British Columbia set to exploit wave energy potential

WCWI members launching a research buoy off Vancouver Island (Photo: UVic)

Canadian province of British Columbia has collected enough detailed information about the height, frequency and direction of its coastal waves to start developing and testing wave energy converters in the ocean, a new report has found.

The report titled ‘Wave Energy: A Primer for British Columbia’ summarizes key research findings about the magnitude of British Columbia’s wave energy potential, explains how wave energy converters work, and examines the opportunities and challenges of the sector.

It was produced by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, led by the University of Victoria (UVic), and co-authored by researchers at UVic’s West Coast Wave Initiative (WCWI).

Bryson Robertson, the report’s lead-author and WCWI program manager, said: “We’ve seen major advances in solar and wind energy and British Columbia now has the opportunity to play a leadership role in wave energy development.

“I see the initial beneficiaries being remote and/or First Nations communities currently dependent on diesel. Longer term, once greater energy efficiencies are gained, wave energy could be part of a suite of renewable energy sources for British Columbia, as well as provide export potential for cleantech companies.”

The team, led by WCWI director Brad Buckham, developed a computer model of the British Columbia coastline from the Columbia River in the south, to Haida Gwaii in the north.

This was combined with years of data from wave measurement buoys, which revealed several suitable locations for wave energy development, according to UVic. Another uncovered advantage is that of seasonal timing, whereby the biggest (and most energetic) waves occur in winter, coinciding with times when local energy demand is highest.

The wave energy primer covers other next-step industry challenges, including the high per-unit cost of energy compared to other renewables, biofouling, gaining social license, and operating in a hostile ocean environment.

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