Australian Wave Power Project Set for Deployment

Image Courtesy of Australian Renewable Energy Agency

By The Maritime Executive 06-30-2015 03:21:06

A new wave power project drawing on a natural undersea design has finished construction and is set to be deployed in Australian waters by the end of the year.

The bioWAVE project will be deployed for a year to determine the commercial viability of the technology. The 26 meter steel structure works by swaying back and forth mostly beneath the surface of the ocean.  It takes its unique design from undersea plants and has the capacity to lie flat on the seabed out of harm’s way during bad weather.

One of the main challenges wave power technology faces is a high setup and maintenance cost of systems that must function in harsh marine environments. The bioWAVE system sidesteps this issue by being able to lay flat against the seafloor during rough sea conditions.

The device works by creating an oscillating motion in the water, which activates hydraulic cylinders to spin a generator, with the power transported to the shore via a subsea cable. It uses a new method of energy generation, which efficiently converts wave energy to mechanical energy. From there the energy is converted into electrical energy.

Once the final site for the structure has been prepared, the bioWAVE will be installed off the coast of Victoria in south-east of Australia. Currently, the site is in the last stages of preparation for the arrival of the completed unit, with the onshore electrical equipment in place and divers working on subsea power and data cabling.

The company, BioPower Systems Pty Ltd, has been working on the technology since 2006, taking it through an in-depth research and development phase to full-scale demonstration.

The costs for the bioWave project total $21m, with over half of the funding provided by the Australian government.

The bioWAVE technology is expected to operate for at least 12 months, with testing throughout and an independent performance assessment at the conclusion. This data will inform the design of a larger 1MW commercial-scale bioWAVE unit, planned as the next phase of development for the technology.

BioPower Systems CEO Dr Timothy Finnigan said achieving practical completion of the bioWAVE device is the most important milestone in the history of the development of the technology.

“It has been very satisfying to see it come together and to witness functional testing of the onboard systems,” Dr Finnigan said.

The Australian government anticipates that emerging field of wave technology will provide both employment and manufacturing opportunities in addition to a renewable source of electricity.

Major Strides in Wave Power

Last week another wave energy pioneer, Carnegie Wave Energy Limited, celebrated a major milestone when its CETO 5 units reached 10,000 operational hours. The company said the project represents the longest continuous period of operation any in-ocean wave energy project has ever achieved, anywhere in the world.

In the U.S. Northwest Energy Innovations recently unveiled a new device off the coast of Hawaii, which is being deployed to determine the feasibility of using wave power as an alternative to traditional energy sources. The data is set to be delivered to the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy for their use in ongoing efforts to validate wave energy technology and advance the marine renewable energy industry.

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) many regions around the world have a high potential for successfully recovering wave power. In particular, the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northwestern coast of the United States, particularly Alaska may prove to be especially worth-while.

Additionally, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that the total recoverable resource along the U.S. shelf continental shelf edge alone is 1,170 TWh/yr, almost one third of the 4,000 TWh of electricity used in the United States each year.