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Wave energy to be exploited in Australia

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Ocean wave. According to World Energy Council many of the best locations on the world for wave energy exploitation are placed on Australia’s southern coast. Scientists have mapped out Australian south coast from Geraldton in Western Australia to King Island in Tasmania to mark best places for generating electricity from wave energy and concluded that there can be generated five times more electricity than Australia’s current consumption.

Dr Mark Hemer from Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research's says: "If we look at the sustained energy resource along the southern coastline - and we're looking between Geraldton in West Australia and southern tip of Tasmania - that has a sustained wave energy resource of about five times larger than Australia's present day electricity consumption".

Wave energy is still in very early stages of development – there is only about four megawatts of installed generating capacity in the world. When we compare these four megawatts to 200.000 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity we can see that wave energy is still long way behind cost effective energy sources. But with massive production costs will drop significantly and wave energy could become very interesting for investors.

Port Kembala wave energy demonstration scale device.
Port Kembala wave energy demonstration scale device. Click on the picture for full size.
Earlier this year company OceanLinx launched 2.5 megawatt demonstration scale wave energy generating device at Port Kembala in eastern Australia. Device was installed about 100 meters from Port Kembala harbor and it one of the first wave energy devices connected to grid. Although this was designed as short living demonstration project, this installation confirmed that wave energy can be used to generate acceptable grid-quality power.

Wave power is capturing surface wave’s energy to do useful work — for example electricity generation, water desalination, or the pumping of water (into reservoirs). Wave power is distinct from the diurnal flux of tidal power and the steady gyre of ocean currents. Wave power generation is not currently a widely employed commercial technology although there have been attempts at using it since at least 1890.

The world's first commercial wave farm opened in 2008 at the Aguçadora Wave Park near Póvoa de Varzim in Portugal. It uses three Pelamis P-750 machines with a total installed capacity of 2.25MW. However, in November the units were removed from the water, and in March 2009 the project was suspended indefinitely. A second phase of the project planned to increase the installed capacity to 21MW using a further 25 Pelamis machines is in doubt following Babcock's withdrawal from the project.

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