Wave Power Is Approaching Affordability With New Grants Flooding In

Funding in the hydro space to harvest wave power is heating up. (Image: CalWave)
Funding in the hydro space to harvest wave power is heating up. (Image: CalWave)

The renewable energy industry is often viewed as a blue ocean market for new technologies aiming to decarbonize the world’s power supply. Recently, some nations have turned their attention to Earth’s blue oceans to add to the world’s energy mix. Last week, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council announced a £7.5 million investment into wave energy collector technologies. This comes on the heels of the United States’ $22 million investment into marine energy R&D and testing infrastructure in December 2020.

Waves are one of the most energy-dense renewable sources on the planet, far exceeding the amount of energy that can be generated by solar and wind. Globally, wave energy has a theoretical capacity to create 2 TW of power. By capturing even a fraction of this, wave energy collection systems can become a legitimate, reliable source of power for microgrids, coastal nations, and island nations.

What does this matter?

  • Waves are predictable are a predictable power supply that follows seasonal trends. Because of this, electricity from waves provide a reliable, flexible renewable power solution, aiding both the community and easing scheduling and optimization constraints for utilities
  • Waves are consistent. Unlike wind and solar, the resource never runs out (so long as gravity exists).
  • Approximately 3 billion people live near the coastline ( < 200 km). Incorporating wave power into the power grids globally can provide renewable power to 50% of the global population

Thoughts

While the world’s coastlines will not be covered in wave energy collectors (WECs), the addition of such technology provides a stable, consistent renewable resource with little detriment to marine life. Unlike offshore wind, which (at the moment) requires drilling into the ocean floor and erecting massive structures that some people living on the coast may not want to see outside their homes (*cough* Cape Wind), buoyant devices capable of capturing energy without becoming an eyesore may be able to grab more attention and acceptance should WECs obtain competitive LCOEs.
 
Investment in WEC research at the lab scale is crucial right now, as PacWave, the DoE-funded wave testing site in Oregon, is scheduled to begin construction South Site this summer, and is expected to be completed in 2023. This facility will be larger and deeper than the North Site, which is closer to shore and in shallower waters, allowing for large, high-power rated systems to begin field testing and solidify researchers’ proof-of-concept of mid- and full-sized systems. Successfully technologies emerging from this test site will pave the wave for wider adoption of wave power.

About The Author

Matthew Morris Impact

Matthew Morris

Impact Investment Fellow

Matt is an Impact Investment Fellow with Vectors Angels as a part of the organization’s sustainability team. While most disciplined in power generation and energy storage, Matt takes on a wide array of technologies in the sector.

Leveraging these skills, Matt works with early-stage startups on fundraising and go-to-market strategies, understanding their market, and competitor due diligence.

Matt holds a BS in Finance and Economics from Boston College and an MEng from Boston University in Materials Science & Engineering. Matt’s graduate research and passion focused on the impact fundraising mechanisms and financial institutions have on the success of startups in the renewable energy and cleantech industries. His current interests involve developing new financial instruments to fund demo and pilot “tough tech” projects and closing the commercialization gap.

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