A new atlas mapping Australian wave data has been released, part of a growing international focus on the potential of marine energy to deliver on its promise as a predictable renewable energy source for the future.
The Australian Wave Energy Atlas brings together more than 35 years of wave data which can be visualized as a map of Australia, displaying potentially suitable areas for wave energy deployment
CSIRO senior research scientist and Atlas project leader Dr Mark Hemer said Australia had the second largest wave energy resource in the world at around 1,800 terrawatt hours per year: “This is considerably larger than our yearly electricity needs which is around 250 terrawatt hours.’’
The Atlas, which was developed by CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere and co-funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), shows the energy resource to be strongest along the southern coast from Perth to Melbourne.
“The Atlas incorporates important marine spatial restraints such as aquaculture and fishing zones, marine protected areas, port facilities and the location of oil and gas leases,” said Dr Hemer.
“This information is then incorporated into ARENA’s Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure visualisation tool which shows wave resource data, a spatial representation of other marine uses and infrastructure and other energy and electricity sector information to be viewed together.”
Momentum is building worldwide but comes with provisos
The growth of Australia’s wave energy industry reflects a global trend.
At the Ocean Energy Europe conference in October in Brussels, 2016 was declared to be the “take off year” for marine energy with a European ocean energy ‘roadmap’ launched and announcements being made about the world’s first tidal farm.
Among other marine energy grants, Australian company Carnegie Wave Energy was also granted more than $A15.5m from the European Regional Development Fund to support the first phase of its commercial project in Cornwall, UK.
The Australian Atlas was launched at Australia’s first Ocean Renewable Energy Symposium in Melbourne, where a commitment was also made to deliver on a strategy for the industry.
The momentum comes at a significant time. World leaders met in Marrakech in October for the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which includes a showcase session on global climate action and oceans.
“Europe has been a major investor in wave energy projects and is expected to have a total installed capacity of 26 megawatts by 2018. Australia has a planned installed capacity of around 3.5 megawatts,” said Dr Hemer.
“We hope the Atlas will help Australian industry, their financiers, and the policy makers make informed decisions about where wave energy devices have the best chance of success.”
However, the current cost of harvesting energy from the oceans has been considered a restraint to the industry.
“The wave energy resource is more reliable and forecastable than wind and solar, but being an early-stage technology it’s also more expensive,” said Dr Hemer.
“Wind and solar were also very expensive – possibly more – at the same stage of development. Wind was at the same stage in the early 1980’s, but what we have seen is these costs decrease substantially as the global installed capacity has increased. The same will happen with ocean renewables - the more devices we have deployed, the cheaper they will become.”
To find out more and explore the Australian Wave Energy Atlas, http://awavea.csiro.au/.