What is Wave Power?

Wave energy is energy generated from the power found in waves and is dependent upon the length and height of the waves.

Wave energy exploits the fluctuation between wave trough and crest, utilizing buoys, among other devices, to drive a turbine attached to a generator. Wave energy plants will be, for the most part, arrays of generators interconnected to the grid.

While numerous configurations of wave energy devices have been invented and tested, there are commonly five categories:  

  1. Buoys – Floating structures which are carried up and down and/or pushed side to side by the waves and convert that movement into power to drive a generator. 
  2. Surface following – Floating structures hinged together follow the surface movement of passing waves using the relative motion of the parts to drive a generator. 
  3. Oscillating water column – An enclosed column of air rises and falls with the motion of the waves, pushing out and sucking back through a turbine which drives a generator. 
  4. Terminators – A structure with a principal axis parallel to the wave crest that terminates the wave, capturing or reflecting its power. 
  5. Overtopping – An offshore reservoir is created as waves flow up a ramp into the structure, then flow back out through a turbine that drives a generator. 

Why Wave?

The west coast of British Columbia has some of the best wave energy potential in the world.

Wave technology is clean and renewable, with mitigable environmental impact.  Wave energy is also highly forecastable and, when employed over large areas, persistent.  The kinetic energy from waves is most intense in the winter when BC’s energy needs are highest. 

Environmental & Regulatory Considerations

There are no known environmental issues for wave energy.

While concerns exist for ecological impacts and disruption to local fishing, mitigation measures will be implemented.  Research continues to be conducted on potential environmental impacts at several academic institutions and until devices spend significant time in operation, environmental impacts can only be estimated. 

Socio-Economic Benefits

The socio-economic benefits of wave energy include:

  • Reduced need for fossil fuel energy production and aids in combating the effects of climate change
  • Canadian wave energy will be in demand for energy exports
  • Reduced risk associated with price fluctuations of conventional fuel sources, creating energy price security
  • Wave energy development will create direct jobs as well as employment for related industries such as marine manufacturing, engineering, oceanography, power supply, and service
  • Wave energy devices are being pursued for project development in remote regions not connected to electricity grid systems to decrease reliance on diesel generators