The uncertainty in estimates of the energy yield from a wave energy converter (WEC) is considered. The study is presented in two articles. This first article deals with the accuracy of the historic data and the second article considers the uncertainty which arises from variability in the wave climate. Estimates of the historic resource for a specific site are usually calculated from wave model data calibrated against in-situ measurements. Both the calibration of model data and estimation of confidence bounds are made difficult by the complex structure of errors in model data. Errors in parameters from wave models exhibit non-linear dependence on multiple factors, seasonal and interannual changes in bias and short-term temporal correlation. An example is given using two hindcasts for the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. Before calibration, estimates of the long-term mean WEC power from the two hindcasts differ by around 20%. The difference is reduced to 5% after calibration. The short-term temporal evolution of errors in WEC power is represented using ARMA models. It is shown that this is sufficient to model the long-term uncertainty in estimated WEC yield from one hindcast. However, seasonal and interannual changes in model biases in the other hindcast cause the uncertainty in estimated long-term WEC yield to exceed that predicted by the ARMA model.