There’s great potential in the rolling waves, and we humanfolk have sensed it for years. The force of those crashing waves, their limitless supply—if we could only tap into the power of that interminable motion, the energy latent in each cresting water scythe, well, that’d be an ideal electricity-maker, no?
Lofty-minded innovators have been looking to harness that power for centuries—the first patent for a device designed to generate energy from waves was filed over 200 years ago, in 1799. The first working wave power generator was (briefly) deployed in France in 1910, and kept the lights on in a single house.
As Philip Bump points out, there have been hundreds of patents filed since then; hundreds of earnest attempts to generate electricity from waves. Waves, mind you—not tides. This isn’t tidal power we’re talking about here, though there’s some equally intense interest in harnessing the power of that pull, too. But even with many decades worth of big-brained, sweat-stained human inquiry honed in on the puzzle, we’ve turned up relatively little so far. Generating power out there on the rocky seas and safely and efficiently transmitting it back to land is a thorny prospect, you know.