It's 2012, Where's My Wave Power?

Our power demands are increasing and, with it, a desire to find renewable and long-lasting energy sources, be they solar, wind or nuclear. Among these options also sits wave power — given that Australia's completely surrounded by, well, loads of waves, it would seem a decent idea to try and harness the energy they create.

What is wave power, exactly? There are many different approaches but, essentially, the idea is to capture the kinetic energy from wave motion. Tidal power, on the other hand, works by holding onto incoming tides and generating power as water is released.

CSIRO's keen on Australia's wave power potential. In a 2011 report, the organisation noted that the wave power between Geraldton, Tasmania and Tassie's southern tip is around 1300TWh per year, enough to supply Australia's energy requirements five times over, though the report mentions that 23TWh would be required by 2050 to provide just five per cent of the country's "grid-based" needs. It estimates 100-200km (less than one per cent) of Australia's coastline would be required to deliver this amount.

A Sydney Morning Herald article from yesterday tells us that Victoria's been keen since at least 2009, having granted a company by the name of Ocean Power Technologies $66 million to develop a 19MW wave farm near Portland, Victoria, about 360km west of Melbourne. Initially, the farm will use ten of OPT's "PowerBuoy" units to produce 1.5MW.

Unfortunately, SMH reports that no "physical" progress has yet been made, which may or may not have something to do with the project requiring an additional $130 million to shift into gear. OPT says it's spent the last two years fine-tuning its technology and is still in the process of securing permits and funding.

Is Victoria on the right track investing in wave power, a technology arguably on the fringes of the renewable energy debate, or should we be putting more thought into gas and possibly nuclear options?

You know, while we wait for cold fusion to get off the ground.


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