Turning the tide on wave energy


HARVESTING wave energy for commercial use is one step closer to reality with research being conducted at the Australian Maritime College.

The research is on an oscillating water column, a device able to transfer water energy into electricity.

Through a contract with marine renewable energy company Oceanlinx and in conjunction with the Australian Research Council, the college has been measuring the amount of energy or watts that can be generated from waves, over the past few months.

The research complements the work by Oceanlinx already under way four kilometres off Port MacDonnell in South Australia, where the world’s first one megawatt wave energy converter is located and adding to the electricity grid.

College acting principal and project co-supervisor Professor Neil Bose said their work was about fine-tuning the device.

“What we’re doing here is making sure that it does that in the most effective way possible, the most efficient way possible, so that we get as much of the energy captured from the incoming waves,” Professor Bose said.

The college is testing the oscillating water column in its wave producing towing tank.

As a wave and air pushes in and out of the column, it turns a turbine which generates electricity. It could also be used to desalinate sea water.

Professor Bose said testing was progressing and the team was making adjustments to improve energy capture by 5 to 10 per cent, which for the life of the device was substantial.

Professor Bose said the college was testing with one column in a simulated environment, yet in a commercial farm situation there could be as many as 30 or so such columns continually harvesting energy.

These would be placed on the ocean floor with part of the column sitting above the waterline.

He said the first of this type of device was expected to be in production within two years, and more powerful models in the next seven to 10 years.

Professor Neil Bose at the Australian Maritime College towing tank which is being used to conduct research into wave energy for commercial use. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER