Renewable tidal energy technology is set to be tested in one of Australia’s biggest coal ports in Gladstone, Queensland, marking the latest development in that region’s rapid shift to renewables that has been led by a number of significant utility-scale solar projects.
Sydney-based MAKO Tidal Turbines (MTT) and Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) say they are set to undertake a six month tidal turbine demonstration at the port, to investigate how tidal power could contribute to Australia’s future energy mix.
The trial, expected to start in August, will be based on a MAKO turbine installed at GPC’s Barney Point Terminal, MTT says.
MAKO Turbines – a runner-up in the 2016 Australian Technologies Competition – has so far trialled its technology in the Tamar River, Tasmania, as well as in demonstration projects in Papua New Guinea and Singapore.
MAKO was also part of an ARENA-backed project, led by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania, to map the nation’s most promising tidal resources.
The company says its technology has the advantage of being able to be driven by rivers, canals and ocean currents and, given tidal flows can be accurately forecast years in advance, of offering a reliable source energy, suitable for grid integration or coupling with battery storage.
MTT CEO Douglas Hunt said the Gladstone Port, largely used for shipping Australian coal and gas, was an ideal testing site for the clean energy turbines.
“By using existing structures at GPC’s wharves, similar to those found around the world, MAKO tidal turbines can be installed cost-effectively and in much shorter timeframes than if floating or seabed mounting systems were used,” he said in comments on Tuesday.
“GPC is an ideal partner, with the necessary combination of vision and expertise to deploy our unique MAKO tidal turbine system in a commercial setting.”
GPC CEO Peter O’Sullivan said the Corporation was excited to be partnering with MAKO to explore the turbine’s capabilities.
“GPC has long recognised the potential to extract energy from the tides in Gladstone and we are pleased to now be able to investigate this further as we continue on our pathway to a sustainable future.”
As we have reported, Gladstone is home to Queensland’s largest coal generator, the 43-year-old Gladstone Power Station, which has a nameplate capacity of 1680MW, and is scheduled to be retired in the late 2020s.
But a number of major large-scale solar projects – in various stages of the development pipeline – are starting to shift the region’s focus to renewables.
Those projects include the 350MW Raglan Solar Farm (see map below) proposed by Eco Energy World, which won council approval in May, and the $500 million 300MW Aldoga solar farm, being proposed by Spanish renewables giant Acciona Energy through a 30-year lease with the state government.
Another, which was submitted to council in April this year, is a 300MW solar farm proposed for land in Rodds Bay, about one hour south of the Gladstone city centre, by Renew Estate – a joint venture between German-based Wirsol Company and local outfit Beast Solutions.
The tidal project is something new to the region, however, and one of the first such trials of the technology in the country.
Fellow Australian tidal energy company, Atlantis Resources – which has shifted its home base to Singapore – last year claimed a world record production output for a tidal stream power station it is testing in Scotland’s Pentland Firth.