BC's wave energy potential

Bc’s Wave Energy Potential

By Roy L Hales

Since 2001, there have been several inquiries into the plausibility of harnessing the wave energy off Vancouver Island. So far, projects were rejected because of the associated costs. A new report from the University of Victoria’s West Coast Wave Initiative (WCWI)  describes BC’s wave energy potential.

Costly, But Of Great Benefit

This would still be a costly venture to develop, but the benefits are even greater.

It will be difficult for Canada to meet its 2050 emissions target, an 80% reduction on 2005 levels by 2050. This calls for a massive ramping up in the generation of non-emitting electricity.

Wave Energy Is More Reliable

Though still intermittent, wave energy is more predictable than either wind or solar. Lead author Bryson Robertson says that there is only a 15% margin of error in an average four-hour wave forecast, “while wind and solar in the Pacific Northwest are closer to 77% and 86%, respectively.”

“This makes wave energy more reliable and therefore easier to integrate into the electricity grid.”

Wave energy produces more power during the winter months when the electrical system needs it most. The UVic press release reports that seasonal shift results in “monthly mean values of 50 kW/m during the winter and only 6.5 kW/m during the calmer summer months.”


Finding The Sweet Spots

Brad Buckham and the team used computer modelling to find the sweet spots where BC’s wave energy would be most advantageous. They searched BC’s coastline from the Columbia River to Haida Gwaii. They found “wave energy generation would occur at locations closest to communities currently at high risk from electrical supply interruptions.”

As for the cost, the authors believe that if it receives “the sort of public sector support that wind and solar have received … wave energy could potentially follow a similar path of cost reductions.”

Top Photo Credit: Members of the WCWI launching a research buoy off the coast of Vancouver Island.