There’s Power In Them Waves
Surfers Know the Feeling
Sitting in the “lineup” with several fellow surfers, my eyes swept the horizon. The lineup is where surfers sit, waiting for the waves to come in. It’s outside the area the waves break, but close enough that we can paddle in to catch them.
As cliché as it sounds, someone yelled, “outside.” I picked out what they saw. The horizon changed.
A set was rolling in. These are the big, long-period waves born far out to sea. As they get close to land, they feel the bottom and begin to rise from the depth.
These waves were much larger than normal. The lineup began scrambling to paddle further out. They wanted to make it past the large breakers before getting caught in the turbulent white water.
The scene went from orderly and calm to madness. Surfers went scratching up the face of the first waves hoping to make it over the top before it broke.
As the chaos ensued around me, I found myself in a position to challenge one of these ocean beasts. I spun the board around, put my head down, and paddled with all my might. The feeling is like stepping off a cliff on skis. As the momentum built, I launched myself down the face of the wave.
I took off and immediately knew I was in trouble. I felt weightless as the board dropped out from under my feet. I free fell down the face of a giant wave. The exhilaration turned to fear. I hit the face of the wave with so much force that I bounced and tumbled. I plunged through the surface and was at the mercy of enormous energy in the breaking wave.
The water churned around me. The force of the lip pulled me deeper down. The adrenaline in my body made me hyper aware of each passing second. My lungs burned for air and panic began to nibble at my brain. The turbulent water spun me around until up was down and down was up. I couldn’t fight the power of the wave and felt myself swept along.
Then out of nowhere and like a beacon of hope I hit the bottom. The hard sand anchored my sense of direction. I pushed off with all my might. I rose, kicking as hard as I could until I broke the surface. That first breath of air was sweet relief.
I collected my board and headed back out for another try.
There is Power in Those Waves
As a lifelong surfer, I’m intimately aware of the power of the ocean. And while harnessing the power of ocean waves is theoretically possible, it comes with significant challenges. Also known as marine energy, it holds potential to supply renewable energy all over the world.
The U.S. Department of Energy says that the available marine energy in the U.S. is equal to 57% of all the power generated there in 2019. Marine energy isn’t just waves. It includes currents, tides, and thermal energy too.
Good news, there is technology being developed to turn ocean waves into usable electricity called Wave Energy Converter (WEC) technologies. Bad News, while there is potential, the challenges of harnessing wave energy on such a scale is unlikely. Plus, WEC technologies are still in the early stages of development when compared to renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
Just What is a WEC?
WECs are devices designed to harness the energy from ocean waves and convert it into electricity. They are part of the broader field of marine renewable energy, which includes technologies like tidal and ocean current energy converters.
WECs are typically placed in coastal areas or offshore where there is significant wave activity. They capture the kinetic and potential energy present in ocean waves and convert it electricity.
There are various designs for WECs, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Common types include:
- Point Absorbers float on the water’s surface and use buoys or other floating structures to absorb wave energy.
- Attenuators are long, floating structures that move with the waves. They capture energy as the waves pass along their length.
- Oscillating Water Columns use the rise and fall of water within a chamber to drive air through a turbine, generating electricity.
- Overtopping Devices use the energy from waves that flow over a structure, capturing the water in a reservoir and using it to drive turbines.
- Waves are a consistent and abundant source of energy, making WECs potentially reliable and predictable.
- Generate electricity without burning fossil fuels, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
- Adds diversity to the renewable energy mix, complementing other sources like wind and solar power.
- Can be installed offshore, reducing conflicts over land use, and minimizing visual impacts compared to onshore wind or solar installations.
- Face technical challenges related to durability, efficiency, and maintenance, especially in harsh ocean environments.
- Initial investment and maintenance costs for WECs can be high.
- Like any human activity in marine environments, WECs can have environmental impacts, such as habitat disturbance and risks for marine life.
- Integrating wave energy into existing electrical grids is complex.
The Ocean Can Be Hostile
While the ocean is undeniably beautiful, it can also be incredibly violent. That means structures used to create energy need to withstand incredible forces. If not, they risk becoming navigational hazards for shipping and fishing.
However, as we see in the oil industry, we can build these kinds of structures. And that means marine energy can play a role in renewable energy as we transition towards a more sustainable energy future.
We here at Mangrove Investor continue to explore and dive deep into all things New Energy. Because solving the worlds energy is not only “For the Good” but it can also bring big opportunities.
For The Good
Numbers You Need to Know
The biggest wave ever recorded by was documented on July 9, 1958, in Lituya Bay, Alaska, when an earthquake triggered a series of events that resulted in a megatsunami. (Surfer Today)
Sebastian Steudtner broke the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest-ever surfed wave 86-foot wave (26.21 meters) at Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal. (Surfer Today)
“Nearly 80% of individual investors believe that it is possible to balance market rate financial returns with a focus on sustainability,” said Jessica Alsford, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Sustainability Officer and CEO of the Institute for Sustainable Investing (Morgan Stanley)
Video Of The Week
How Wave Power Could Be The Future Of Energy
The ocean has an incredible amount of power potential. Here is a dive into the ocean of renewable energy.