Current Status & Challenges
It is a well-known fact that wave power, and to a lesser extent, tidal power, could contribute massively to the overall energy picture. A recurring theme among wave power experts is that wave energy is where wind energy was three decades ago.
Producing energy from waves: In the face of climate change, driven by humankind’s dependence on greenhouse-gas-generating fossil fuels, many are looking towards the untapped resources of our oceans as a sustainable source of energy. Offshore wind energy, ocean thermal energy conversion, tidal energy, wave energy, and ocean current energy are all potential sources of renewable energy that make use of our ocean resources. A subset of these so-called “ocean renewable energy” sources is “marine and hydrokinetic energy,” which is defined as a source of electricity derived from “the motion of waves or the impounded flow of tides, ocean currents, or inland waterways,” including wave energy. The wave energy industry is still in its infancy, with technological challenges representing a key barrier to further development. This industry depends on the availability of large datasets and physical testing facilities to progress technological development. Due to the large costs involved, there is a motivation to simulate possible energy production scenarios to select the most suitable energy plant location.
Challenges: Although wave and tidal power have the potential to generate a sizeable percentage of needed electricity, this new technology must overcome significant hurdles to become commercially viable. Besides technical and maintenance problems, two significant challenges still persist. Firstly, with regards to the environment, it is necessary to ensure that marine life will be protected (companies must spend money to gather data on the potential impacts of projects). The other challenge relates to the accurate aggregation of data in order to effectively predict the best locations, the expected energy production and negative impacts on production equipment.
Based on the aforementioned discussion, BigDataOcean will support the process of gathering and accurately using ocean data to estimate the energy projects’ impact on ocean life, as well as the impact of the ocean on the installed equipment, the foreseen energy production, and the best locations. In Portugal, the organization responsible for the energy transport infrastructure (REN) is supporting these new forms of producing energy, working currently to setup the Oceanplug wave energy-testing zone. Having jurisdiction over a large area, they are currently studying the precise location of the power collectors, the corridors connecting to electrical grid, nautical infrastructure etc.
Through the BigDataOcean methodological approach and platform, NESTER (the REN R&D division involved in the project) and UNINOVA envision correlating existing data (e.g. in an environmental and geophysical framework) with further data and knowledge coming from different sources and sectors (e.g. weather, vessels, buoys, etc.). The methodology will include pre-processing, calibration and theoretical development, integrating all available ocean data to accelerate studies in the Oceanplug zone and potentially in other locations throughout Europe.