As the demand for energy increases and resources of conventional fuels diminish, harnessing the immense wave power in the world's oceans can be part of the solution to our energy problems. The wind and waves are renewable sources of energy and do not cause pollution. The energy from waves alone could supply all of mankind's electricity needs many times over.
Wave power does not have to be used just to provide directly consumable electricity. Research is being carried out to examine the feasibility of using electricity generated by wave power to produce hydrogen for fuel or fuel cells. This has particularly good potential in remote areas. Investigations are also under way to see if wave power can provide high-pressure inlet water to desalination plants in arid countries exposed to strong waves, but where drinking water is scarce.
Various different technologies have been designed to harness wave power. A commercial wave power plant uses a shoreline chamber, in which seawater enters and leaves naturally. As it enters, the air in the chamber is compressed and forced through a hole into a turbine, making it move. As the water recedes, the air is sucked back, keeping the turbine moving. The turbine then drives a generator which in turn converts the energy into electricity.
Wave power is widely considered an environmentally clean option. Most objections are more concerned with local issues - such as noise, the visual effect on the landscape, or the impact of roads leading to the sites. These factors are seen by some to negate the advantage of such an environmentally friendly fuel alternative.