The seas and oceans around us are throbbing with energy. The ocean swells-the up-down movement of the water-is a source of energy, as are the tides, underwater currents and the crashing of the waves.

But mankind is yet to tap this energy source, save for sporadic efforts in the UK, Brazil and Denmark, among other countries. The problem is the cost, but that is not insurmountable. Technology and scale have always tamed costs, as was seen in the case of solar equipment and electric vehicles among several instances. Besides, until recently, there was no big need to go gunning for ocean energies. But the climate crisis has changed the dynamics.

Only little has been attempted in India to tap oceans for energy, a report by IIT-Madras and CRISIL estimate there is 40,000 MW waiting to be harnessed from Indian seas. Now, a team of researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay is analyzing wave data from coastal regions to ascertain the best locations for wave energy plants.

The team is led by Prof Balaji Ramakrishanan, Civil Engineering Department. The team will focus on 2 key parameters- significant wave height and the time a wave takes to pass a point. These together give an idea of the wave power.

For this, computer-based study is being done on the 39 years’ worth data of wave of India’s coastline from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast.  These studies are essential to zero in on the appropriate technology for energy harvesting.

Simulated Waves

These studies are still in a preliminary stage. Prof Ramakrishnan says the team ran several numerical models on computers and then validated some of the findings with actual measurements at the sites. Though computer simulations of ocean dynamics and analysis of wave data give some idea of the places where wave energy plants could come up but more data needs to be collected.

The knowledge gained through this IIT-Bombay study can help narrow down the focus of future studies by indicating possible locations for power plants.

India-specific devices

The assessment of wave energy potential is the first step to setting up large-scale wave power plants. A detailed estimation of available marine energy, investigation of feasible and optimal technologies, innovating devices specific to Indian conditions, data collection to ascertain the estimates, and analysis of environmental impact are needed to actualize the potential wave energy.

Tapping the oceans for energy is not a new concept — the climate crisis has renewed the focus on it. IIT-Madras has signed a joint development agreement with a start-up, Virya Paramita Energy, under which Prof Abdus Samad of the Department of Engineering Design, who has worked on ocean energies for a long time, will develop a technology called ‘point absorber system’ for deployment at several locations.