Riding the Wave: Harnessing Ocean Energy for 40M Homes

February 23, 2024 by Jake Hertz

The WaveRoller technology could one day power tens of millions of homes.

Beyond renewable energy solutions like solar and wind, another promising concept is harnessing the energy of waves in the ocean. It’s so promising, in fact, the European Union (EU) is aiming to produce 10% of its energy from waves by 2050.

Adding momentum to the concept is Finnish company AW-Energy and its innovative technology, the WaveRoller. The plan is to combine the WaveRollers into larger WaveFarms to ultimately contribute significantly to local renewable energy. 

What is the WaveFarm project, and how do waves offer such a promising energy source?


A rendering of WaveRoller.

A rendering of WaveRoller. Image used courtesy of AW-Energy


WaveRoller Technology

WaveRoller operates in near-shore environments, typically situated 0.3 to 2 kilometers off the coast, at depths between 8 and 20 meters. The principle behind WaveRoller's operation lies in the oscillating water column (OWC) concept, where the motion of waves drives a column of water up and down. The system consists of a submerged panel, or "wing," that moves back and forth under the influence of the passing waves. This movement activates hydraulic pistons attached to the WaveRoller panel, which oscillates back and forth under the impact of the waves. The mechanical energy from this motion is then converted into electrical energy through hydraulic motors and generators.

On a macro scale, the EU has set an objective of at least 1 GW of installed capacity of ocean energy harvesting by 2030 and 40 GW by 2050. Toward this goal, the EU is now funding the WaveFarm project, which aims to install arrays of WaveRoller units, each consisting of 10 to 24 devices, to form WaveFarms.


Benefits of Wave Harvesting

Compared to other forms of energy, ocean energy harvesting has some unique advantages.

A primary advantage of wave energy is its predictability. Unlike wind and solar energy, which can be subject to sudden changes due to weather conditions, wave energy can be forecasted with high accuracy several days in advance. This predictability enhances the reliability of wave energy as a power source and facilitates better integration into the existing energy grid, reducing the need for backup power from fossil fuels.


The energy profile of waves.

The energy profile of waves. Image used courtesy of Khan et al.


Moreover, wave energy converters, such as the WaveRoller system, are typically installed near shorelines, which minimizes transmission losses by generating power close to where it is consumed. This proximity to coastal communities can lead to reduced infrastructure costs and a more efficient energy distribution system.

Finally, the environmental impact of wave energy harvesting is minimal, especially when compared to traditional energy sources. Wave energy systems operate quietly, often submerged, reducing visual and noise pollution. Further, they have a small environmental footprint since they don't produce greenhouse gases. 

For these reasons, the EU aims to use wave energy to provide up to 10% of its energy by 2050.


Looking Ahead at Wave Energy

Looking ahead, AW-Energy envisions a global project pipeline of 150 MW for the WaveFarm solution, which is expected to add €275 million to the European economy and create 500 jobs over the next decade. Moreover, deploying WaveRoller technology could reduce carbon emissions by 250,000 tons by 2030, contributing to the transition to a sustainable blue economy.