Technologising the wave: constructing an energy resource in science and policy

Marfuga Iskan­daro­va
Kingston Uni­ver­si­ty Lon­don
Kingston Busi­ness School

Ele­na Simako­va
Inde­pen­dent schol­ar

Tech­nol­o­gis­ing the wave: con­struct­ing an ener­gy resource in sci­ence and pol­i­cy

Abstract. Despite the recent shift from renew­able ener­gy to a low car­bon pol­i­cy, the UK pol­i­cy dis­course still recog­nis­es marine ener­gy as part of the country’s future ener­gy mix. Pro­duc­tion of what we call an “assem­blage” of tech­nol­o­gy and ocean waves trig­gers com­plex sets of ini­tia­tives that pro­vide the basis for the eco­nom­ic via­bil­i­ty and cred­i­bil­i­ty of wave ener­gy extrac­tion. How­ev­er, ques­tions are rarely asked about how the nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non being part of this assem­blage is con­strued as a resource to become a key ele­ment of promis­es and assess­ments of poten­tial of renew­able ener­gy. This study sheds light on under­ex­plored aspects of the credibility–economy and val­u­a­tion prac­tices formed around renew­able ener­gy that have not yet been prob­lema­tised in social stud­ies of ener­gy. Argu­ing that ocean waves become an ener­gy resource large­ly through resource assess­ment prac­tices, we exam­ine such prac­tices in the con­text of the pro­duc­tion of sci­en­tif­ic and pol­i­cy dis­cours­es around wave ener­gy. Con­sid­er­ing waves as an object of exper­tise, we exam­ine how “wave data” con­sti­tut­ed through mea­sure­ments, sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis, mod­el­ling and visu­al­i­sa­tion, con­tribute to the assess­ment and legit­imi­sa­tion of wave ener­gy devel­op­ments. We also eval­u­ate the prospects for wave ener­gy to be a “good” in future eco­nom­ic exchange.

Key­words: wave as a resource, renew­able ener­gy pol­i­cy, credibility–economy, resource assess­ment, mod­el­ling, “wave data”

DOI: 10.5840/dspl2020319


  1. Ander­son, J. “Rela­tion­al places: the surfed wave as assem­blage and con­ver­gence,” Envi­ron­ment and Plan­ning D: Soci­ety and Space, 2012, vol. 30, pp. 570–587.
  2. Babar­it, A. Ocean Wave Ener­gy Con­ver­sion: Resource, Tech­nolo­gies and Per­for­mance. Lon­don: ISTE Press; Oxford: Else­vi­er, 2017.
  3. Beaulieu, A. “Vox­els in the brain: neu­ro­science, infor­mat­ics and chang­ing notions of objec­tiv­i­ty,” Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 2001, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 635–680.
  4. Black, K. 2007. Review of Wave Hub Tech­ni­cal Stud­ies: Impacts on inshore surf­ing beach­es. Exeter: SWRDA, 2007. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 12, 2017).
  5. Brooke, J. Wave ener­gy con­ver­sion. Else­vi­er Sci­ence, 2003.
  6. Borup, M., Brown, N., Kon­rad, K., Lente, H.V. “The soci­ol­o­gy of expec­ta­tions in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” Tech­nol­o­gy Analy­sis & Strate­gic Man­age­ment, 2006, vol. 18, nos. 3/4, pp. 285–298. DOI: 10.1080/09537320600777002
  7. Brown, N., Michael, M. “A soci­ol­o­gy of expec­ta­tions: ret­ro­spect­ing prospects and prospect­ing ret­ro­spects,” Tech­nol­o­gy Analy­sis and Strate­gic Man­age­ment, 2003, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 3–18.
  8. Cal­lon, M., Méadel, C., Rabeharisoa, V. “The econ­o­my of qual­i­ties,” Econ­o­my and Soci­ety, 2002, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 194–217. DOI: 10.1080/03085140220123126
  9. The Renew­able Ener­gy Review // Com­mit­tee on Cli­mate Change. 2011. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  10. Con­nor, P. “Wave Ener­gy: Going down the Tube?”, The 7th Euro­pean Wave and Tidal Ener­gy Con­fer­ence, 11th – 13th Sep­tem­ber, 2007. Por­to, Por­tu­gal.
  11. Coop­mans, C., Verte­si, J., Lynch, M.E., Wool­gar, S. (eds.). Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Sci­en­tif­ic Prac­tice Revis­it­ed. Cam­bridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2014.
  12. Ehren­stein, V, Muniesa, F. “The Con­di­tion­al Sink: Coun­ter­fac­tu­al Dis­play in the Val­u­a­tion of a Car­bon Off­set­ting Refor­esta­tion Project,” Val­u­a­tion Stud­ies, 2013, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 161–188.
  13. The UK Low Car­bon Tran­si­tion Plan. Nation­al Strat­e­gy for Cli­mate and Ener­gy,” Depart­ment of Ener­gy and Cli­mate Change (DECC). Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  14. The UK Renew­able Ener­gy Strat­e­gy,” Depart­ment of Ener­gy and Cli­mate Change (DECC), July 2009. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  15. Marine Ener­gy Action Plan. Exec­u­tive Sum­ma­ry and Rec­om­men­da­tions,” Depart­ment of Ener­gy and Cli­mate Change (DECC), March 2010. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  16. Drew, B., Plum­mer, A.R., Sahinkaya, M.N. “A review of wave ener­gy con­vert­er tech­nol­o­gy,” Pro­ceed­ings of the Insti­tu­tion of Mechan­i­cal Engi­neers, Part A: Jour­nal of Pow­er and Ener­gy, 2009, vol. 223, no. 8, pp. 887–902. DOI: 10.1243/09576509JPE782
  17. Wave and Tidal-stream Ener­gy Demon­stra­tion Scheme,” Depart­ment of Trade and Indus­try (DTI), May 2005. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  18. Galvin, R. “Mod­i­fy­ing Actor-Net­work The­o­ry to Analyse the Ger­man Project of Pho­to­volta­ic Elec­tri­cal Ener­gy Gen­er­a­tion,” CSERGE Work­ing Paper, EDM 09–02, 2009. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  19. Godin, B. “Mod­els of inno­va­tion: Why mod­els of inno­va­tion are mod­els, or what work is being done in call­ing them mod­els?” Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 2015, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 570–596.
  20. Granjou, C., Arpin, I. “Epis­temic com­mit­ments: Mak­ing rel­e­vant sci­ence in bio­di­ver­si­ty stud­ies,” Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy, & Human Val­ues, 2015, vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 1022– 1046.
  21. Grint, K., Wool­gar, S. The Machine at Work: Tech­nol­o­gy, Work and Orga­ni­za­tion. New York: Poli­ty Press, 1997.
  22. Hil­gar­t­ner, S. Sci­ence on Stage: Expert Advice as Pub­lic Dra­ma. Stan­ford, Cal­i­for­nia: Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000.
  23. Hil­gar­t­ner, S. “Mak­ing the bioe­con­o­my mea­sur­able: pol­i­tics of an emerg­ing antic­i­pa­to­ry machin­ery (com­ment),” BioSo­ci­eties, 2007, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 382–386.
  24. Iskan­daro­va, M. Con­struct­ing a Macro-Actor in Prac­tice: the Case of Wave Hub. (PhD the­sis), Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter, 2013,
  25. Iskan­daro­va, M., Simako­va, E. “Ener­gy, Expec­ta­tions, and Exper­tise: the Case of Wave Hub,” Soci­ety for Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence (4S) and Euro­pean Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy (EASST) Con­fer­ence 2012: Design and Dis­place­ment; 17–20 Oct 2012, Copen­hagen, Den­mark. (Unpub­lished)
  26. Karpik, L. Valu­ing the Unique: The Eco­nom­ics of Sin­gu­lar­i­ties. Prince­ton, NJ: Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2010.
  27. Lam­ont, M. “Toward a com­par­a­tive soci­ol­o­gy of val­u­a­tion and eval­u­a­tion”, Annu­al Review of Soci­ol­o­gy, 2012, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 201–221.
  28. Latour, B. “Why has cri­tique run out of steam? From mat­ters of fact to mat­ters of con­cern,” Crit­i­cal Inquiry – Spe­cial issue on the Future of Cri­tique, 2003, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 25–248. [Repub­lished in Harper’s Mag­a­zine, April 2004, pp.15–20. Repub­li­ca­tion reprint­ed in Brown B (ed.) Things. Chica­go: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, pp. 151–174]
  29. MacKen­zie, D. Invent­ing Accu­ra­cy: A His­tor­i­cal Soci­ol­o­gy of Nuclear Mis­sile Guid­ance. Cam­bridge and Lon­don: MIT Press, 1990.
  30. Men­nick­en, A., Sjo­gren, E. Edi­to­r­i­al Note. “Val­u­a­tion and Cal­cu­la­tion at the mar­gins,” Val­u­a­tion Stud­ies, 2015, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1–7.
  31. Mil­lar, D., Smith H.C.M., Reeve, D.E. “Mod­el­ling analy­sis of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of shore­line change to a wave farm,” Ocean Engi­neer­ing, 2007, vol. 34, pp. 884–901.
  32. Nowot­ny, H. “How many pol­i­cy room are there?: evi­dence-based and oth­er kinds of sci­ence poli­cies,” Sci­ence Tech­nol­o­gy & Human Val­ues, 2007, vol. 32, no, 4, pp. 479–490.
  33. Phillips, J., Cruz, J., Hol­brow, R., Parkes, J., Rawl­in­son-Smith, R. “Defin­ing the long-term wave resource at Wave Hub: the role of mea­sure­ments and mod­els,” Pro­ceed­ings of the ASME 27th Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence on Off­shore Mechan­ics and Arc­tic Engi­neer­ing OMAE, Esto­ril, Por­tu­gal, June, 2009, pp. 645–652. DOI: 10.1115/OMAE2008-57349
  34. Pol­lock, N., Williams, R. “The busi­ness of expec­ta­tions: How promis­so­ry orga­ni­za­tions shape tech­nol­o­gy and inno­va­tion”, Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 2010, vol. 40, no. 4, pp. 525–548.
  35. Marine renew­able: cur­rent sta­tus and impli­ca­tions for R&D fund­ing and the Marine Renew­able Deploy­ment Fund”, Renew­ables Advi­so­ry Board, 2008. Avail­able at:–0182-FinalVersion.pdf (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  36. Schmid, S. Envi­sion­ing a Tech­no­log­i­cal State: Reac­tor Design Choic­es and Polit­i­cal Legit­i­ma­cy in the Sovi­et Union and Rus­sia. PhD the­sis. Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, 2005.
  37. Schmid, S. “Nuclear Renais­sance in the Age of Glob­al Warm­ing”, Bridges, Decem­ber 12, 2006. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  38. Shapin, S. “Cordelia’s love: cred­i­bil­i­ty and the social stud­ies of sci­ence,” Per­spec­tives on Sci­ence, 1995, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 255–275.
  39. Shore, C. “Espi­onage, pol­i­cy and the art of gov­ern­ment: the British Secret Ser­vices and the war on Iraq,” in: Ch. Shore et al. (eds.), Pol­i­cy Worlds: Anthro­pol­o­gy and the Analy­sis of Con­tem­po­rary Pow­er. New York: Berghahn Books, 2011, pp. 169–186.
  40. Selin, C. “Nego­ti­at­ing plau­si­bil­i­ty: inter­ven­ing in the future of nan­otech­nol­o­gy,” Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing Ethics, 2011, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 723–37.
  41. Sims, B., Henke, Ch. “Repair­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty: repo­si­tion­ing nuclear weapons knowl­edge after the Cold War,” Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 2012, vol. 42, pp. 324–347.
  42. Smith, H. “An Oper­a­tional Wave Mod­el for the South West Approach­es,” PRI­MaRE Research Con­fer­ence, 2010. (Unpub­lished).
  43. Smith, H.C.M., Charles, P., Mil­lar, D. “Fur­ther analy­sis of change in nearshore wave cli­mate due to an off­shore wave farm: An enhanced case study for the Wave Hub site,” Renew­able Ener­gy, 2012, vol. 40, pp. 51–64.
  44. Smith, H.C.M., Haver­son, D., Smith, G.H. “A wave ener­gy resource assess­ment case study: review, analy­sis and lessons learned,” Renew­able Ener­gy, 2013, vol. 60, pp. 510–521.
  45. UK Wave and Tidal Key Resource Areas Project. Sum­ma­ry Report”, The Crown Estate, 2012. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  46. The Off­shore Val­u­a­tion: A val­u­a­tion of the UK’s off­shore renew­able ener­gy resource,” The Off­shore Val­u­a­tion Group, 2010. Avail­able at: (accessed on Jan­u­ary 13, 2017).
  47. Thomas, G. “The The­o­ry behind the Con­ver­sion of Ocean Wave Ener­gy: a Review,” in: J. Cruz (ed.), Ocean wave ener­gy: cur­rent sta­tus and future per­spec­tives. Green Ener­gy and Tech­nol­o­gy. Berlin: Springer, 2008, pp. 41–91.
  48. Van Nieuwkoop, J., Smith, H.C.M., Smith, G.H., Johan­ning, L. “Wave resource assess­ment along the Cor­nish coast (UK) from a 23-year hind­cast dataset val­i­dat­ed against buoy mea­sure­ments,” Renew­able Ener­gy, 2013, vol. 58, pp. 1–14.
  49. Van­toch-Wood, A. Quan­ti­fy­ing Meth­ods for an Inno­va­tion Sys­tems Analy­sis of the UK Wave Ener­gy Sec­tor. PhD the­sis. Uni­ver­si­ty of Exeter, 2012.
  50. Vaugh­an, D. The Chal­lenger Launch Deci­sion: Risky Tech­nol­o­gy, Cul­ture, and Deviance at NASA. Chica­go; Lon­don: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1996.
  51. Web­ster, A. “Cross­ing bound­aries social sci­ence in the pol­i­cy room,” Sci­ence Tech­nol­o­gy & Human Val­ues, 2007, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 458–478.
  52. Xie, J., Zuo, L. “Dynam­ics and con­trol of ocean wave ener­gy con­vert­ers,” Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Dynam­ics and Con­trol, 2013, vol. 1, pp. 162–276.
  53. Zinn, D.L. “The Case of Scan­zano: Rai­son d’État and the Rea­sons for Rebel­lion,” in: Ch. Shore et al. (ed.) Pol­i­cy Worlds: Anthro­pol­o­gy and the Analy­sis of Con­tem­po­rary Pow­er. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2011, pp. 227–243.

Comments are closed.