Renewable energy currently accounts for nearly 17% of the world’s total energy consumption. Traditional biomass, mainly used for heating, is still the most popular while wind power is growing by 20% annually. But new research published by The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) says that waves could be the future and that future could see a city the size of Melbourne harness their energy potential by 2050.
Ocean energy is the power derived from the movement of the water, either tides, currents or waves or the temperature of the water (thermal energy).
One of the benefits of ocean energy over other renewable energy sources is it easier to forecast and has greater availability (tides are predictable over all time-frames, and waves have a forecast horizon up to three times more than wind).
The study has identified some initial opportunities for the technology, including Perth, the southern coastline and to a lesser extent the east coast of Australia where the large consistent swell provides ideal conditions for wave energy production. Tidal technology could also supply niche areas such as north east Tasmania and the Kimberley region in Western Australia.
But we shouldn’t get washed away with excitement. At least not quite yet.
The CSIRO oceanographers, economists and engineers who have analysed the potential of ocean energy in Australia say there are many factors, economic, technological, environmental and societal challenges, which will determine its place in Australia’s future energy mix. Ocean energy extraction is still an emerging technology and research is required on the nature of the resource, technology, performance and understanding the wider impacts.
Ian Cresswell, Director CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship said understanding the potential of this clean, sustainable energy source was important for CSIRO.
“Given the potential of ocean energy and the fact that it’s a very new technology, CSIRO wanted to understand what is the sustainable level at which this resource could be used for energy supply and whether it could be competitive with other energy technologies,” Mr Cresswell said.
“Assessing the opportunities and challenges from resource to the market is a first for ocean renewable energy in Australia.”
By Justin McGar