While interest (and progress) in wave power projects has lagged that of tidal power projects in recent years, ocean energy company Carnegie Wave Energy has continued plugging away in the field and recently announced that it has successfully activated its first commercial-scale CETO unit off Garden Island in Western Australia on the weekend - ahead of schedule.
The West Australian has a report on the launch - Carnegie makes waves with renewable energy
Carnegie's technology, developed by company founder and inventor Alan Burns, relies on buoys anchored on the ocean floor that use the motion of passing waves to drive pumps which then deliver pressurised water to shore.
The company will monitor power produced at the Garden Island site over the next month and if all goes to plan, will eventually install up to 30 units, enough to produce power for 3500 homes.
Carnegie managing director Michael Ottaviano said yesterday the unit was producing power "exactly as expected". "This is the most significant milestone in Carnegie's history," Dr Ottaviano said.
The State Government has invested $12.5 million in Carnegie's efforts to bring its CETO technology to market. But despite Australia's reliable wave source, the company has increasingly been forced to look overseas for development funds. In 2009, it scrapped plans to develop the world's biggest wave power project near Albany after it was overlooked for a major Federal Government grant. The $300 million pilot project had aimed to produce 50MW of power, enough electricity for 30,000 homes.
The Climate Spectator has more, noting the company is looking to make wave power as cheap as wind power - All set to catch the next energy wave.
Wave energy, in theory at least, could provide up to one third of Australia’s energy needs, according to Carnegie, although the CSIRO has predicted even greater potential. In a country rich with renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal, not to mention its fossil fuels, it will likely never meet that capacity. But it could play a key role in some areas, particularly if it delivers on its cost predictions, and may become critical to the energy needs of countries in Europe, Africa and South America, that have few other options. ...
Ottaviano says Carnegie will monitor the unit’s performance over the next 6-8 weeks, but within the next few months will make a decision on where to deploy its first full-scale demonstration plant, likely to be up to 20 units generating around 2MW of power.
Garden Island is the most likely option, because it can deliver the project in the quickest time, but the company is also being courted by Reunion Island, where its partner, the French energy giant EDF, is offering to pay half its costs and the French government offering to pay a generous feed in tariff.
Wherever the first demonstration plant is built, the future roll-out of multiple units is likely to take place overseas, where some countries such as Ireland and Scotland are battling to become the world centre for ocean energy.
“The countries pursuing wave energy are doing so because they see a competitive advantage,” Ottaviano says. “They want to own the space. It’s not just about generating kilowatt hours into the grid, it’s about industry development and IP generation. That sort of argument doesn’t penetrate in Australia. All we hear about is the costs in developing the technologies.”
Ottaviano notes that Ireland, where Carnegie has developed strong commercial relationships, is the only country in the world with a defined wave energy target – it wants to install 500MW of capacity by 2020.
Carnegie’s own goal is to have 40-50MW of installed capacity by 2015, and it is likely to happen either in western European countries that are offering generous tariffs, or on remote islands, where local authorities are seeking to displace expensive diesel.
Ottaviano says analysis by Parsons Brinckerhoff suggested that once economies of scale are achieved, costs could fall to as low as 12c per kilowatt hour. “We will start higher than that, so the best markets for us will be where we can get the best tariffs.”
In Bermuda, for instance, where the company has recently installed a wave-monitoring buoy, the proposed tariff is 42c/kWh. “The trick for us is in the next five years, deploy 50MW of projects in high tariff region and use them to generate economies of scale to get costs down to 12-13c/kWh,” Ottaviano says. “At that point we will be competitive with wind.”