18 July 2008
Wave power refers to the energy of ocean surface waves and the capture of that energy to do useful work - including electricity generation, desalination, and the pumping of water (into reservoirs). Wave power is a form of renewable energy. Though often co-mingled, wave power is distinct from the diurnal flux of tidal power and the steady gyre of ocean currents. Wave power generation is not currently a widely employed commercial technology.
On December 18, 2007, Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced its support for plans to build America's first commercial wave power plant off the coast of Northern California. The plant will consist of eight buoys, 2 1/2 miles offshore, each buoy generating electricity as it rises and falls with the waves. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2012, generating a maximum of 2 megawatts of electricity. Each megawatt can power about 750 homes.
The world's first commercial wave farm is based in Portugal, at the Aguçadora Wave Park, which consists of three 750 kW Pelamis devices. Other plans for wave farms include a 3MW array of four 750 kW Pelamis devices in the Orkneys, off northern Scotland, and the 20MW Wave hub development off the north coast of Cornwall, England.
The north and south temperate zones have the best sites for capturing wave power. The prevailing westerlies in these zones blow strongest in winter.