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Canberra grants pave way for world’s biggest wave turbine

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The Australian government as upped its investment in two nascent, Australian-developed wave energy technologies, announcing new grants worth almost $10 million to help bring the two new systems to the market, including what is believed to be the world’s biggest wave energy turbine.

The government is providing $5.6 million to BioPower Systems to install a 250kW full-scale pilot plant of its bioWAVE technology off the coast of Victoria, and is also providing just under $4 million to Oceanlinx, to install a 1MW demonstration plan of its Greenwave technology in South Australia.

Both grants are being made under the $126 million Emerging Renewables program, and follow an earlier $9 million grant to Carnegie Wave Energy, which is building a $31 million, 2MW grid-connected demonstration of its CETO technology near Fremantle in Western Australia.

BioPower CEO Tim Finnigan said the grant, along with a $5 million grant from the Victorian state government, means that its $15 million project was now fully funded. “This puts us into a position to complete the project, get it on the grid, and prove the technology at scale,” he told RenewEconomy. “It’s a pretty big development for us.”

The technology is best described with an image, see below. It’s designed to lay flat on the ocean floor when the waves become too big (it calculated this to be around 1 per cent of the time).

It is designed to absorb energy both at the surface and below. It is mounted on sea-floor, the demonstrator will be in about 30m of water, and the array of buoyant floats, sways back-and-forth in tune with the waves, and the energy contained in this motion is converted to electricity by an onboard self-contained power conversion module, and is delivered through a cable.

However, the first demonstration plan will weigh 400 tonnes when it is installed at a site 4kms from Port Fairy on the southern coast of Victoria. “We not trying to prove a light-weight structure right now,” Finnigan says. “We will carve our way to that over time.”

Like Carnegie Energy, Finnigan says the long term goal for wave energy has to be to match wind – which means capital costs of around $2 million/megawatt and a levellised cost of energy at $100/MWh or below. He says BioPower has a four-stage plan to reach that target by the end of the decade.

BioPower is backed by Lend Lease Venture Capital and private equity firm CVC, and a collection of smaller private investors.

Meanwhile, Oceanlinx says it believes its GreenWave device (see below) is the first in the world to be rated at 1MW, and its efficiency has improved 50 per cent since an earlier, smaller version that was deployed near Port Kembla in NSW.  The 20m by 20m structure, around 17m high, will sit in around 10m of water. It features an oscillating water column, with the turbine and other moving parts above the waterline. The 2,000 tonne concrete structure will sit on the ocean floor.

CEO Ali Baghaei says this demonstration unit will have an LCOE of 28c/kWh, which will fall to 16c/kWh once 5MW have been installed and to below 10c/kWh once 75MW have been installed. The initial project will cost $7.2 million, with the balance coming from a recent $8 million fund raising from existing investors.

“We have been working very hard on this,” Baghaei told RenewEconomy. “We are  finally getting to final stages of the journey, and hopefully by showing something at a commercial scale people can see it, touch it and smell it, and then the technology can take its own course through commercialisation.”

The demonstration device will be installed around 4kms off the coast near Port MacDonnell in South Australia (near the Victorian border). Oceanlinx is also developing a deep-water device that will be made of steel and will have moorings.

 

Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the grants made Australia “one of the world’s largest supporters” of wave energy technology. “Wave energy is still very much an emerging technology and this funding will position Australia as a global leader in developing this technology,” he said in a statement, adding that wave energy had the potential of providing 1300 terawatt hours per year, or about five times Australia’s total electricity requirements.

   

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