I remember when I was a kid in the 80’s, the thought of cars that don’t pollute the air never captured my attention. The thought of flying cars most certainly did (in large part thanks to Marty McFly and of course, Dr. Emmet “Doc” Brown). Back then, stories of a future where windmills and solar panels light people’s homes would’ve had a soporific effect on my boyish imagination. Windmills and solar panels by 2020? You mean we haven’t even colonized Mars yet? No first contact with alien life? Not even a channel where we can at least send them messages?
Well, at least in 2020 we can send each other messages much faster than in 1985. Yeah, I know. Not much to brag about considering the expectations.
And that’s not the worst of it. In 2020 most homes on Earth still aren’t powered by windmills and solar panels. We’re still burning coal just so we can kill the darkness and cool our food. Come to think of it, if Doc had transported the 80’s version of me to 2020, I’d have been one disappointed, frustrated kid in a future devoid of ray guns and inundated with iPhones, which aren’t really so exciting.
But considering the dire situation in which we’re continuously finding ourselves, where much of Europe just had its warmest January on record, the 39-year-old version of myself might have a few things to finally get excited about. Renewable energies still require backup energy either from coal, gas or nuclear. Why? Because they lack efficient storage to use saved energy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. But there’s one activity that nature never puts on hold, the waves that crash along the seashore, unloading tremendous amounts of kinetic energy. In fact, they can produce the annual equivalent of 2.64 trillion kilowatt hours of energy. That’s approximately 64% of US electricity generation in 2018.
This is no longer just a fantasy of the future. In Portland, Oregon, a giant barge-like wave energy device is currently in the making, due to be tested in Hawaii. And Japan is also leading the way in wave technology. Considering how approximately 40% of the Earth’s human population resides within 100km of the coast, this could be quite an intriguing breakthrough when it comes to reduction in C02 emissions, especially considering how wave energy would produce close to zero of those emissions.
Sure, it’s not as exciting as shattering the space time continuum on a hoverboard, but there are plenty of surfboards that can take us to the future we need now more than ever.