Despite recent technological advances, wave power has been very unsuccessful. Initially, attempting to harness the most powerful waves for energy made sense, but experts are finding the cost and effort isn’t viable long-term.
In 2008, the world’s very first commercial wave power plant in Portugal based on a system by Pelamis of Edinburgh, had a highly celebrated opening following by cancellation two months later as a result of financial and technical problems.
In the past, wave energy companies have attempted to harness power from the most energetic seas but that often means building expensive, immense platforms resistant to massive storms.
In marked contrast, a commercial wave farm opening off the coast of Italy in June will use a new method that does not use the heavy swells typically used by wave farms and aims to harness the surf along previously unviable coasts at a fraction of the price.
40South will install a 150-kilowatt module in Tuscany. The device uses two connected buoyant sections that sit above each other at different depths. The lower one is attached to the seabed. The arms that connect them move inside each other like pistons, generating power using electric dynamos as they move.
40South’s machine is below the surface of the ocean, where wave energy can still be captured but at lower amounts. It adjusts its vertical position in the water depending on the conditions and goes deeper below the surface during large storms.
Time will tell if wave power is a viable form of energy.