A bid to establish the southern hemisphere’s first test site for wave energy devices off the south coast of Western Australia have gained momentum this week with the state government chipping in $1.5 million towards the project.
The $4.8 million project, a collaboration between the University of WA Wave Energy Research Centre and the federally-funded Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre, aims to confirm the suitability of the test site by deploying a reduced-scale wave attenuator nicknamed ‘M4’.
The site, the natural harbour of King George Sound, would test wave energy technology as a renewable energy source for local aquaculture and position Albany in the international “blue economy” community, while generating flow-on benefits to Great Southern businesses, a McGowan government statement said.
The project builds on the work of the Wave Energy Research Centre in Albany, where it has deployed two monitoring buoys, one of them in King George Sound, to highlight the potential of the region as a test-bed for a range of wave energy technologies.
“Albany is like a hotspot for wave energy internationally, which means we can attract a suite of different technologies from different industry developers,” said Dr Wiebke Ebeling, WERC’s Centre Manager, in an interview.
“Our vision is for Albany to become the world’s first ocean energy market demonstration site. [This would be] sort of more like the showroom in a car dealership.”
As RenewEconomy has reported, the push to establish Albany as a wave power hub hit a snag in early 2019 with the state government’s last-minute termination of a $16 million contract with local WA company Carnegie Clean Energy to build a wave farm off its coast using its CETO 6 technology.
At the time, the minister for regional development, Alannah MacTiernan, said the McGowan government had acted after unexpected changes to federal tax concessions had created an environment of uncertainty, in turn destabilising Carnegie’s finances. Carnegie would go into administration soon after.
But MacTiernan had also stressed that the government remained committed to research and development, and to supporting the University of WA’s continued research work in Albany, which had attracted scientists to the region.
“This Albany Wave Energy Demonstration proposal reinforces Albany and Western Australia as a leading research hub and test location as this important technology continues to emerge,” said MacTiernan in a statement this week.
“This proposal will drive investment in wave energy technology, which has great potential as an alternative renewable energy source – especially as electricity grids evolve towards integrated renewable energy systems and microgrids.
“The project will prove up the wave suitability of King George Sound for smaller, floating wave energy devices for use by local industry.
“Importantly, the project will support Great Southern businesses, with more than 80 per cent of the government contribution to the project being reinvested locally.”