Wave energy offers ‘significant and unique’ contribution to clean energy future, concludes leading US report

A prominent report produced by the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has concluded that wave energy technology can contribute ‘significantly and uniquely’ to the clean energy future.

PNNL researchers focused on a ‘value-first’ perspective to identify value propositions that wave, tidal and ocean current technologies could offer to the grid.

Findings in Grid Value Proposition of Marine Energy: A Preliminary Analysis, show that “the potential for marine energy as a future grid technology remains strong”.

With large, predictable and geographically diverse resources, marine energy is capable of satisfying large swathes of the US’ energy demand if deployed at utility-scale.

Conservative estimates pitch the total marine energy technical resource in the 50 states at 2,300 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year, equal to 57% of electricity generated in the US in 2019, or equivalent to powering 220 million homes.

Importantly the study also illustrates marine energy’s potential to fill a portion of future ‘adequacy gaps’ facing the grid – due to its consistent and reliable power profile.

Ultimately, as fossil fuels are scaled back, the electric grid system will still need to account for the variability that comes with current solar and wind resources. Marine energy not only delivers benefits to the bulk system, it can also support isolated distribution systems and and/or remote local systems, according to researchers.

This potential is particularly significant in states with coast lines, aggressive renewable energy targets and remote areas highly reliant on diesel fuels.

While the DOE/PNNL report offers a strong case for mainstream commercialization of marine energy technologies, it also underscores the urgent requirement for deployment at scale to complete testing and prove the viability of this new and emerging technology, to reduce future development costs.

This message is being firmly amplified by America’s National Hydropower Association (NHA) which has set deployment targets of 50MW by 2025, 500MW by 2030, and 1GW by 2035.

The report was developed with three goals in mind:

  1. Enable the marine energy industry to articulate additional value to potential investors and customers
  2. Allow system planners, utilities, and decision makers to have information to evaluate marine energy when considering a suite of available generating resources
  3. Guide DOE technology investments toward improving marine energy performance where it is likely to have competitive or unique value.

Read more about wave energy potential in the US with reports on the Oregon-based PacWave initiative and California’s offshore wind boom, paving the way for combined offshore energy systems.

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