Prospects for wave energy can be addressed by assessing its progress towards commercial development, competition from other energy sources and by comparisons with similar technological challenges. This approach presented by the author is different from the many previous assessments where the work and claims of enthusiastic device teams has been the basis of consideration. Realistic assessment of future prospects is a very important consideration when decisions are being made regarding development funding and investment in commercial wave energy projects. Any lack of confidence in the successful application of wave energy technology has major implications for researchers and development teams. After considering the current evidence the authors view is that wave energy is unlikely to make a noticeable impact on the future supply of sustainable energy. A demonstrable breakthrough is required to radically change the prospects.
The author has been an enthusiastic supporter of wave energy since the mid-1970s and has engaged in over 20 contracts relating to the development of wave energy technology. Early work involved testing the Salter Duck on Loch Ness in the late-1970s and led to the invention of the SEA Clam in the late-1970s. The SEA Clam featured well in the 1993 UK wave energy assessment and was considered the best offshore device. Lack of funding curtailed the development work on the Clam and the device awaits the attention of the next generation of wave energy enthusiasts. The 20 years of experience working in wave energy, together with the last 5 years as an interested observer, has given the author a unique insight into the challenges facing this fascinating technology. Taking a neutral perspective on the prospects of wave energy is not easy particularly since views expressed have to be based on both qualitative and quantitative judgements.