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Turning the Oceans “Green” Through Harnessing Wave Energy

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Harnessing Wave Energy

A vast majority of our planet's surface is covered by oceans, which generate half of the oxygen that we need. This goes on to show just how critical oceans are for our survival. But this is not all.

In the current world, where environmental issues are at the top of our concern, the quest to transform our footprint on Earth extends to the vast and powerful oceans as well. This is where harnessing wave energy emerges as a way to achieve sustainability, promising a greener future for our oceans.

The waves formed in the oceans offer a great, clean source of energy. By taking advantage of the difference in temperature between the warm surface ocean water and cooler deep waters, we can produce huge amounts of clean energy and fulfill the world's power needs.

Moreover, these waves transport energy throughout the day, all year round, offering an inexhaustible resource from which to extract electricity.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the waves around the coasts of the US can provide more than half (about 64%) of the country's electricity. This is the reason why countries around the world are busy developing wave energy.

What is Wave Energy, and How Does it Work?

When it comes to renewable energy sources, we all have heard of solar and wind power, but wave energy, not so much, even when it has the potential to be the largest source of energy from the seas. So, what is it?

Wave energy is a form of renewable energy that is harnessed from natural resources through the movement of waves. 

The way it works is that the differences in air temperature cause air to move from hotter to cooler regions, resulting in winds, which, when passed over ocean surfaces, generate waves. When waves occur, they create kinetic energy, which is energy created from motion. This movement can be harnessed to drive turbines, which in turn generate electricity. 

Unlike tidal energy, which is formed by the gravitational pull of the moon and uses the ebb and flow of the tides, wave energy uses the up-and-down movement of the surface water that produces tidal waves.

Much like solar and wind energy, wave energy is a renewable source of energy. Hence, it can be used as an alternative to energy produced from fossil fuels such as oil or coal, which are finite in number and release harmful carbon emissions, making waves an eco-friendly option. 

Additionally, having the highest density compared to other renewable energy sources like geothermal and biomass, waves offer a much higher potential to have energy resilience. This abundant source of energy can also be accurately forecast in advance.

However, it isn't without its issues. A big problem with wave energy, like other natural resources like solar or wind, is that the amount of energy that can be generated depends on the size, height, speed, length, and density of the waves. Additionally, all of these factors can be unpredictable, adding to the problem. 

Yet another challenge with wave energy is that the development of this sector is far behind all the other renewable energies. Another roadblock to this is the small size of most wave energy systems, making them unsuitable for powering large structures.

Not to mention, the whole process is an expensive affair, from building and operating plants to managing the infrastructure, including turbines, cables, and more. All this infrastructure could also potentially harm marine life. Furthermore, it must be able to withstand the forces of nature, further adding to the cost and creating a problem for the sector's development. 

But now, as technology advances, researchers, experts, scientists, and companies are exploring innovative methods for harnessing wave energy from the ocean. Given the potential of this energy resource and rising oil and gas prices, countries around the world are also developing ocean energy systems and encouraging their usage through friendly policies, investments, contracts, funding, incentives, and education.

Harnessing the Wave Energy

For harnessing the wave energy from the ocean and converting it into electricity, wave energy converter devices are used, with different products using different approaches to achieve this. Some devices sit just under the water's surface, and others are anchored to the ocean floor, while some may use another technique altogether, like pushing the waves through a narrow channel to power a turbine.

So, let's take a look at some of the ways it is being done. One of the common wave energy technologies is point absorbers, which make use of floating buoys or ducks that are deployed in deeper water on the ocean floor to absorb energy through the waves' movement. 

An oscillating wave surge converter meanwhile channels energy with an oscillating flap and is kept in shallow water as opposed to an oscillating water column, which is submerged halfway and uses an air turbine to generate energy. 

Then, there are wave attenuators, which involve a series of cylindrical sections connected together with flexible joints. These devices are submerged partially and run parallel to the wave's direction. Overtopping or “spill-over” devices, meanwhile, use ramps that sit perpendicular to the waves. These devices act as pumps and provide a stable supply to turbines.

Advancement in this sector has led academics to create a new form of wave-dwelling propulsion (WDP) for power ships. This method aims to achieve greater power from waves and cut greenhouse gas emissions in the maritime industry. For this, the Cranfield University team developed a simplified version of a whale's tail fin action into a ship's power system. This technology can be used in small, unmanned vessels as well as hybrid propulsion systems.

The maritime sector has also been utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to protect the environment as well as reduce the negative effects of offshore wave energy devices in navigation. For instance, AI-powered systems provide real-time data and constant surveillance in shipping lanes, increasing efficiency and safety in maritime operations.

These systems are just the beginning, though; in the future, as research, investment, and development increase, more advanced systems will help provide clean power for not just local communities but also help countries build big, carbon-free power systems to fulfill large population needs.

Click here for the list of ten best renewable energy stocks.

The Best Companies Harnessing Wave Energy

Several companies are working on developing solutions for harnessing wave energy from oceans. So, let's take a look at some of the most prominent ones and their technologies:

#1. Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (OPTT)

Founded in 1984, this US-based, publicly-traded company specializes in marine power and offshore communications products. Utilizing its patented technology, including PowerBuoy and the Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel (WAM-V) — an autonomous vehicle — it excels in ocean data collection and reporting.

finviz dynamic chart for  OPTT

As of now, the company has a market cap of $20.875 million. Its shares, trading at $0.355, have seen a decline of over 21% this year. Financially, it reports a revenue of $3.28 million trailing twelve months (TTM), alongside an EPS (TTM) of -0.49 and a P/E ratio (TTM) of -0.73.

Notably, the company is a leading patent filer in wave energy converters. It has been collaborating with the US Homeland Security’s research and development arm, HS-S&T, on maritime domain awareness sensors (MDA-S). In a November 2023 interview, CEO Philipp Stratmann expressed confidence in Ocean Power's potential for profitability by 2025, emphasizing its commitment to revenue growth.

#2. AW-Energy

This Finnish wave energy company was founded in 2002 and it has raised a total of $28.4 mln. To harness the ocean's wave energy, AW-Energy has developed a patented system called WaveRoller, under which a submerged panel moves back and forth with the motion of the waves and generates electricity. 

The WaveRoller unit operates near-shore areas and stays primarily submerged depending on tidal conditions. Rated at between 350kW and 1000kW per unit, the machine transfers the generated electricity output via subsea cable to the electric grid.

Most recently, the company signed a MoU with Kaoko Green Energy Solutions to extract energy from the 1,300km long coastline of Namibia, which is “renowned for its optimal bathymetry and waves.” The pilot project is estimated to cost under $1 million, including the deployment of five WaveRoller-X devices to deliver clean and affordable energy to communities in the region. Moreover, AW-Energy has been the first wave energy technology developer to join the Halliburton Labs Clean Energy Accelerator program this year.

#3. CorPower Ocean

Established in 2009, CorPower Ocean is a Swedish wave energy company that has raised $40.7 mln to commercialize innovative wave energy technologies. The company's patented system, Wave Energy Converter (WEC), uses a buoyant device that swings in line with the ocean waves to generate electricity. 

“With its consistent and complementary production profile, wave energy helps plug the voids of wind and solar and brings stability to a future powered entirely by renewables.”

– says Patrik Möller, CorPower Ocean CEO

He also added that this energy can further “help end our dependency on fossil fuels.”

Last month, the company installed its C4 wave energy device in Portugal, withstanding a ‘red alert' of waves up to 18 meters. The C4 device, which has a 300kW power rating, has endured many storms in recent months thanks to CorPower Ocean's “unique storm survival mode” in combination with advanced phase control technology. The company has also signed a MoU with AltaSea to deploy wave energy at the Port of Los Angeles. This comes as the US promotes new sources of renewable energy, and California passed a bill for the deployment of wave energy. 

#4. Marine Power Systems

This UK-based wave energy converter system provider offers several products, including DualSub to generate power using both wind and waves, a floating wind power generator called WindSub, and WaveSub to generate wave power. Over a year ago, MPS joined forces with Simply Blue Group to deploy several wind turbines on its floating platform under depths of between 60 and 100 meters to deliver 100 MW.

A few months ago, Marine Power Systems (MPS) partnered with Baker Hughes to deliver their supporting subsea systems. Before that, it collaborated with Plataforma Oceánica de Canarias (PLOCAN) to deploy PelaFlex, a floating offshore wind system on Gran Canaria's southeast coast. 

According to MPS CEO Gareth Stockman, the company's flexible floating offshore wind platform technology has been designed to optimize local content delivery via a decentralized logistics model. This helps minimize costs and maximize local economic benefits while accelerating industrial-scale farm development.

#5. Carnegie Clean Energy Limited (CCE)

This Australia-based publicly-listed company focuses on the development of wave energy as well as solar and energy storage projects. Carnegie also makes use of the latest advances in AI and electric machines to control its wave energy harvester device and generate electricity. 

Carnegie's shares are currently trading at AUD 0.05, down 47% in the past year. It has a market capitalization of $16.27 million and an enterprise value of $14.38 million and currently has a trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 10.53.

When it comes to the company's products, its focus is on submerged, point absorber-type wave energy technology called CETO. The submerged buoys in this patented technology are connected to pumps that drive high-pressure water through onshore turbines, generating electricity. This year, the company signed a multi-million contract to deploy its CETO wave energy technology in Europe, which is expected to be operational by 2025.

#6. Eco Wave Power (WAVE)

Another publicly-listed company is the Sweden-based Eco Wave Power, which develops technology to generate clean electricity from ocean waves. The renewable energy company's products come with an automatic control system that responds to the rise & sink of floats.

During the 3Q23, Eco Wave Power reported successfully connecting its EWP EDF One Project in the Port of Jaffa to the national electrical grid, starting with the installation of its first-US-based project at the Port of Los Angeles, received regulatory approval for the first megawatt (MW) in the city of Porto, and won a grant of $1.83 million. 

finviz dynamic chart for  WAVE

For the first nine months of the year, the company reported revenue of $27,000 and net financial income of $802,000. Eco Wave's operating expenses during the period were $1.9 million, while the net loss was $1,052,000. Moreover, it ended the period with $3.7 million in cash and cash equivalents and $5.1 million in short-term bank deposits. Currently, its shares are trading at $1.62, down 45.57%, with a 52-week low of $1.43 hit in late June 2023 and a 52-week high of $4.79 hit in Dec. 2022.

#7. Oscilla Power

This US-based wave energy converter machine has started with the construction of a 1:6 scale version of its 1MW Triton wave energy converter, which will substantially de-risk Oscilla's utility-scale system. According to the company, this step marks a big step towards a “low-carbon future.” Oscilla Power's Triton-C is a community-scale, ring-shaped, 100kW-rated wave energy converter that has been successfully tested in Hawaii.  

Final Thoughts

Our oceans are vast and offer an unexploited source of clean and reliable energy. The huge potential of this energy source and the shortage of fossil fuels are driving the need for harnessing wave energy. While there are several challenges to overcome in fully leveraging this energy source, wave energy has significant potential. As we move towards a more sustainable future, it could play a crucial role in powering our world.

Click here to learn what our future energy mix will look like.

Gaurav started trading cryptocurrencies in 2017 and has fallen in love with the crypto space ever since. His interest in everything crypto turned him into a writer specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain. Soon he found himself working with crypto companies and media outlets. He is also a big-time Batman fan.