Wave Power as a Way to Meet Global Energy HungerDownload Audio Version
Wave power is used for pumping, water desalination, generation of electricity, and more. Due to its high power density, researchers view it as one of the least expensive sources of renewable energy to be used in the foreseeable future. According to the World Energy Council, wave power could account for about 2 million megawatts. One fifth of the total usage in the United Kingdom could be supplied by wave power.
How It Works
In essence, this is a variation of solar energy, but it is wind that creates waves. Solar energy is transferred to waves by the winds. There are different factors that determine the strength of waves. Among them are distance, time, and speed of wind. For example, faster winds tend to generate more powerful waves. Energy of motion or kinetic energy is generated.
Benefits of Using Wave Power
To begin with, waves are energy dense, and it is fairly easy to predict in which direction they are moving. Their direction can be predicted up to 5 days in advance which helps assess the feasibility of building new facilities and their production output. For these reasons, this type of energy is harnessed along the coastal lines of Australia, Scotland, Canada, and the USA. Winds in many parts of the world are powerful and consistent to be able to create big waves that are needed to create energy. A major advantage is the fact that this is a source of renewable energy with a huge potential. It doesn’t require fossil fuels meaning that it doesn’t contribute to global warming and climate change. Waste disposal and management are not an issue as they are with coal fired facilities and nuclear power plants.
The main benefits of wave power are that it is widely available, abundant, eco-friendly, and there are different ways to harness it. Methods and techniques used include seafaring vessels and facilities with hydro turbines. Moreover, it reduces the dependence on foreign oil imports and creates green jobs for hundreds of thousands of people. Independence results in improved energy security. Wave power is widely available due to the fact that many harbors, towns, and big cities are located on the coastal line. They are usually densely populated, and residents benefit from the construction of wave energy facilities.
The biggest commercially operated wave farm was built in Portugal. There are other projects in Israel, the United Kingdom, and Spain. The main advantage of wave plants is that they are not expensive to maintain and exploit. They are used to generate electricity and can be built near shore or offshore. Innovative technologies are also developed and implemented, including linear generators, air and hydroelectric turbines, and pump-to-shore. Some facilities also use elastomeric hose pumps and hydraulic rams to capture energy and generate electricity. Wave farms that use new technologies include the CETO Wave Power, Anaconda Wave Energy Converter, Lysekil Project, Cycloidal Wave Energy Converter, and others.
Other Methods and Systems
There are different technologies currently in use – attenuators, overtopping devices, oscillating water columns, point absorbers, terminators, and others. Point absorbers are used to absorb power and transport it to an electricity generator. In fact, farms are built by grouping multiple wave energy converters together. Terminators contain a moving and stationary component and the former works to pressurize oil or air. Other methods and technologies include rotating mass, bulge wave, submerged pressure differential, wave rotors, and so on. With submerged pressure differential devices, sea level drops and rises with wave movement and generates pressure. Fluid is pumped through the device to produce electricity. Overtopping devices are also used and include collectors, low-head turbines, and storage reservoirs. Oscillating water columns use wave movement to generate electricity. Given that the structure is partially submerged in water, waves make it move up and down. Air inside the hollow turbine flows, and rotation generates power.
There are other devices and systems such as wave activated bodies, Cockerell’s Raft, Salter’s Duck, two-raft systems, and others. The main difference between them is their energy efficiency rate, which varies based on the type of installation. But regardless of the type of technology, all systems include three main components – a mooring system, power converter, and working medium. The main function of the power converter is to transform mechanical energy into electricity. There are different working mediums such as wharf walls, seawall devices, and turbines that are used to change wave movement.
Other Types of Green Energy
Other renewable sources include bioenergy, hydroelectric power, tidal energy, combined heat and power, anaerobic digestion, wind energy, and others. Anaerobic digestion, for example, is a process whereby organic mater is digested by bacteria without any oxygen. The process is used to produce fertilizers and biogas. Combined heat and power or cogeneration is another process used to simultaneously create electricity and heat. A power station or heat engine is usually used to generate power.
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