Research in the growing renewable energies sector has received a national boost with a $770,000 Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) grant to develop modelling on the performance of wave energy farms.
A collaborative project between Swinburne University of Technology and the Australian Maritime College will identify the impact of wave energy converters on each other in an array and the impact of current flows around a converter.
AMC project lead Dr Irene Penesis said wave energy converters worked by transforming ocean swell into power and were a source of reliable renewable energy with great value to future electricity markets. Many types of converters are being developed and trialled worldwide, including several in Australia.
“Wave power is an emerging sector and most technology trials involve individual or few devices. Once proven, more devices could be installed in arrays or farms,” Dr Penesis said.
“The nature of the sea means these wave energy devices may have a noticeable effect on each other. For example, an array of devices could act together as one collective machine with significantly different behaviour to a lone device. This collective behaviour is currently not well understood and we are aiming to fill this knowledge gap.”
A combination of mathematical modelling and laboratory experiments at AMC’s engineering test facilities will be used to predict the performance of small arrays of wave energy devices. These predictions will be made available to the public via an easy-to-use online tool.
Swinburne University of Technology project lead Associate Professor Richard Manasseh said the modelling software could be used by communities, state and federal governments to assess the benefits and impacts of developing the ocean wave energy resource in a particular area.
“This research will give industry and investors an impartial assessment of the performance of wave energy farms and provide greater confidence when negotiating large developments. It may also uncover the best arrangements for the devices to provide optimum performance,” he said.
The project is supported Australian wave energy companies BioPower Systems Pty Ltd and Carnegie Wave Energy Ltd with additional cash funding and staff resources, bringing the total project value to $1.5 million.
It follows a similar collaboration between AMC, Swinburne and CSIRO on the CSIRO-led ARENA-funded Emerging Renewables Measure Program Australian Wave Energy Atlas (AWavEA) project, where the potential alterations to local ocean currents around arrays will be investigated to help improve the accuracy of the array interaction models.
The AMC project team is Dr Irene Penesis, Dr Gregor Macfarlane, Dr Alan Fleming, Dr Jessica Walker and Dr Jean-Roch Nader.