Dave Elliott: The UK has a very good wave energy regime, with big swells from the winds rolling over long fetches of the Atlantic. In principle, this could generate the equivalent of up to 20% of UK electricity, or perhaps more. Back in 1978, Glyn England, chairperson of the nationalized utility the Central Electricity Generating Board, said that in theory wave power systems could “supply the whole of Britain with electricity at the present rate of consumption”. It may be worth looking back at what happened. So what’s the bottom line? If the original 1970s programme had been allowed to continue, would we have large-scale wave power now? The assessments of wave energy that were made then have been subject to much debate and there does seem to be evidence of some errors and perhaps even bias. However, subsequent programmes – albeit of a limited scale – have not led to very significant improvements. That may still happen, although it might take some time. At the moment there is very little UK funding available for this area, although work at EMEC on the Orkneys continues. In theory, wave projects can apply for support under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) system, but none have so far – their costs are still too high. Even tidal stream projects, which are somewhat more developed, have not so far been able to get support under CfD. So, barring more funding and some technological breakthroughs, sadly it doesn’t look too promising for wave energy in the immediate future.
Physics World 13th Feb 2019 read more »