Spatial Analysis of Wave Power Potential in North Carolina
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North Carolina is actively pursuing electricity generation from various renewable energy technologies. In 2008 the state’s General Assembly commissioned a study by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers assessing the feasibility of offshore wind power and as a direct result of the study, a project is currently under development in the Pamlico Sound. This analysis is a complementary study evaluating the potential for the use of wave energy conversion devices as another renewable energy technology in North Carolina’s coastal waters. Using GIS, this study assesses the spatial distribution of wave power potential offshore and identifies ecological and human use conflicts prohibitive of development. After calculating generation potential and estimating the costs related to wave farm construction, the economic feasibility of wave power is assessed, based on levelized cost of generation (LCOG). The economic analysis employs the same LCOG model used by the UNC offshore wind study team to provide directly comparable results. The results of the analysis indicate that while there are areas off the coast of North Carolina where wave power development is technically feasible, it is not nearly cost-competitive with other types of generation, including offshore wind. Wave power technology is still in an early development phase, however, and if anticipated future cost savings and efficiency improvements are realized, wave power may become more economically feasible.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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