A push to unlock the “almost limitless” potential of Australia’s vast ocean energy resources is being launched on Wednesday, including plans to build a pilot-scale offshore microgrid that renewables with storage, green hydrogen production, and even EV charging.
The “world-first” Integrated Ocean Energy Marketplace, or IOEM, is being proposed by the Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG) cluster, which was established with support from National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) in 2018.
Unveiled at a summit in Hobart, the WA-based project – if found to be feasible – aims to first establish a digital platform and knowledge base which would be used to model various integrated renewable systems.
A second stage would see the development of a physical, visitable marketplace near Albany, which would showcase an offshore microgrid and give potential customers the opportunity to see integrated ocean energy in action.
Ultimately, the aim of the IOEM is to demystify tidal and wave power by physically demonstrating it in action, and then by scaling, commercialising and de-risking the ocean energy sector – which at this stage remains off the radar of most energy market participants.
In Australia, long-time player Carnegie Wave Energy has survived some very rough metaphorical waters to come up with a promising new application for its CETO technology, that could deliver reliable renewable power for offshore operations, starting with aquaculture.
Another hopeful, Bombora Wave Power – which started up in Perth but now bases itself in Pembroke Dock in Wales – recently received an investment boost from a Japanese industrial to accelerate commercialisation of its mWave technology.
And the “oscillating water column” technology of Melbourne-based of Wave Swell Energy is being demonstrated off the coast of King Island, in a project backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and in conjunction with local network owner Hydro Tasmania.
But broadly speaking, progress in the sector has been slow – and the route to success marred by the wrecks of a few companies or projects that rather unceremoniously capsized.
“We need to …raise the market’s awareness of the benefits of multi-purpose offshore energy parks that can optimise energy planning solutions as well as deliver low carbon solutions to marine-based industries and communities,” said AOEG Cluster manager Stephanie Thornton.
“We’ve identified there are four main barriers to the adoption of ocean energy — awareness, accessibility, affordability and commercial project delivery.
“The IOEM project has been designed to address these challenges head-on and directly connect key end-users to technical solutions in development,” Thornton said.
“We believe seeing leads to understanding and understanding underpins adoption. This philosophy is at the heart of AOEG’s vision for the marketplace.”
But with a feasibility study the first order of business, the group is also looking for partners to help turn the vision into reality.
As noted above, stage one of the IOEM would establish a “virtual marketplace and learning centre,” that would draw data from existing wave and tidal projects, to mix and match end-users to proposed hyrbid solutions and potential providers.
The second “physical marketplace” would be a working, pilot-scale ocean energy system and interactive innovation hub to demonstrate the efficacy, economic and social value of integrated offshore energy solutions.
The microgrid would be a mix of wind and wave energy converters, solar (onshore and/or offshore), storage and application technologies including green hydrogen production, desalination capability and EV charging.
Alex Ogg, NERA’s ocean energy program manager, said the lack of awareness about the potential of generating power from integrated tidal, offshore wind and wave energy needed be addressed.
“Despite the fact that it has an almost limitless potential to produce clean energy more consistently and predictably than any other source, energy from our oceans has been too often overlooked,” Ogg said.
“What also sets ocean energy apart is its ability to be integrated with other renewables — from discrete blue economy applications today to multi-use offshore energy parks in our future — adding huge value, consistency and complementary energy to the renewable supply.”
Global energy consultancy Xodus Group is supporting the development of the feasibility study for AOEG’s Energy Marketplace concept.