Wave energy tends to take a back seat when we talk about renewables. Wind farms and solar energy, that’s the key, or so we are led to believe. Most people don’t know that there is a Wave Hub testing facility in the South East of England and that it is soon to host a 10m ring of marine grade aluminium called Oceanus 2.
And that could have a huge impact on how we view the renewable energy market. If it is successful.
The Wave Hub lies 10 miles off the coast of Hayle and is a test facility for renewable energies. The Oceanus 2 recently shipped out from Falmouth where it was constructed by renewable energies developer Seatricity, and if the test goes to plan it could lead to a further 60 units and a full scale trial. Tied to blocks on the sea bed, the device uses pressurised water to drive a hydroelectric turbine that creates electricity. Not only that, it can also be used to produce fresh water via a reverse osmosis process.
If the preliminary testing is successful then the other 60 arrays could be in production soon and, put together, they will produce enough electricity to power 10,000 homes.
The developers of Oceanus 2, Seatricity, have put a large amount of time and investment in trying to bring our ability to harness the power of waves a little closer. It’s an industry that has had its fair share of trials and tribulations but the company think they have finally solved the problems that have made the technology so elusive in the past.
They are not the only ones hard at work trying to harness the waves. In America they are pushing hard to develop the technology and the infrastructure. The Florida Institute is working on wing wave technology to provide power to around 200,000 homes in the State. And in New Jersey they are investing heavily to bring a new Wave Farm online.
The problem over the years has been the cost of producing the electricity leaving it far behind renewables such as wind farms and solar energy, and hence fossil fuels. It’s one thing to look at the waves crashing onto our shores and realise the potential, it is quite another to harness that and produce something that works, generating electricity that people can afford and is sustainable in the long term.
Salt water corrodes and finding the right materials that last long enough and are not high maintenance is one of the problems. Another is finding the areas where there is enough wave power to produce the electricity supply that is needed.
There’s no doubt that wave energy is playing catch up with the rest of the renewables market and that it still has some way to go. But if the Oceanus 2 test at the Wave Hub goes well, then we may see further investment in the future that could see it become more viable.