Wave Energy Pros and Cons

What are the pros and cons of wave energy? The worldwide potential of wave energy is estimated to be around 2 TW. If the potential indeed is as big as the calculations show, what is stopping us from developing wave power farms on mass scale? In this article we look deeper at the advantages of harnessing ocean wave power, as well as all the complications with these methods.

This article is not about how wave energy works. If you are not familiar with these concepts you might want to read through How Does Ocean Wave Power Work? before you come back her and read about the pros and cons of wave energy.


Advantages of Wave Energy

1. Green

Harnessing wave energy comes without the emission of harmful green house gases. This is the main motivation factor behind further development of this way of power generation. We need to find energy sources that will replace polluting ones (e.g. fossil fuels).


2. Renewable

Like with most green energy sources, wave power is also renewable. Since this energy source ultimately comes from the heat energy that is emitted from the sun, it will not disappear for some time – in fact, several billion years or as long time it takes for the sun to burn out.


3. Enormous Energy Potential

The amount power in that comes in waves is huge.  The energy density is typically around 30-40 kW for every meter (2.2 feet) of wave along the shore. As we go further into the ocean 100kW for every meter is not uncommon.


4. Reliable

Waves are hardly interrupted and almost always in motion. This makes generating electricity from wave energy a reasonable reliable energy source (at least when you compare them to solar and wind).

It should be mentioned that the amount of energy that is being transported through waves does vary every year and from season to season. On the northern hemisphere, the average value of November and May could be different with a factor of two or more.

Wave and wind energy has a larger potential during the winter which is a nice synergistically effect with solar energy where the largest potential is in the summer.


5. Area Efficient

A wave farm that is occupying less than a half square mile of an ocean would generate more than 30 MW of power – the equivalent of 20.000 British homes.


5. Offshore Wave Power

Ocean wave energy plants can be put offshore, solving several of the issues that come with power plants closer to the land. The first benefit of offshore wave power is that there is a larger energy potential in these waves.

The larger flexibility as to where to put these offshore wave farms could potentially minimize the negative environmental effects wave power has on the environment.

Offshore wave farms are on the other hand more expensive.

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Disadvantages of Wave Energy

1. Environmental Effects

Power farms on shore that are visible from land may cause conflicts with tourism and local acceptance. Due to this, coastal installations and facilities on land has to meet higher restrictions in terms of size and location.

We don’t yet know exactly how wave power affects sea life. We will hopefully in the next following years have more data in this area.


2. Costs

Wave power is in very early stages of development, which makes speculating on costs harder. Wave resources, connections to the power grid and the lifespan of the technology are just a few factors that result in different costs for different projects.  Of these factors, the lifespan is the most uncertain one, since this is a relatively new technology and we are lacking data on how long these wave power inventions realistically can operate.

At the moment, the costs of wave power are generally very high. These power plants cannot be developed without sufficient funding from the governments. On the other hand, renewable energy is the future, and the costs are expected to drop when larger facilities are up and running.

Many of the parts that are involved in wave power generation require regular maintenance.  The fact that some of these parts are under the water does not make it any easier – or cheaper for that matter.

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The bottom line is that wave power has an enormous global potential. However, we need more funding and research to polish the technology involved, pushing prices down to a competitive level.


  1. Cosma Vasile says

    Did you know that Romania has a technical solution with the highest efficiency to capture wave power?. Patent 108893 entitled Dynamic Engine for Sea Wave Energy Catching. A pioneering invention. It is estimated that “dynamic engine” has the ability to catching wave energy at a rate of over 80% while the other technical solutions known worldwide, are not able to capture wave energy with a higher percentage of about 10-15%. Cosma Vasile. Romania. E-mail cosma.vasile@yahoo.com

    • Mathias says

      Are you able to come up with any more information to back your claims?

      I did a quick Google search and all I was able to find was your comments on similar sites.

  2. Ayesha says

    Thank you so much, this was very helpful! I’m doing a presentation on alternative energy and most of my Google searches come up with a lot of complicated stuff that I can’t use because I don’t understand it, but you’ve put it into much simpler terms! Yay!

  3. Zoe Abrams says

    This article is working wonders. I am dong an argument essay and i have the pros and cons all in one place. The only thing i want is the author so i can do citations.
    Thank you!!

  4. Cosma Vasile says

    Some information for patent “Dynamic Engine” can be found on:
    – Ocean energy: Wave energy | Climate TechWiki
    – “First Wave Energy Device Connected to Power Grid | Science”

  5. fireblood says

    this website was very helpful but there aren’t many of the disadvantages and I think that there is more disadvantages then you put

  6. Seth Whitsett says

    How much sea life will be crushed anchoring these buoys to the ocean floor using thousands of pounds of concrete? How much energy will be expended maintaining these buoys year after year compared to the amount of energy gained?

  7. Seth Whitsett says

    The idea of an energy company that can own and control parts of the ocean off the coast of my home town does not set well with me. The wave energy buoy sites that have been proposed off the coast of my home town would use far more ocean space then half a square.

  8. DAVID MORRIS says

    No matter what you do, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Check the laws of thermo- dynamics, no such thing as perpetual motion. Even the planets and stars will eventualy
    run down.. Its called entropy.

  9. Ugo says

    I think this is a very interesting read. The future of the energy industry is in the Renewable sector and the writer has done a good job to summarize where things are in regards to the Wave energy.

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