News / Vancouver

B.C. wave energy holds huge renewable potential say experts

Researchers say province could become destination for wave-technology companies

Bryan Robertson (left), program manager at West Coast Wave Initiatiative, helps launch a WatchMate and TriAXYS wave measurement buoy near Ucluelet BC.

West Coast Wave Initiative/Contributed

Bryan Robertson (left), program manager at West Coast Wave Initiatiative, helps launch a WatchMate and TriAXYS wave measurement buoy near Ucluelet BC.

A group of scientists say now is the time to invest in wave energy because B.C. has the potential to become a destination for wave-technology companies around the world.

Researchers from West Coast Wave Initiative (WFWI) in partnership with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and the University of Victoria, have mapped the waves off B.C.’s coast at 50-metre resolution using data from the past 12 years. This information could help wave-tech companies who want to test their instruments on different kinds of waves, said Bryson Robertson, program manager at WFWI.

“We understand the wave climate off the coast better than anyone else. We run the largest fleet of wave measurement devices specific to marine energy in the entire world,” he said.

“If you were at Long Beach on a day in 1998 at 2’o clock, we could tell you what the wave conditions were.”

Related:

Sea lions lounge on a wave-measuring buoy near Ucluelet, B.C.

University of Victoria/Contributed

Sea lions lounge on a wave-measuring buoy near Ucluelet, B.C.

The waves off B.C.’s coast are also among the strongest in the world, according to the PICS report released Thursday.

That amount of energy potential and data, along with the good fortune of having a varied coastline, means B.C. could attract wave-technology companies from around the world, said Robertson.

“If a company came to B.C. and wanted to test, we could find conditions that would replicate waves in many parts of the world.”

His research shows the coastline near Ucluelet is especially suitable for wave-energy development.

But before that can happen, the government needs to create developer-friendly policies, said Robertson.

“At a bare minimum, we need to identify locations that are permitted to set these devices. We need to identify pieces of oceans where developers can go in, test their devices, not compete with other user groups for space.”

This buoy near Ucluelet collects data on wave height, direction, and frequency.

University of Victoria/Contributed

This buoy near Ucluelet collects data on wave height, direction, and frequency.

And while the demand for wave energy is not high right now – B.C. creates a surplus of energy – it could play an important role when the province inevitably needs to rely on renewables, said Robertson.

“When we need to rely on renewables or we need to decarbonize the way we generate electricity, we will have to have a suite of technology,” he said.

“Hydro will be one, solar will be one, wind will be one, and our argument is wave is beneficial to the grid.”

No one type of renewable energy can support B.C.’s energy needs all year around, he explained.

Waves create the most energy during the winter – think winter storms in Tofino – and that’s exactly when solar panels are most ineffective. Wave energy can help balance the province’s energy portfolio, he said.

It could also become a more affordable energy source for remote communities along B.C.’s coast that currently rely on shipments of diesel to power generators, said Robertson.

“Because their cost of energy is really expensive right now, there is an easier economic argument to develop. These remote communities will be the first commercial opportunities for these developers to move into.” 

More on Metronews.ca