First integrated ocean energy market comes to Albany

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In years to come, visitors to the historic whaling station of Albany, Western Australia could look directly into the future as well as the past.

The whaling station is set to partner with the Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG), an industry-led cluster, as a potential site for the world’s first integrated ocean energy market.

The AOEG, with support from UWA’s Marine Energy Research Australia (MERA) and Climate KIC Australia, is now at the feasibility stage of an ambitious project that plans to “replicate a commercial, integrated energy system which generates and sells electricity to its customer”. ”.

What visitors would actually see is a functioning renewable energy system in a small area off Albany’s dramatic coast, an array of ocean energy devices amid the waves, alongside devices solar and wind. Onshore, it is planned to include a desalination unit, a green hydrogen production unit and an energy storage unit to show the advantages of integrated renewable energy systems.

Albany’s historic whaling station could be the world’s first market for ocean energy.

The “marketplace” will exist side by side with the whaling station, bringing together an ocean story of the past and a story of the future. It will also be close to the Great Southern Marine Research Facility (GSMRF), a knowledge and innovation hub for Australia’s ocean renewable energy sector.

“It will be a regional project with a global perspective,” said Alex Ogg, AOEG’s ocean energy program manager.

“It’s not so much about showcasing devices and technologies as it is about looking at potential markets for ocean energy. We want the marketplace to be a forum for two-way engagement.

“First we will look at Australian customers, then maybe the Asia-Pacific region. We would like to see this market reproduced. There could be branches all over the world.

“The closest thing to this market is the Marine Energy Center in Orkney, Scotland, but it is a test center for devices to be analyzed. The market has different objectives, namely to make the energy of the oceans very visible. We will focus on ocean energy market applications as well as opening up opportunities for commercial projects.

“Co-designing wave and tidal energy in offshore wind energy projects, and helping to provide fresh water to communities that have no other options, or only very expensive options, for example.”

Ogg says that in addition to attracting commercial developers, facilitating research and bringing ocean energy to the public, the market will aim to build support for the development and promotion of the ocean energy sector, including understood through government decision makers.

Why ocean energy?

The oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface, an almost constantly moving body of water.

“We would like to see this market reproduced. There could be branches all over the world.

Alex Ogg

But ocean power has remained a poor cousin of solar and wind power, with hundreds of devices and companies being tested around the world, but few large-scale commercial projects. It remains an expensive option in its current, pre-commercial state.

Although the CSIRO notes that there are challenges to using ocean energy, it has greater predictability and availability than other renewable energy sources.

“The tides are predictable in all time periods and the waves have a forecast horizon up to three times that of the wind,” says its official page on the Ocean Energy website.

The Australian Wave Energy Atlas, a three-year project by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and CSIRO finalized in 2018, found that the total wave energy resource available in Australia is over 248 terawatt hours ( TW h) – the total amount of electricity generated throughout Australia in 2013-2014.

“The vast majority of this resource is available for the southern coastal region with 1455 TW h/yr estimated at the 25m depth contour (the depth around which many wave devices are currently being tested), starting at 29° S over Western Australia. coast at 148°E on the southern tip of Tasmania, including western Victoria,” the Wave Atlas final report said.

CSIRO said following the study Australia’s south coast has a ‘great wave resource’ thanks to consistently high waves and ideal conditions for wave power generation .

“Our research shows that wave energy could contribute up to 11% of Australia’s energy (enough to power a city the size of Melbourne) by 2050, making it a strong contender in Australia’s energy mix,” the CSIRO website says.

So why so slowly?

Ogg recalls the skeptical approach to solar energy in the 1990s.

“The technology was available, he says, but there was no demand.

“New technologies like solar power often take decades to gain market adoption, but I’d like to think it won’t be another 20 years before wave and tidal power comes into its own. Shortening this time frame is AOEG’s exact mission and the market is the tool to achieve it.

Australian companies and researchers have been among those at the forefront of ocean energy technology. In 2021, Wave Swell Energy installed a wave energy unit in King Island, Tasmania, a world first for integration with existing wind, solar and diesel resources. Australian company Bombora is working on the 1.5 MW Pembrokeshire demonstration project in Wales, using its newly developed technology. And in Western Australia, Marine Energy Research Australia – the body behind the research facility adjoining the proposed market location – is working on Project M4, a new wave energy converter.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency website states that all forms of energy from the ocean are still in the early stages of commercialization and that wave energy remains expensive.

The first attempts to capture wave energy date back to France in the late 18th century and since then wave and tidal energy systems have been developed in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Developers continued to face the challenges of high costs and building devices tough enough to survive the sea – technical consolidation is a fundamental step.

Diagram illustrating a conceptual ocean energy market
Diagram illustrating a conceptual ocean energy market / Credit: AOEG

And then ?

Ogg says there have been estimates that ocean power will make a significant contribution to Australia’s renewable energy needs, but the percentages and timelines vary from study to study.

“Australia is now hungry for energy transition solutions,” he says. “Making ocean energy visible – putting it on the map for market end users and policy makers to understand – is a key step in accelerating both technical development and adoption of these forms of energy. renewable.”

At present, ocean energy is hardly a spot on Australia’s energy radar.

The Australian Ocean Energy Group was established as a not-for-profit industry cluster funded by Climate-KIC Australia and National Energy Resources Australia in 2018 to drive collaborative innovation in the ocean energy sector, in Australia and beyond. the stranger.

Its members include technology developers such as Bombora, Altum Green Energy, Carnegie, Ingine, Wave Swell, Smart Barge, Northwest Energy Innovations, Onetide and EHL, as well as researchers, consultants and a number of other organizations.

“I’d like to think it won’t be another 20 years before we see wave and tidal energy take flight”

Alex Ogg

Ogg says it is expected that the feasibility study for the Integrated Ocean Energy Marketplace project, currently underway in the hands of global energy consultants Xodus, will be followed by a digital platform and knowledge center, then from the physical market in Albany.

AOEG will be looking for both financial partners and working partners to make the market a reality at this fundamental stage – partners who it believes share the vision of the contributions of waves and tides to a decarbonized planet.

“We’re looking to socialize the whole concept of ocean energy,” says Ogg. “We want this market to be the catalyst for commercial projects, for developers to understand what an optimized energy system might look like and how it might work on their foreshore.

“There is no place in the world where there is a consolidated base of knowledge and data to explain how it works; understand the costs/benefits of marine energy.

“It will not only be an attraction, but will emphasize Albany as a center of innovation. Having a research center almost adjacent reinforces the attractiveness of the physical site. It advances this need for knowledge .

“The ultimate goal is to show the possibilities of integrated renewables and to work with project developers on the design, costs and even supply of integrated energy systems.”

Ogg says that as ocean energy advances around the world, it’s time to introduce it as an integral part of new offshore energy projects and to look at ocean energy to enable desalination projects. He says it’s time to look at synergies with deep-sea aquaculture and consider possibilities for ports and offshore platforms, as the oil and gas industry seeks to decarbonise its production.

“It will happen, but no one knows how long it will take,” he says. “And that’s our pressure point. We need to find the visionaries who can see the limitless potential and collectively help catalyze the next steps in adoption.

“Initially, we will focus on blue economy markets, places where energy is already expensive, unreliable and carbon-heavy.”

In the meantime, AOEG continues to work towards a visible integrated energy system that will bring together tourists, researchers and developers at a site that marks both the end of the whaling era and the beginning of another. more sustainable energy.

To watch a video about the Integrated Ocean Energy Marketplace project and learn more, visit their website.



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