Wind and solar may be the leaders in Australia’s renewable energy race, but there’s another contender lurking in the country’s oceans as stated by The Conversation.
Australia possesses the world’s largest wave energy shore at around 1,800 terawatt-hours. Most of this is concentrated in the southern half of the continent, between Brisbane and Geraldton.
Waves are not the only renewable power sources in the country, the daily movements of the tides shift vast amounts of water around the Australian coast and the technology for converting tidal energy is more mature as compared to other wave converters. Ocean renewable energy also spans ocean thermal energy conversion and the energy from the ocean currents like the East Australian Current. These things represents less mature technologies with fewer opportunities in the country.
Australia has vast energy resources, both renewable and traditional fossil fuels, so what does it take for Australia to fully consider wave energy?
The Paris Agreement where Australia is a signatory, aims to limit global warming well below 2 C. This will need almost complete decarbonisation of global electricity systems by 2050.
To keep the country on track meeting the international commitments, members of the country’s Climate Change Authority recently proposed a target of 65% by the year 2030. To reach this target, it would require a fast and a large-scale transition to alternative emission-free energy systems.
As mentioned, wind and solar are leading the way, but the other alternative technologies are needed. It will not only boost low-emission energy supply, but will also solve the problem of intermittency due to the natural variability of the energy sources.
Ocean renewable energy technologies that include tidal and wave are emerging as a future contributor to Australia’s energy mix. Plus, this technology has a number of advantages over other sources.
Both tidal and wave energy devices are deployed offshore, which doesn’t take up much space and are typically out of sight.
Although this alternative energy source will differ day-to-day, wave power has only 1/3 of the variability of wind energy. It can also be forecasted 3 times further ahead of wind power. It is predictable over long time frames.
These characteristics provide an advantage in a portfolio of clean energy technologies and have led to notable government investments in ocean renewable energy technologies in the country.
ARENA and Wave Projects
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency or ARENA has contributed more than $44.5 million to at least 9 ocean renewable energy projects. Two projects closed before completion due to technical and financial challenges. More than $122 million has been invested in ocean energy in Australia.
The expected capacity of installed and approved ocean projects in Australia are around 3.5 megawatts. As of the moment, the total global installed capacity of wave energy projects is less than 5 megawatts. The European Union has also been a major investor in wave energy projects worth about 185 million Euros invested to date with a total expected installed capacity of 26 megawatts by 2018.
Featured Image Credit: Agnes