With a boost from taxpayers, a wave power initiative appears on its way to getting a grid-connected test in the waters off Western Australia.

The Australian government announced nearly $10 million in funding for Carnegie Wave Energy’s Perth Wave Energy Project, and the Western Australia state government is kicking in another $5.5 million for the project. Named after a Greek sea goddess, Carnegie’s Ceto wave power converter is similar in concept to the Oyster device being developed in the U.K., using submerged buoys to deliver pressurized water onshore.

Carnegie Wave Energy, Australia
image via Carnegie Wave Energy

“This technology not only has the potential to increase investor confidence in wave projects and help unlock Australia’s untapped wave energy resource, but it could also produce zero emission desalinated seawater, which on a dry continent such as Australia, is a significant additional attraction,” Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement.

In addition to the desalination angle, the Ceto system is different from many wave power concepts in not requiring construction of undersea grids or high voltage transmission lines. The system consists of submerged buoys anchored to the sea floor and tethered to pump units. As waves pass over, the buoys drive pumps, which pressurize water and deliver it onshore through a pipeline. The high-pressure water drives onshore hydroelectric turbines, generating zero-emission electricity.

The system is also said to have no significant impact on marine life, and will be constructed out of the way of popular surfing areas. The Perth project has been under development for more than two years and is now entering what Carnegie calls “the detailed design phase.” The company said it will need to get various government approvals as it constructs and operates the project, but figures the system should be commissioned before then end of 2013.“When the project is completed, it will provide up to 2 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity delivering clean electricity up to the equivalent of I,000 households and contribute to domestic Australian greenhouse gas emission reduction targets,” Carnegie Wave Energy said in a statement.

Carnegie Wave Energy, Australia
image via Carnegie Wave Energy

The backing from the government is a boost for Carnegie, which has also planned a similar project in Ireland, and is working on several proposed projects, including in Bermuda and British Columbia.

The government, meanwhile, isn’t putting all its marine-energy eggs in the Carnegie basket: It also said it would provide $613,000  to help Waratah Power on a $1.1 million study “into fish-friendly practices that will allow the wider development of small hydropower facilities.” The hope there is to use the study results “to design low-head turbine technology that can improve the health and survival rate of native fish species during downstream migration.”

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