Blog Post

Why Wave and Tidal Power Are Lost At Sea — It's Darn Expensive

Despite many companies’ best efforts, wave and tidal power installations have been largely stuck in the pilot stage — bigger projects in particular have faced technical glitches and a lack of funding. Tom Konrad over on AltEnergyStocks points out research done last year showing ocean power’s most vulnerable point: It’s one of the most expensive clean energy generation options out there.


That’s according to a study developed last year by infrastructure consulting firm Black and Veatch (B&V) for the California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative, a state initiative focused on research to build transmission lines for clean power. The report says that within California specifically, wave and marine current power generation can cost as much as $445 per MWH and $410 per MWH, respectively. Other renewables like wind, solid biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal have clean energy generation costs nearing $150 per MWH. It’s not ground-breaking info, but the chart shows how stark the difference is between ocean power and other forms of clean power generation.

Ocean power is a popular idea, given there’s so much available ocean space. Politicians like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (including via an editorial on our site) have written about how we should invest more in ocean power to “[H]elp secure our future prosperity, create thousands of new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” and suggested federal policies to boost the industry. I’m all for helping usher along a technology that has the potential to drop in price, but the cost of ocean power should definitely factor into how much federal support this industry gets.

12 Responses to “Why Wave and Tidal Power Are Lost At Sea — It's Darn Expensive”

  1. Here in NZ we had big headlines in the newspaper yesterday about water being spilled from hydrolakes as demand has decreased and we had too much rainfall.
    “During May, the inflows into South Island hydro lakes were among the highest recorded and storage nationally was 1.36 times the historical mean”.
    Still, we are paying the usual prices and the gas fires are still running……

  2. John Bonitz

    Biomass electricity is also constant, so does not require any fossil-fired backup. As a baseload source, biopower is also cost-competitive with new coal, and less expensive than new nuclear.

    Where I live in the Southeast, we have massive potential for renewable electricity from biomass. This must be why the utilities are fighting it so hard: It directly threatens their existing business model of very large, highly centralized new coal and nuclear plants.

    Read more about how biomass electricity can be beneficial here:

  3. “wave and tidal CAN cost as much as”. There are no commercial scale plants yet just a few test stations, we are just at the beginning of this technology. Ocean currents are constant, so it could meet peak demand.

  4. but are there any other alternatives or ways which we can use or carry out rather than using those conventional energy source, i actually thought for a developing country like namibia its very good to have those rather than asking for help from our fellow counterparts.

  5. kent beuchert

    Anyone who accepts this table on face value is foolish. Many, if not most, of these technologies have severe side effect costs associated with them.
    Nor are the prices pricing equally valued power units.
    Variable inputs, like wind and solar, have associated costs in terms of being “tracked” by fossil fuel generators, which expend extra eneergy in that effort. I seriously doubt that the folks who drew up this table were even remotely compehensive in their analysis. A megawatthour via biomass is controllable, reliable and able to meet peak demand and replace fossil fuel generators. Wind, solar and water can do none of these things, yet the comparison is based on sheer costs of – exactly what? The cost to produce after taking into acount those obvious issues, like direct Fed subsidies and tax depreciations, etc? In the following years, as demand grows and fossil fuel plants shut down, unreliable renewables like solar and wind have zero abilities to meet peak demand (as a general rule) which means that SOME kind of reliable plant will have to be built. THAT friends, is a side effect cost – the cost due to the fact that most renewables have really crappy characteristics. Stupid Californians have been brainwashed into worrying about nuclear accidents that will never happen and instead create their own exorbitantly expensive and brainless “renewable”system. And the best renewable they have, by far, is the one pumping out millions of tons of emissions into the California skies! No wonder the state is fiscally bankrupt. It’s been that way, intellectually, for years. I also notice no mention of the costs of having those monster wind machines across an otherwise pristine landscape or making the land they sit on of no value for anyhting other than growing grass. The Chinese are building one new nuclear plant every 2 months for the next 20 years and each can produce more 12 times more power at a cost 10th as much as that boasted-about 1310 megawatt solar farm (it realy produces about 300 megawatts, but don’t tell those California buffoons paying for it). No wonder the Chinese are cleaning California’s clock. They hold, by the way, a trillion dollars worth of US Treasuries and could destroy our economy in an instant unless we do what they say. THEY now have the economy every company in the world wants to trade in.