A study points to Chile as world leader in wave energy potential


The study by the UK Embassy in Chile, “Recommendations for the Chilean Marine Energy Strategy: an action plan for development”, puts this country at the forefront of wave energy potential. From 2020, when wave power becomes commercially competitive, at least 100 MW of Chilean wave power could be installed every year.
Wave energy is Chile’s most important renewable resource. It is estimated that theoretical gross potential amounts to 240 GW, according to the study by Baird & Associates SA, and wave activity is intense enough to produce energy along the entire Pacific coast.
The study also included the participation of more than 200 organizations, including the Ministry of Energy and the Renewable Energy Centre (CER), plus a number of people through interviews and workshops in nine of the fifteen Chilean regions, in order to outline recommendations for development of offshore energy in Chile.
“It could be said that Chile is the best place in the world for producing wave power, with over 4,000 km of coastline, exposed to constant high energy waves, as well as the fact that it focusses all demand for energy on the coast, or relatively close to it, due to the narrow geography of the country”, says the study.
Average power levels range from 20 kW/m in northern Chile to 50 kW/m in Los Lagos, and plant factors for wave energy projects in Chile are among the highest in the world (50%), because of the high consistency of the waves (Monardez, et al., 2008).
The fact that marine energy has not yet been commercialized means that “Chile has the opportunity to play a major role in its development and set up manufacturing capacity that would be difficult to achieve in more established industries, such as wind and solar, where the equipment is mostly imported, “says Andrés Bauza, CER specialist who participated in the study.
Among the possible applications, especially in the early stages of installing these systems, the following is recommended:
-Use of wave energy for desalination or marine pumping: the Chilean government estimates that by 2020 the copper mining industry will require 6.3 TWh/year just for this purpose.
-Development of small-scale marine energy systems for thousands of isolated communities, salmon farms and tourist locations with limited access to power and/or water.
Based on the comparative study between Chile and the United Kingdom, run as part of this project, it is estimated that the cost of wave energy could be 30% lower in Chile than in the UK (mainly due to lower manpower costs and the use of standard vessels).