A recent report shows that electricity from wave energy may be economically possible in the near future. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) collaborated with the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and energy agencies and utilities from six states to study five sites, including Waimanalo Beach, Oahu, Hawaii; Old Orchard Beach, Cumberland County, Maine; WellFleet, Cape Cod, Mass.; Gardiner, Douglas County, Ore.; and Ocean Beach, San Francisco County, Calif. Conceptual designs for 300,000 megawatt-hour (MWh) plants (nominally 120 MW plants operating at 40% capacity factor) were performed for the five sites.
The study suggests that investments be made to enable wave technology to reach a cumulative production volume of 10,000 - 20,000 MW. (Land-based wind turbines, in comparison, generate 40,000 MW.)
Wave energy will become commercially competitive with land-based wind technology at a cumulative production volume of 10,000 or fewer MW in Hawaii and northern California, about 20,000 MW in Oregon and about 40,000 MW in Massachusetts. The wave climate in Maine, however, may not be able to compete with a good wind energy site.
The benefits of offshore wave energy technology are many. It is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity and is generally not visible from the shoreline. Wave energy is also more predictable than solar and wind energy, offering a better possibility of being dispatchable by an electrical grid systems' operator and possibly earning a capacity payment. Finally, it may be one of the lowest cost renewable energy sources because of its high power density.