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Environment Socio-economic Technology Research report

Tropics an unharnessed future market for wave energy says a new study


”In the future, the costs of wave energy production should become competitive to traditional means of energy generation in the tropics.”

A new study published on 14 July 2019 in the Journal of Marine Science and Engineering addresses challenges and opportunities related to wave energy deployment in the tropics. It finds that even though European waters with high waves might have the most potential for wave energy development, several tropical regions show similar resources for low power values.

This energy source, according to the study, can be completely harnessed with technology adapted to the tropical conditions. Temperatures, humidity and salinity are high in tropical zones, which results in accelerated corrosion and biofouling-induced degradation. Extreme weather events such as intense cyclones are also common in the tropics. The wave energy devices therefore need to be made of materials resistant to the warm saline waters and the high nutrient levels. They must have mechanisms that allow them to withstand cyclones, such as strong anchoring that resists the currents generated by the cyclone.

Particular importance should be given to the identification of deployment sites, because of the megadiversity (very high biodiversity) in the tropics. Environmental impact assessments should therefore be detailed and consider local conditions.

In terms of social aspect, it is important that wave energy devices are deployed close to final users especially in isolated communities to reduce costs and enhance efficiency. Development of wave energy could play an important role in improving access to energy for the growing population in the tropics.

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