Wave power key to Australia’s renewable energy plans

A Griffith University study has found that wave power along the southeast coast of Australia is a viable source of renewable energy.

A team of researchers from Griffith’s School of Engineering and Centre for Coastal Management, along with a senior research scientist from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, have based their wave energy model on data collected over a 31 year-period from 1979 and 2010.

The data was collected along the southeast coast of Australia, extending from Fraser Island in the north to Eden in the south.

In the paper ‘Wave energy resource assessment along the Southeast coast of Australia on the basis of a 31-year hindcast’, published in Applied Energy, the team provides a detailed assessment of the availability of the wave energy resource in the region.

The assessment improves on existing wave energy resource assessments in the region by dynamically downscaling global scale model hindcasts into shallow coastal waters with a high-resolution wave energy transformation model.

In an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the Australian Government legislated a renewable energy target (RET) scheme to ensure that at least 23.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation by 2020 will come from renewable energy sources.

In order to meet this target, Australia will need to generate about 17 Terawatt-hours of additional renewable energy per year by 2020. The study found wave power could significantly contribute to achieving the target.

Wave power sustainable

Results indicate annual mean wave power levels are quite high and sustainable across the continental shelf, with the highest-energy concentrations located off the central coast of NSW, between Sydney and Crowdy Head and near the border between NSW and Victoria.

“The annual electric power that could be potentially generated by a number of pre-commercial wave energy converters such as the Pelamis, Wave Dragon and Aqua Buoy was estimated on the basis of their wave power conversion matrixes in conjunction with our modelled wave energy distribution matrices,” say authors Joao Morim Nascimento, and Drs Nick Cartwright and Amir Etemad-Shahidi.

These results indicate the potential to generate about 17 Gigawatt-hours of electricity annually from a single wave farm. In other words, by installing 1000 of them the government can reach its renewable energy target.

The reports authors say overall the study findings are encouraging for the further development of wave energy conversion technology as a viable source of renewable energy into the future.