What is it about?

Harbor breakwaters were originally built to protect coastal and port regions from incoming wave attacks. But now they are increasingly used for generating power. Due to a rapid rise in sea levels caused by climate change, classic breakwater structures need to be continually improved for better performance. As an innovative technology, coastal engineers and researchers recommend the incorporation of 'wave energy converters' (WEC) in traditional breakwaters, which break high-energy waves into energy. In this study, authors reviewed the emerging technologies for breakwater-integrated WECs, including a detailed description of the oscillating water column (OWC) and overtopping device (OTD) types of WEC. They discuss how OWC can increase the breakwater's hydraulic performance and reduce navigational disruption. This explains why so many full-scale OWC prototypes are being built across the world.

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Why is it important?

Breakwaters need to be built regardless of whether they include a WEC or not. But building and maintaining breakwaters is expensive. If breakwaters are damaged, the cost of repair is very high. This makes investors reluctant to invest in the WEC energy market. Given that WECs are exposed to harsh weather conditions, their success largely depends on their resilience and performance. Moreover, any additional benefits provided by the innovation should be clearly understood. Innovations must be affordable and rationalized in terms of a cost-benefit analysis before economists make an investment decision. KEY TAKEAWAY: WEC-breakwater technologies could become commercially successful and revolutionize the renewable energy market if they can overcome current roadblocks. This includes achieving zero environmental effects, lower-building costs, and improving ease of operation and maintenance.

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This page is a summary of: Review of Innovative Harbor Breakwaters for Wave-Energy Conversion, Journal of Waterway Port Coastal and Ocean Engineering, July 2019, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), DOI: 10.1061/(asce)ww.1943-5460.0000519.
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