Wave energy could be Chile's next green step

With 6,435 km of coast line the country has a 164 MW wave energy potential.

A 2009 study commissioned by the Inter American Development Bank  (IBD) showed Chile has a 164MW wave energy potential. The country has 6,435km of coastline along the Pacific ocean. It gets deeper the closer to the south pole, generating more tidal power and giving Chile massive potential to harness wave energy.

“Energy from the sea, in both coastal areas and around the island of Chiloé (in the south), has been studied extensively, and the potential is enormous,” ecologist Sara Larraín, director of the local environmental organization Sustainable Chile said in to IPS.

The problem is the South American country doesn't have the technological nor the financial capacity to develop this type of technology which is still in its prototype level in countries like Scotland, Portugal and Australia.

The study mentioned that if only 10% of wave energy was harvested this could surpass the capacity of Chile's central power grid.

Right now, Chile has an installed capacity of 20,203MW, Central and Norte Grande power grid account for 78% and 20% of total electric power and 58.4% of the total energy supply comes from diesel, coal and gas. Hydropower is the most used renewable source of energy.

Only 13.5% of the renewable sources are unconventional, like wind power, solar energy, biomass and mini-dams. Despite being a small percentage, thanks to these sources the price of electricity has decreased 34% since 2013. Chile had for years the highest electricity price.

The Marine Energy Research and Innovation Center (MERIC) was set up between a cooperation agreement between France and Chile in 2015 as part of a plan to achieve the 2050 energy plan. The plans aims by 2030 to generate 40% of electric power from unconventional renewable sources.

MERIC will have an estimated cost of 20 million dollars, and 58% of its cost will be covered by the Chilean energy ministry in the course of 8 years. It could make Chile a leader in the global tidal and wave power development.

“We hope to put together a multidisciplinary platform for applied research in Chile, to boost the development of marine energy in this country and around the world,”said Luc Martin, executive director of MERIC to IPS.

Despite significant progress has been made in wave energy's techonology, converting wave energy into electric power hasn't reached a comercially exploitable application level. Also, in the Chilean case, Martin said the location of most feasible projects is far from the high demands centers, which would add complications to the development. 

Latin American Post 

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