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Australia Takes First Step to Harness Its Surging Seas for Energy

Wave energy can theoretically supply up to a third of Australia's energy needs, but whether the technology can succeed remains a question mark

By David Wilson, SolveClimate News

May 13, 2011
CETO pilot plant in Western Australia

SYDNEY, AustraliaAustralia has begun drawing renewable energy from the forbidding waves that pound its abundant coastline, with the nation's first marine power unit that began operation in April.

Developed by Perth-based Carnegie Wave Energy, the stand-alone demonstration piece called Ceto the name of a Greek sea goddess converts motion from the ocean into electricity  through a pump anchored 80 feet undersea off southwestern Australia's coast. It can supply 100 kilowatts of energy, enough to power about 70 homes.

When the ocean waves swell, a high-tech buoy attached to the pump moves with them. The movement powers the machine, which pushes water along a pipeline that runs ashore and drives a hydraulic turbine that generates zero-carbon electricity. Carnegie is planning a farm of 10 to 15 Cetos that will yield roughly 2 megawatts.

Wave energy can theoretically supply up to one-third of Australia's energy needs, according to the company, which invested about $30 million into its technology. But whether widespread adoption will ever be practical is another question.

"It sounds possible," said campaigner Cam Walker. "Carnegie is focusing on the southern ocean, which is one of the world's largest and most consistent wave energy resources." Its attempt to commercialize the technology "will hopefully show exactly what is possible," he added.

Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the Australian , described Carnegie’s prototype as "world leading." Still, it needs more research funding, development and testing to enable refinement, he said.

As happened with solar power and wind power, the manufacturing process will need to be "scaled-up," Buckley told SolveClimate News. The investment required is "massive," he said, adding that large-scale production should drive down costs.

In the meantime, Australia's state governments have stamped plenty of permits for small-scale demonstration wave power projects.

Recipients include OPT and AquaGen in Australia's smallest mainland state, Victoria; Waverider in South Australia; and Oceanlinx in the home of Sydney, New South Wales. Wave power prototypes are also being tested by several countries including the United States, Scotland, France, England, Germany and Korea.

Pike Research, a clean technology research group, says that if ocean energy and tidal stream trial projects succeed in the next few years the industry could supply as much as 200 gigawatts of power by 2025, about ten times the current amount of installed solar photovoltaics. A new report by the Carbon Trust, a UK government think tank, says the sector would need at least until 2050 to hit that target.

The UK became a global test center for marine energy with its 20-megawatt , which began feeding power to the grid in November. "The UK and Ireland are doing great things in this area," said John O'Brien, the managing director of the sustainability hub Australian CleanTech.

"Korea is also moving fast on tidal energy, as it has huge tidal ranges on its west coast," he said. Asia's fourth-largest economy poured 80 percent of its $38 billion stimulus program into "green growth," and later it committed 2 percent of its annual GDP over five years to the same national cause.

Controversy Expected

Still, wave power looks likely to be controversial. In Australia, the possibility that Carnegie's wave project may pose a threat to the environment has fueled "considerable debate," Buckley said, though there have been no organized protests against its deployment. 

Why not Enery Island?

Interesting post on Wave Energy in Australia.


There is an integrated approach to harness Wind,Solar,Wave and OTEC developed by Dominic Michaelis, ENERGY ISLAND.



The would have an OTEC plant at its center, but spread across the 2,000-foot-wide (600-meter-wide) platform would also be and solar collectors. Additionally, converters and would capture energy from water moving around the structure.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh  Nellore(AP),India

Wind Energy Expert



Wave Power

From a pure engineering point of view, placing a wave energy device in the same location is the worst thing you can do because energetic waves only arrive at that location for <20% of the year.

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