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Wave Energy: Technology brief

This brief examines wave energy technologies, one of the key methods for tapping renewable energy from the world’s oceans.


Wave energy converters (WECs) capture the energy contained in ocean waves to generate electricity. 

There is a wide range of wave energy technologies. Each technology uses different solutions to absorb energy from waves, and can be applied depending on the water depth and on the location (shoreline, near shore, off shore). Although there is a wide range in technologies that signals that the sector has not yet reached convergence, it also shows the many different alternatives to harness wave power under different conditions and emplacements. Future evolution of the sector will aim for an initial deployment of demonstrating WECs in small arrays of 10 MW, close to shore or on specific testing emplacements. Making the jump to the full commercial phase requires some research on the basic components to reduce costs and increase the performance.

This brief forms part of a set by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) covering four main types of ocean energy technologies: Ocean ThermalTidalWave and Salinity Gradient energy.

Successive technology briefs have highlighted a wide range of renewable energy solutions. Each brief outlines technical aspects, costs, market potential and barriers, combined with insights for policy makers on how to accelerate the transition to renewables.