Do you remember what it was like swimming in a vast ocean when you were small? You would push the limits, where your feet could no longer feel the sand and you’d dare the ocean to carry you further and further from shore. Perhaps you have yet to see the ocean but we’ve all swam in a lake, right? Jet skis and speedboats would rock the water’s surface while you’d make it your goal to find and ride the strongest wave. The larger the wave, the better, as we would dare ourselves to face the water head-on. We enjoy waves because they are a powerful force that has the ability to push our entire bodies without losing its own speed and strength. This is kinetic energy at it’s coolest.
When wind glides over the ocean’s surface, the kinetic energy from the wind transfers beneath the water, resulting in waves. Kinetic energy found in waves can be measured by wave speed, wave height, wavelength and water density. In short, the more powerful the wave, the more kinetic energy it contains. One of the many wonderful things science has taught us over the years is that energy can be transferred from one form into another. It was Albert Einstein that stated that fact and we now know that energy harnessed from, say, the sun can then be transferred into electrical energy to power our cell phones and homes.
With modern technology that has appeared on the coasts of North America, Scotland, African and Australia, we are able to use wave energy converters (WEC) to convert the wave energy into electricity. These power stations are essentially closed chambers with an opening under the ocean, which allows strong waves to flow in and out of the chamber. The back and forth flow of the waves propel the movement of a turbine that turns a shaft connected to a generator. The generator then produces the electricity that will be transported to electrical grids and later supplied at demand centers and ultimately our homes and businesses.
Wave energy is not yet a widely used renewable energy source. There are only a few wave farms scattered throughout the world, and they are not plentiful enough to supply any area with much electricity. The impact on marine life and noise pollution of the generators are just two of the reasons why wave power technology has yet to be widespread. The technology is also costly and still underdeveloped, making wave energy an unpopular form of the sustainable energy. However, any renewable energy source has its advantages. Here are some to name a few:
Three Advantages of Wave Energy
- Sustainable renewable energy: Energy harnessed from waves are seemingly limitless, so long as the wind keeps blowing and the ocean does not disappear. That means wave power is an endless resource of renewable energy we can harness indefinitely. Just as the sun keeps shining, there is no need to worry about a limited supply of ocean waves, which means we could have wave energy infinitely.
- Environmentally friendly alternative: Unlike fossil fuels, wave energy converters do not emit greenhouse gasses that are harmful to earth’s atmosphere. Waves flow freely in and out of the chamber that turns the turbine connected to the generator. No fuels are burned, no gasses emitted, just energy being transferred from kinetic energy to electricity.
- Potential for growth: This limitless supply of energy is still relatively new and has exponential potential for growth. With new technologies being developed, and an ever expanding coastline, potential growth for jobs and industry are seemingly limitless.
With all of these wonderful features, it is no wonder that renewable energy is breaking waves in today’s fields of science and technology. Wave power is just one of the many renewable energy sources we have learned to harness and transfer into electrical energy.
The laws of energy are an ever-expanding topic that scientists are still finding new discoveries in every day. If you are interested in learning more about the principles of energy and electricity, visit our ELECTRIFY installation, located in our Leonardo’s Workshop. There you can learn about and marvel at the electrical discoveries that have greatly affected our lives today. Who knows, maybe one day the world will rely solely on renewable energy.