An untapped energy resource for the Baltic Sea
Compared to e.g. wind or solar energy, wave energy is by its origin steadier and more predictable, as it can be available around the clock, day to day and season to season, thus having a higher utilisation factor and a higher power density.
Various forecasts predict that wave energy is able to make a contribution of about 10 % of the world wide electricity consumption with corresponding investments of more than € 800 billion. It is foreseen that by 2050, 15 % of Europe’s energy demand can eventually be covered by ocean energy resources with a total installed capacity of 188 GW. These projections are matched with substantial growth figures for the corresponding industry. By 2020 it is expected that 26,000 direct and 13,000 indirect jobs will have been generated by the ocean energy sector.
Technology is the crucial factor for wave energy development and much of this competence is actually based in those countries of the Baltic Sea Region which are also advanced in offshore wind technologies. This experience has so far, however, mainly been exported.
In the Baltic Sea itself hardly any testing has been undertaken to date. In comparison with other oceans and seas, the wave power density in the Baltic open sea is relatively low (compare: North Pacific 75 kW/m; Baltic Sea 2 kW/m). But also in the Baltic Sea the density can reach more than 50kW/ m2 at times of wind storms with the resulting wave energy being extensive especially in its eastern and south-central parts. One advantage of the Baltic Sea may also be smaller problems with fouling communities. Newly developed technical concepts, such as a small-scale, versatile, low-cost and high capacity linear generators, and proposed installation solutions may open opportunities for wave energy utilisation also in this region. In particular, combinations with offshore (wind) installations seem to be attractive both from an environmental and economic point of view. Should the Baltic Sea Region focus research on small-scale project opportunities in relatively low energy basins, it might not only develop into a model region in this field, but may also lead to the break-through of such systems world-wide.