Satellite-based wave data and wave energy resource assessment for South China Sea


Satellite altimeter data are comparable to the accuracy of buoy measurements for wave energy assessment in Malaysia.

Spatial resolution is important for validation of satellite altimeter data with buoy measurements data.

Wave climate in Malaysia is low (peak periods 5s–7s and significant wave heights 0.5 m to 1.5 m).

Potential areas are located in the open ocean off South China Sea. The potential of wave energy is low along the coastline of Malaysia.


Wave energy has the potential to valuably contribute to the coastal states renewable energy mix. However, lack of data sources hinders the effort to deliberately assess this resource. This paper presents an assessment of wave energy resources in the South China Sea (Malaysian Exclusive Economic Zone) using satellite altimeter. Radar Altimeter Database System (RADS) provides data of significant wave height and wind speed from several satellite altimeters. The data were extracted for a space resolution of 0.25° × 0.25°, and within the time range from January 2001 to December 2010 and space range of 1.5°N – 10.0°N, 95.0°E − 116.0°E. For this study, fifteen 2° × 2° zones were considered around the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia and the coast of East Malaysia. The 10-year-data were validated with buoy measurements and presented as the probability distribution of wave height and wave period. The results indicate that bulk of the waves had peak period between 5s and 7s and significant wave height between 0.5 m and 1.5 m. The data were then used to calculate the theoretical available wave energy and power in the study areas. The results show that the average wave energy density of Malaysian seas facing the South China Sea is in the range of 1.41 kW/m to 7.92 kW/m, while the energy storage varies from 7.10 MW h/m to 69.41 MW h/m. This study also demonstrates the ability of satellite altimeter to provide an accurate and reliable data for more comprehensive and realistic estimate of the energy potential. The ability of satellite altimeter to provide wave data for all sea zones will enable more accurate identification of potential locations for wave energy development in Malaysia.


  • Ocean;
  • Wave energy resources;
  • Satellite altimeter;
  • Malaysia

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