Identification of optimal sites for the deployment of wave energy converters: the importance of a technology-centred approach
Keywords:wave energy resource, productivity, WECs, power matrix, siting
Driven by climate issues and geopolitical uncertainties, Europe faces the need to transform its energy supply dramatically and quickly. Various renewable technologies are proposed as a medium- to long-term solution for an environmentally and economically sustainable energy mix: among the available solutions, wave energy converters (WECs) are attracting growing interest due to the large untapped wave energy potential in European seas. In this context, the choice of optimal locations for the use of wave energy is fundamental to limit the technological gap with other fully developed conversion technologies, and to ensure competitive energy costs. In this paper, we compare different possible strategies to identify suitable sites for the installation of WECs, namely the one based on pure analysis of the wave energy resource, and that considering the productivity of the device in different sea states, i.e., its power matrix. Using the performance matrices of notional WECs, particularly an Oscillating Surge Wave Energy Converter (OSWEC) and a Heaving Point Absorber (HPA), we estimate optimal locations on the Italian coasts and highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches. The analysis shows the importance of a technology-based approach for the spatial planning of future wave power plants and highlights significant differences compared to the approach that can be used for the preliminary identification of sites for wind farms and, especially, for photovoltaic plants. We use the obtained results to introduce the MORE-EST platform, a novel web-based tool for straightforward estimation of wave resources and WECs productivity in European seas. The proposed platform is able to integrate information on wave resource assessment, bathymetry, marine space use and technological features, and represents a tool aimed at researchers, WECs developers, and policy makers.
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