All those big waves. Where do they come from?  What caused them?  Looks like some serious power behind all that water crashing onto shore.

Wave energy is caused by the wind blowing over open water and creating waves.  The energy caught up in that waterpower is serious.  Although wave energy has proved challenging to harness effectively and economically, the world is suddenly looking at wave power as a viable option and source for our ever-increasing energy needs.

What is Wave Energy?

Wave energy is a renewable energy source derived from the waves as they move across water.  Wave energy is produced when electricity generators are placed on the surface of the ocean.  Energy output is determined by wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

How Does Wave Energy Work?

Wave energy can be harnessed in a number of different ways, but the approach taken generally depends on the condition and structure of the body of water where the wave energy is being sourced.  Although many methods of harnessing wave power have been developed, there are three primary forms used today:  Oscillating Water Columns (OWCs), Surface-Following Attenuators (Line Absorbers) and Buoyancy Unit/Point Absorbers.  All three methods involve equipment that floats at the surface (or just below the surface) of the water, with additional equipment below the water that converts the force and power of the waves into electricity.

What are the Benefits of Wave Energy?

Wave energy has tremendous potential because the energy in a single wave is incredibly dense – meaning that a single wave packs a big energy punch.  If we can harness wave energy effectively, we could supply over 40% of the world’s energy needs  – or equal to the output of over 800 nuclear plants!  Wave energy doesn’t require land (like wind energy) or sunlight (for solar energy), and it is relatively consistent (we can now forecast wave output up to 48 hours in advance).  As a renewable, clean energy source, wave energy is a fantastic solution.

Where is Wave Energy Being Developed?

According to Paul Jacobson, ocean energy leader of the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit that studies the electricity sector, “The best wave energy environments are along western coastlines because the largest, most consistent winds come from the west.” In the United States, wave power is primarily found in California, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Global wave energy pioneers include the United Kingdom, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand.  And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Northern Canada and southern Africa are prime locations for wave energy power sourcing.

So keep a close eye on the surf.  Wave energy could be washing ashore in location near you!!

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