and harness this energy to create mechanical energy, then this can in turn be converted into electricity.
This might seem a little challenging, how can we do this, well many clever people have already figured it out as nowadays there are four separate ways that this can be done. By placing various different types of equipment on or just below the surface of the waves - known as wave energy devices, it's possible to capture and convert the oscillating, up and down movement of the waves.
The four main wave energy devices are:
* Point absorbers - These are pieces of equipment that are tethered and anchored to the oceans floor that bob up and down to the frequency of the passing waves.
* Oscillation water column - This clever device converts the kinetic energy of the moving waves into air pressure driving large fans with generators connected.
* Overtopping devices - Here, the seas waves flow up a ramp and are trapped in a tidal reservoir before returning back to the sea via water turbines.
* Wave attenuators - A relatively new design, these s nake like devices that are semi-submerged over a long, horizontal distance move over the waves in a snake like fashion.
Each one of these wave energy devices can either be positioned close to the shoreline or further out to sea and the efficiency of both the equipment and the location gives each option its own unique set of advantages or disadvantages. Depending on their location they are generally classified as either shoreline, nearshore or offshore devices.
Advantages of Using Wave Energy
Not surprisingly, the power of wave energy has been enthusiastically received by all looking for a powerful source of genuinely renewable energy. Not only can it be guaranteed virtually all year round, but it's clean, has zero emissions and is sustainable.
* The technology to capture the energy from the waves already exists and there are already a great many wave energy conversion devices at various locations around the globe.
* No matter where in the world you are, the oscillating up and down motion of the waves is always the same.
* Collecting and converting the energy of the waves into electricity produces no greenhouse gases or emissions that contribute towards climate change.
* The oceans vast network of waves continue to roll, at least to some extent, virtually every minute of every day and night producing an energy source which is free and has very little impact on the environment.
* Wave energy power generating plants take up very little or no land area around the coastline.
* If implementation were to be undertaken on a large scale, this could prove advantageous for dockyards and shipbuilding by utilizing the already existing infrastructure.
Disadvantages of Using Wave Energy
Naturally, as with every energy source, there are also some downsides. The main issue with using the waves energy is the need for further technological advances. The following are major challenges and still need to be further explored and advances made to overcome the issues.
* Variable weather conditions, storms and even seasonal changes around the planet affect the size and strength of the waves.
* Devices need to be strong enough to cope with the tremendous power of the oceans. The naturally corrosive nature of salt water is also a challenge to be overcome.
There are certainly many challenges ahead before wave energy can be seen as a major contributor to the world's need for electricity. But the potential of using the worlds seas and oceans as renewable energy sources is enormous with plans in place to construct wave energy power stations around the globe. The implementation of wave energy devices and technologies could also help stimulate traditional but declining dockyard and shipbuilding industries which could help to fabricate these large metal bodied wave energy devices.
Research continues as to how to successfully do this efficiently, economically and effectively. Wave energy is perhaps the most truly sustainable forms of alternative energy available to us, and it's expected that at some point in the future the human race will manage to take full advantage.
About the Author:
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By Peter Emson