Tuesday, October 4

Australia already knows how to achieve wave energy with its strong waves: this is the system with which it has been feeding homes for months


Around 8,000 kilometers of coastline are distributed throughout Spain, an extensive stretch of coastline that, in addition to beaches, cliffs, ports and idyllic landscapes, leaves us with another gift as a country: an enormous muscle for wave energy. In the Balearic Islands, the Basque Country or Valencia there are already projects underway or on the table that aspire to take advantage of the waves to obtain energy.

Now from the other end of the planet, from the turbulent waters of Australia, comes a clear example of its enormous capacity to generate electricity, an installation that has been supplying energy to homes in the country for a year now and reaches an interesting 48% conversion rate.

The device is located off the coast of King Island and has been commissioned to manufacture Wave Swell Energy. The $12 million, 200 kW unit was built in Launceston and tested at the Australian Maritime College. Once ready, in 2021 it was towed to King Island and installed in the waters of Grassy Harbour. Since then it has been tested in different climatic conditions.

“The next step, move forward and commercialize”

“We have operated the unit and it has survived for the last 12 months in the harsh conditions of the Bass Strait and… we have achieved the objectives that we set for ourselves,” Paul Greason, of Wave Swell Energy, explains to ABC. The company estimates that under the right conditions, the UniWave200 would generate enough power to supply about 200 homes.

The test platform has been located in the waters that separate the Australian continent from the island state of Tasmania and there, New Atlas points out, it has been providing clean energy to the island’s microgrid 24 hours a day for 12 months. The experiment, defends the company, does not so much seek to generate large amounts of electricity as it tests the capacity of the technology. The King Island device will remain in the same place for the time being until the end of this year.

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“It is providing energy to the island, it is renewable and it is a method that could be used elsewhere”, comments Stephanie Thornton, of the Australian Ocean Energy Group company.

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One of the data on which the company most affects is the efficiency of the system, its ability to take advantage of the waves. “On average, we have been able to achieve conversion rates of 48%, so 48% of the energy that arrives, in the wave, is exported to the King Island grid,” says Paul Geason, director of Wave Swell Energy, before pointing out that the rate is “very encouraging”.

“The rate is higher than other renewable energy technologies,” he says, “we are now in a position where we have proven the technology and the next step is to move forward, commercialize and see how it goes mainstream as part of the renewables mix. . It’s an improvement over previous devices and shows that the time has come for wave energy to be felt alongside wind, solar and storage as part of a modern mix.”

The UniWave buoyant device can be towed to any point of the coast, connects to the local network and takes advantage of the swaying of the waves thanks to a camera. Pressure changes in the air drive the turbine and generate power. During the process, the surge pressurizes the air and creates a vacuum.

The system, its creators argue, is more efficient than devices that only use surface or bottom energy. Another key that explains the system is unidirectional generation, which allows the manufacture of simpler, more durable and cheaper turbines.

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Thanks to its design, the device can also be incorporated into breakwaters and jettieswhere, in addition to generating green energy, it can help alleviate the erosion of the coast.

In Spain, the sector has also focused on the potential of wave energy. In the spring the company Eco Wave Power, for example, announced a pioneering plant in Port Adriano, Mallorca to obtain energy from waves and which aims to supply energy to 400 homes. Years ago, a plant was started up in Gipuzkoa (Mutriku) and another one is planned for Valencia.

Cover image | wave swell

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