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The challenge

How much power could be generated using wave energy?

Wave energy is an emerging technology that has been generating interest as an alternative renewable energy source. There are more than 200 wave energy devices in various stages of testing and demonstration, however there is limited published data on its viability as an alternate energy source.

Given the apparent advantages of wave energy and the fact that it's a very new technology, we wanted to understand what is the sustainable level at which this resource could be used for energy supply, and whether it could be competitive with other energy technologies.

Our response

Understanding the potential of wave energy

We undertook research to find out more about the potential of wave energy, and how it stacked up against other technologies.

Wave energy is an emerging technology that has been generating interest as an alternative renewable energy source. ©  CSIRO, Stewart Wilde

Using a team of experts including oceanographers, economists and engineers, we conducted a review of existing knowledge including the technology, Australian resource, cost projections, likely uptake and the impact of energy extraction.

The study aimed to identify research and development challenges and opportunities for ocean renewable energy.

The Australian Wave Energy Atlas

With this information in hand, we then embarked on further research with the support of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, to broaden our knowledge of wave energy further by creating the Australian Marine Energy Atlas.

Led by CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, the atlas provides a 4D interactive wave map of the greater Australian coastal area relative to available infrastructure and spatial constraints in the marine domain such as ports and shipping routes, fisheries and aquaculture, marine and coastal parks).

The results

The potential for wave energy in Australia is great

Key findings from the study:

  • The Wave Atlas is publicly accessible so that all interested parties including project developers, regulators and investors can benefit from the research.
  • Our preliminary studies show the southern coastline of Australia has a great wave resource. This is because strong Southern Ocean winds generate consistently large waves which travel northwards to Australia's southern coastline. The large consistent swell provides ideal conditions for wave energy production.
  • Our research shows wave energy could contribute up to 11 per cent of Australia’s energy (enough to power a city the size of Melbourne) by 2050, making it a strong contender in Australia’s renewable energy mix.
  • Recognising the future potential for wave energy, CSIRO is also supporting developers to understand the environmental effects of the deployment of wave energy converters in the marine environment.

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