Bringing cheap power to our shores  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Business Spectator has a look at the prospects for wave power in Australia - Bringing cheap power to our shores.

As guests and dignitaries gathered under a marquee to celebrate the launch of the third iteration of Oceanlinx’s wave technology – the MK3PC – the question of the barge-like structure was this: Yes, it looks great, but will it work? ...

Coastal wave power could, in theory, provide twice the world’s energy requirements. In reality, it will provide a good deal less than that, but will still be an important component of the global energy mix, particularly in wave rich regions such as England and Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and the coasts of Africa and much of the Americas. And, of course, Australia.

Right now, the problem is how best to harness that energy. The sector is unique in that there is no technology standard. The prototypes on offer range from machines that resemble giant sea-snakes to oysters, and upturned Apollo space capsules, to those – like Australia’s Carnegie and BioPower Systems – that seek to mimic the action of the sea by having forests of underwater buoys driven by the ocean’s movements.

Oceanlinx’ technology uses a series of oscillating chambers in a large structure that allows water to enter, compress the air and drive a turbine, and do the same as air is sucked back in as the water recedes. The 170-tonne demonstration model is 8m high, 12m wide and 30m long – the commercial model will be three times the size. A facility with numerous modules could create a 50MW power plant.

Baghaei, a former nuclear plant boss who was brought in to turn the ideas of a 'bunch of enthusiasts' into a viable commercial venture, expects his technology to be competitive with offshore wind by the middle of next year, and with onshore wind within three years. “This is a significant day,” he said. “It is actually doing what it is supposed to be doing.”

Oceanlinx is backed by Australian clean energy venture capital investor Cleantech Ventures, along with Espirito Santo, the largest private bank in Portugal, and the Swiss-based Emerald Technology Ventures.

The involvement of the European investors is crucial because the big leaps in wave energy will likely occur overseas, even if Australian technologies rank among the most advanced in the world. Earlier this month, the UK’s Crown Estate announced the successful tenders for a $6 billion program to trial 10 different wave technologies. The UK believes one quarter of its energy could be supplied from marine sources. Elsewhere in Europe, countries are offering significant feed-in-tariffs and other measures, such as multiple renewable energy certificates, to attract developers to their coastlines. Spain and Portugal are in the forefront, as are some US states on the western seaboard and countries like Chile.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said wave energy was an 'under-recognised' part of the renewable energy mix, both here and abroad, and seemed to admit, at least tacitly, that that could continue to remain the case in Australia, as he talked of the significant opportunities for development overseas.

But it is not the lack of R&D or wave energy resources that holds Australia’s wave energy producers back, or pushes them to find expansion projects overseas: quite the contrary, it’s the lack of government incentive, a legacy of the thrall that most politicians still have for the fossil fuel industry, and the lack of influential lobbying support for renewables – apart from wind – from Australia’s established industries.

There’s no reason why Australia could not do the same as the UK or the Iberian nations. But as we’ve seen in solar, and more recently in the allocation of the one commercial scale wave energy farm that the government has promised to back, this government much prefers to export the ideas, import the finished product back from what is now a foreign-owned entity and pay an Australian company to screw the thing together.


So cool that the MK3PC was launched, this is such an educational and interesting article. I've not previously read anything that describes the state of wave technology in such detail, nor anything about the progress of such technology and prototypes out there. I have a blog which promotes reducing, reusing and recycling, check out my most recent article if you like. reusable grocery bags

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