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Harnessing renewable, clean energy from the sea is not just speculation at the Wave Energy Centre on the Azores, Portugal. The WavEC is leading the way in understanding and developing wave power at its experimental power plant on Pico Island, part of the Azores, Portugal, which was first established in the mid-nineties and taken over by WavEC in 2004. Today the centre, which is a private, non-profit-making association, comprises 15 associate bodies, including engineering and construction companies and research organisations.
Pico remains the most important asset for the WavEC and has generated the most energy of any wave-based device in Europe. With continued funding there is the potential to achieve a unique commercial renewable energy source and to continue informing the scientific community. It is a vital part of technology transfer in this field of science and as desirable side-effect also generates significant tourist interest in the island.
Today the Centre is involved in a growing range of collaborative research and often acts as technical consultant for maritime renewable energy projects. The EC project Equimar benefits from WavEC’s expertise in its testing of marine energy extraction equipment and environmental R&D, while wavetrain2 provides an EU training network programme coordinated by the Centre. The future viability of the Centre remains strong and the lesson of the last 18 years is that repeated experimentation and problem-solving is the only genuine way forward in this exciting but unpredictable field. There are no quick fixes to harnessing the energy of the sea, but plenty of reasons to expect great returns in the future.