The Future of Renewable Energy: Tidal Wave Power

By Devin Takekawa
Engineering Analyst
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)

In the United States and countries all around the world, renewable energy has become an emerging and important topic to sustainability. As each year goes by, people begin to realize that the earth’s natural resources that provide energy are slowly becoming not as readily available as they used to be. This has become one of the leading topics since the 20th century and is even more urgent in the 21st century as we observe that climate change is evident. Everyday engineers are working towards developing more technology that generate energy from mechanical or electrical systems that are powered by wind, solar, and hydro sources. Ones that we know today are solar panels, water turbines, and windmills.

As the dilemma of generating clean energy grows into the late 21st century, environmentalists are moving towards a new type of renewable energy known as wave or tidal power. This type of energy is produced from the motions of waves in the ocean by some sort of device that oscillates as each wave passes by. These energy generating systems can be mounted from local structure such as piers, jetties (shown in photo 1), boat docks, or even offshore.

wave riding arms in Brazil

Photo 1: Wave riding arms in Brazil

Thinking about how wave power systems output clean energy can be complicated, but the input used to create this power is a simple theory. These machines or devices use the oscillating motion of tidal wave patterns which usually drives some sort of piston up and down within the device. At first, we think how can waves push a device up and down to generate enough energy to supply power? Well waves in the ocean are constant and they’re going to be there no matter the type of weather conditions or what time it is. So, with this constant oscillation pattern 24/7, we can assume that this piston device is always moving and is creating some sort of work to generate clean energy. As shown in figure 2, this offshore buoy and many others will be installed off the coast of Australia which will provide 62.5-megawatts, enough for 10,000 homes per year. This is an incredible invention and is changing the renewable energy movement as we know it.

wave power buoy in Australia

Photo 2: Wave Power Buoy in Australia

Eco wave power is moving forward to be the main method of producing clean energy. There are a couple of setbacks from launching tidal power devices across the globe, however. Researchers and developers have struggled to create a common and feasible design that can harvest all the mechanical energy provided from the waves and turning it into electrical power. Some suggestions say that these types of devices are new and has not been studied on as much as other efficient systems such as wind turbines. Another setback from implementing wave power devices is that the people are not happy with seeing these systems being installed at their local beaches and scenic cites around the coast. They are bulky and large devices, but they must be durable from saltwater corroding effects and nonstop motions from the waves. There will always be a tradeoff when installing these, but what we must understand is that producing this clean energy is necessary to prolong the life of fossil fuels we use every day.

Figure 3: LEED EA Credit 4

Not only is renewable energy sustainable for the earth and its fossil fuels but using renewable energy could also be helpful towards earning more credits towards your buildings LEED accreditation (EAc4, shown in figure 3). If your building uses some sort of renewable energy whether that be solar, wind, or hydro, you could be awarded up to 6 points on your LEED scorecard. Here at Sustainable Investment Group (SIG), we are green building consultants and are more than happy to help your building become LEED accredited!

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