Introduction to Wave Energy

Wave energy is one of five energies available in the oceans.

The energy in the waves is a concentrated form of solar energy: the sun heats the atmospheres unevenly and the differences in pressure create currents in the atmospheres (known as winds), and winds blowing over the ocean surface transfer their energy to the oceans in the form of waves. Wave generation depends on three parameters of the wind: the wind speed, fetch (the distance in the sea over which the wind transfers its energy to the waves) and duration.

Waves have the characteristic that once created they can travel for many kilometres practically without energy losses.In that sense, the energy from the sun reaches the coasts, where most of the populations of coastal countries are located, in a concentrated and fairly continuous way.

Nearer the coastline the energy in the waves decreases due to the interaction with the seabed.

The energy in ocean waves is theoretically enough to cover the world’s electricity demand (Thorpe, 1999). When economics and feasible sites are taken into account, this number reduces – although it still offers high capabilities: waves could at least produce 10% of the world’s electricity demand (WEC, 2010).

In Europe alone, wave energy could provide for 15% of the electricity demand; and in the North Sea, an area where wave intensity is relatively low, it can provide for 6% of the demand of adjacent countries (Soerensen and Fernández-Chozas, 2010).


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Soerensen H.C. and Fernández-Chozas J. (2010). “The Potential for Wave Energy in the North Sea”, in Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Ocean Energy (ICOE). Bilbao.

Thorpe T. (1999). “A Brief Review of Wave Energy”. ETSU Report No. R-120 for the UK Government.

WEC. (2010). Survey of Energy Resources. World Energy Council (WEC).