Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Freo’s wave energy project gets go ahead

16 May 2012

A Fremantle-based wave energy company has received funding to commence operations for its grid-connected CETO Wave Energy Project, marking an important step for the technology's future research and development as a viable energy alternative. Carnegie Corporation's Garden Island-based CETO project will receive $9.9 million from the Federal government's Emerging Renewables Program with an additional $5.5 million coming from the WA government's Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) Fund. Using a network of subsea pipelines the submerged CETO buoy system will pump pressurised water to an onshore power generating facility--located at the HMAS Stirling naval base--to drive hydroelectric turbines with an estimated output capacity of 2MW.

Curtin University's National Center for Marine Science and Technology Studies (CMST) Doctor Tim Gourlay says that structurally and environmentally CETO is ahead of other wave energy technology around the world. "The big advantage of the CETO system is that it is fully submerged and has very good survivability in storms, so by keeping them [buoys] beneath the surface they capture the oscillatory motion without the breaking wave impacts", he says. "It is a slow moving underwater buoy with minimal moving parts and I can't see any adverse impacts on the eco-system".

The project's viability also highlights the amount of wave energy resources Australia has available and the support gap of government-led incentives for the development of clean energy projects. Dr Gourlay says although Australia has supportive policies in place it still falls behind other developed nations. "In Europe there are a lot of government incentives for developing clean energy", he says. "Wave power companies have a lot of trouble getting funding, partly because there have not been many government incentives for this type of development".

The CMST have conducted reviews for the Australian Government on wave energy applications. They have also been involved with the Clean Energy Council of Australia (CEC) to promote the use of the technology. CEC policy officer Lucy Stevens says companies that deal in new clean energy technologies are often under-resourced. "There has traditionally been a major gap in introducing programs to support cutting edge technology moving from research and development through to full roll out and commercialisation", she says. Ms. Stevens expects the Federal Government's $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation will help to bridge that gap. A 2011 CSIRO study showed Australian wave energy resources could produce up to five times the country's electricity requirements.