26 September 2023

ARENA makes waves for energy trial

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has put its weight behind a trial project on King Island to convert offshore wave power to electricity.

A 200KW UniWave device (pictured) has been placed in shallow waters off King Island’s coast, using ‘oscillating water column’ technology to push air into a chamber fitted with an electricity-generating turbine.

Chief Executive of ARENA, Darren Miller said the system functioned like an artificial blowhole, using changes in air pressure to spin the turbine as waves forced their way through an opening on one side of the device.

He said the electricity produced by the new wave system would be fed into the King Island micro-grid.

He said supported by ARENA funding, the micro-grid had allowed the island to source the majority of its electricity from the Huxley Hill Wind Farm and a 470KW solar array.

Mr Miller said that while on average the micro-grid currently supplied about 65 per cent of the island’s electricity, the system had managed to deliver stretches of several days at a time without the need for any diesel power.

According to Hydro Tasmania, that was a world-record for a grid of its size.

He said the wave project would provide real-world information to help understand the opportunities offered by a combination of wind, solar and wave energy.

“Wave energy has the potential to be integrated into micro-grids, particularly on island locations with limited space, to reduce the need for significant battery storage due to the relative predictability and consistency of wave energy,” Mr Miller said.

Chief Executive of Wave Swell Energy which has supplied the trial device, Tom Denniss said he expected the project to be the first of many using his organisation’s new way of generating electricity from the power of the ocean.

“Given the waves that wash upon our shores contain more than twice as much energy as the world currently uses, there is clearly a role for wave energy to play in the global energy mix,” Dr Denniss said.

“Wave energy is an obvious choice for King Island … massive swells propelled by the westerly Roaring Forties winds build uninterrupted across the Indian and Southern Oceans and crash against the island’s shorelines,” he said.

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