Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

ScienceDaily, June 19, 2010

The first comprehensive synthesis on the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans has found they are now changing at a rate not seen for several million years.

In an article published June 18 in Science magazine, scientists reveal the growing atmospheric concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases are driving irreversible and dramatic changes to the way the ocean functions, with potentially dire impacts for hundreds of millions of people across the planet.

The findings of the report emerged from a synthesis of recent research on the world’s oceans, carried out by two of the world’s leading marine scientists, one from The University of Queensland in Australia, and one from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the USA.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the report and Director of The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, says the findings have enormous implications for mankind, particularly if the trend continues.

He said that the Earth’s ocean, which produces half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 30% of human-generated CO2, is equivalent to its heart and lungs. “Quite plainly, the Earth cannot do without its ocean. This study, however, shows worrying signs of ill health.

“It’s as if the Earth has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day!”

He went on to say, “We are entering a period in which the very ocean services upon which humanity depends are undergoing massive change and in some cases beginning to fail,” says Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg. “Further degradation will continue to create enormous challenges and costs for societies worldwide.”

He warned that we may soon see “sudden, unexpected changes that have serious ramifications for the overall well-being of humans,” including the capacity of the planet to support people. “This is further evidence that we are well on the way to the next great extinction event.”

The “fundamental and comprehensive” changes to marine life identified in the report include rapidly warming and acidifying oceans, changes in water circulation and expansion of dead zones within the ocean depths.

These are driving major changes in marine ecosystems: less abundant coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves (important fish nurseries); fewer, smaller fish; a breakdown in food chains; changes in the distribution of marine life; and more frequent diseases and pests among marine organisms.

Report co-author, Dr John F. Bruno, an Associate Professor at The University of North Carolina, says greenhouse gas emissions are modifying many physical and geochemical aspects of the planet’s oceans, in ways “unprecedented in nearly a million years.” “This is causing fundamental and comprehensive changes to the way marine ecosystems function,” Dr Bruno said.

“We are becoming increasingly certain that the world’s marine ecosystems are approaching tipping points. These tipping points are where change accelerates and causes unrelated impacts on other systems, the results of which we really have no power or model to foresee.”

The authors conclude: “These challenges underscore the urgency with which world leaders must act to limit further growth of greenhouse gases and thereby reduce the risk of these events occurring. Ignoring the science is not an option.”

In their study, the researchers sought to address a gap in previous studies that have often overlooked the affects of climate change on marine ecosystems, due to the fact that they are complex and can be logistically difficult to study.

According to leading US marine scientist, the University of Maine’s School of Marine Services Professor Robert S. Steneck, the study provides a valuable indicator of the ecological risk posed by climate change, particularly to coastal regions.

“While past studies have largely focused on single global threats such as ‘global warming’, Hoegh-Guldberg and Bruno make a compelling case for the cumulative impacts of multiple planet-scale threats,” Prof. Steneck said.

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JENNIFER DART, Westerly News, June 3, 2010

Several groups working on wave energy on the British Columbia coast gathered in Ucluelet this week to discuss developments in the industry and update local projects.

Representatives from the non-profit Ocean Renewable Energy Group (OREG) chaired the community open house, held June 1 at the Ucluelet Community Centre.

Also in attendance were academics, developers, and representatives from all levels of government, including the Yuu-cluth-aht First Nation and the District of Ucluelet.

OREG executive director Chris Campbell said developing the technology to harness energy from the ocean is a “long, slow process,” but Canadian companies are active internationally, “so it’s gradually becoming more and more real.”

The Ucluelet/Tofino area has long been considered an ideal site for an ocean renewable energy project given its coastal location and proximity to the BC Hydro grid.

“Ocean renewable energy is something that’s been making rattling noises for quite a few years in our area,” said Ucluelet mayor Eric Russcher. “It would be a new and different world we live in but an exciting prospect for us all.”

According to information from OREG, preliminary studies indicate the wave energy potential off Canada’s Pacific Coast is equal to approximately half of Canada’s electricity consumption.

There seems to be a new energy behind wave power in recent months, given in part to new advances in technology, and also specifically in B.C. because of the Liberal government’s Clean Energy Act, which has been tabled in the legislature but has yet to be passed.

Jeff Turner from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said the Act is meant to achieve energy efficiency while maintaining low rates, generate employment in the clean energy sector, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While critics of the Act say it gives the province oversight on major projects like the Site C dam on the Peace River and could be mean higher hydro rates, the announcement has helped kick start development in areas like wave energy, where researchers are currently focused on pinpointing potential outputs.

Two wave energy projects are in development on the West Coast; one for the waters off Ucluelet and one in close proximity to the Hesquiaht communities at Hesquiaht Harbour and Hot Springs Cove.

John Gunton of SyncWave Systems Inc. presented his company’s plan for the SyncWave Power Resonator, a buoy class device that would be slack moored in depths of up to 200 metres. Simply put, this device captures energy from the upward and downward motion of the wave. Gunton said the company has provincial and federal funding, but is looking for a $3 million investment to complete its first two phases of development for placement near Hesquiaht Point.

A test resonator placed eight kilometres off Ucluelet in 40 metres of waters in December was collecting data for a period of about one month until a mast on it was destroyed. It was repaired, upgraded and redeployed in late April and a website will be set up by a group called the West Coast Wave Collaboration that is comprised of academics and industry representatives to transmit power data. Local partners in this project include the Ucluth Development Corporation, the District of Ucluelet and Black Rock Resort.

The other technology is a near shore device, placed in depths of 35 to 50 metres. The CETO device is owned by Carnegie Wave Energy of Australia, and was presented by David King at the open house. Seven metre cylinders capture wave energy and pump it to an onshore turbine. A government grant will also assist in the development of this technology.

But Jessica McIvoy of OREG said there are many questions left to be answered including what are the impacts on the ocean environment and sea life of such devices, and in turn how will the devices last in the ocean?

Campbell said an adaptive management approach to the technology seems like the best option to proceed with preliminary work, taking into account “critical indicators” in the natural environment.

Yuu-cluth-aht chief councillor Vi Mundy said she’s interested in these indicators after hearing concerns from her community, from fishers for example: “I’m hearing questions like what kind of impact will there be and what kind of standards have been developed so far [in the wave energy industry].”

But she also noted young people in her community are asking for green development that will provide year round employment.

“It’s really good to see that in young people,” Mundy said.

Anyone with questions about wave technology on the coast is invited to contact OREG at questions@oreg.ca.

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UPI, October 23, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoAustralian ocean energy company BioPower Systems announced it reached an agreement with the city of San Francisco to explore wave energy technology.

“The feasibility of ocean waves as an energy source is being considered and this could lead to further project development,” said John Doyle, acting manager of infrastructure at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

BioPower will work with the San Francisco utility to examine the feasibility of a project site 5 miles off the coast of California. The project could generate between 10MW and 100MW of power, the company said.

The BioPower wave system, bioWAVE, generates 1MW of energy per unit. The company said it would install several units at an undersea wave energy farm that is out of view and environmentally friendly.

San Francisco and BioPower are working to bring wave energy to the power grid by 2012 pending results from a feasibility study.

“We have already assessed the potential for economic energy production using bioWAVE at the proposed project site, and the results are very promising,” said Tim Finnigan, chief executive officer at BioPower.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 2, 2009

SolarTowerSizeEnviroMission Ltd. recently filed two land applications in the United States for two prospective Solar Tower power station developments.

Melbourne, Australia-based EnviroMission Limited, also opened operations in Phoenix, Arizona, and established a 100% owned subsidiary, EnviroMission (USA) Inc., to lead Solar Tower development in the American market.

The drive for Solar Tower development in America is based on the availability and acquisition of suitable land. Each Arizona land application for 5,500 acres meets the site development requirements for a single 200MW Solar Tower power station.

The Arizona State land sites were identified as ideal for Solar Tower development within due diligence studies that showed critical development criteria, including meteorological and solar insulation parameters met and exceeded at each site.

Ownership surveys, completed in May 2009, informed both applications and identification of the sites will remain confidential until the application process requires further disclosure in order to avoid any prejudice to EnviroMission’s applications. Cultural, archeological and environmental surveys are expected to be completed in July 2009.

EnvrioMission’s CEO, Roger Davey said “I’ve personally walked both sites in Arizona and they tick all the boxes for Solar Tower power station development needs.” He added that “the land is flat, the weather is ideally and consistently hot and both sites are in close proximity to transmission infrastructure. The quality of the sites, and overall market and policy opportunities currently available to renewable energy developers in the U.S. confirms EnviroMission’s decision to shift our Solar Tower development.”

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JAMES RICKMAN, Seeking Alpha, June 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. As the world’s largest solar collectors, oceans generate thermal energy from the sun. They also produce mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Even though the sun affects all ocean activity, the gravitational pull of the moon primarily drives the tides, and the wind powers the ocean waves.

Wave energy is the capture of the power from waves on the surface of the ocean. It is one of the newer forms of renewable or ‘green’ energy under development, not as advanced as solar energy, fuel cells, wind energy, ethanol, geothermal companies, and flywheels. However, interest in wave energy is increasing and may be the wave of the future in coastal areas according to many sources including the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on Ocean Energy Systems (Report 2009).

Although fewer than 12 MW of ocean power capacity has been installed to date worldwide, we find a significant increase of investments reaching over $2 billion for R&D worldwide within the ocean power market including the development of commercial ocean wave power combination wind farms within the next three years.

Tidal turbines are a new technology that can be used in many tidal areas. They are basically wind turbines that can be located anywhere there is strong tidal flow. Because water is about 800 times denser than air, tidal turbines will have to be much sturdier than wind turbines. They will be heavier and more expensive to build but will be able to capture more energy. For example, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest region alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity.

Companies to Watch in the Developing Wave Power Industry:

Siemens AG (SI) is a joint venture partner of Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation, a leader in advanced hydro power technology and services, which owns Wavegen, Scotland’s first wave power company. Wavegen’s device is known as an oscillating water column, which is normally sited at the shoreline rather than in open water. A small facility is already connected to the Scottish power grid, and the company is working on another project in Northern Spain.

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc (OPTT) develops proprietary systems that generate electricity through ocean waves. Its PowerBuoy system is used to supply electricity to local and regional electric power grids. Iberdrola hired the company to build and operate a small wave power station off Santona, Spain, and is talking with French oil major Total (TOT) about another wave energy project off the French coast. It is also working on projects in England, Scotland, Hawaii, and Oregon.

Pelamis Wave Power, formerly known as Ocean Power Delivery, is a privately held company which has several owners including various venture capital funds, General Electric Energy (GE) and Norsk Hydro ADR (NHYDY.PK). Pelamis Wave Power is an excellent example of Scottish success in developing groundbreaking technology which may put Scotland at the forefront of Europe’s renewable revolution and create over 18,000 green high wage jobs in Scotland over the next decade. The Pelamis project is also being studied by Chevron (CVX).

Endesa SA ADS (ELEYY.PK) is a Spanish electric utility which is developing, in partnership with Pelamis, the world’s first full scale commercial wave power farm off Aguçadoura, Portugal which powers over 15,000 homes. A second phase of the project is now planned to increase the installed capacity from 2.25MW to 21MW using a further 25 Pelamis machines.

RWE AG ADR (RWEOY.PK) is a German management holding company with six divisions involved in power and energy. It is developing wave power stations in Siadar Bay on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland.

Australia’s Oceanlinx offers an oscillating wave column design and counts Germany’s largest power generator RWE as an investor. It has multiple projects in Australia and the U.S., as well as South Africa, Mexico, and Britain.

Alstom (AOMFF.PK) has also announced development in the promising but challenging field of capturing energy from waves and tides adding to the further interest from major renewable power developers in this emerging industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced several wave energy developments including a cost-shared value of over $18 million, under the DOE’s competitive solicitation for Advanced Water Power Projects. The projects will advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers. The DOE has selected the following organizations and projects for grant awards:

First Topic Area: Technology Development (Up to $600,000 for up to two years)

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc (EPRI) (Palo Alto, Calif.) Fish-friendly hydropower turbine development & deployment. EPRI will address the additional developmental engineering required to prepare a more efficient and environmentally friendly hydropower turbine for the commercial market and allow it to compete with traditional designs.

Verdant Power Inc. (New York, N.Y.) Improved structure and fabrication of large, high-power kinetic hydropower systems rotors. Verdant will design, analyze, develop for manufacture, fabricate and thoroughly test an improved turbine blade design structure to allow for larger, higher-power and more cost-effective tidal power turbines.

Public Utility District #1 of Snohomish County (SnoPUD) (Everett, Wash.) Puget Sound Tidal Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. SnoPUD will conduct in-water testing and demonstration of tidal flow technology as a first step toward potential construction of a commercial-scale power plant. The specific goal of this proposal is to complete engineering design and obtain construction approvals for a Puget Sound tidal pilot demonstration plant in the Admiralty Inlet region of the Sound.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company – San Francisco, Calif. WaveConnect Wave Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. PG&E will complete engineering design, conduct baseline environmental studies, and submit all license construction and operation applications required for a wave energy demonstration plant for the Humboldt WaveConnect site in Northern California.

Concepts ETI, Inc (White River Junction, Vt.) Development and Demonstration of an Ocean Wave Converter (OWC) Power System. Concepts ETI will prepare detailed design, manufacturing and installation drawings of an OWC. They will then manufacture and install the system in Maui, Hawaii.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMT) – Manassas, Va., Advanced Composite Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion – “OTEC”, cold water pipe project. Lockheed Martin will validate manufacturing techniques for coldwater pipes critical to OTEC in order to help create a more cost-effective OTEC system.

Second Topic Area, Market Acceleration (Award size: up to $500,000)

Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, Calif.) Wave Energy Resource Assessment and GIS Database for the U.S. EPRI will determine the naturally available resource base and the maximum practicable extractable wave energy resource in the U.S., as well as the annual electrical energy which could be produced by typical wave energy conversion devices from that resource.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, Ga.) Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the U.S. Georgia Tech will utilize an advanced ocean circulation numerical model to predict tidal currents and compute both available and effective power densities for distribution to potential project developers and the general public.

Re Vision Consulting, LLC (Sacramento, Calif.) Best Siting Practices for Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies With Respect to Environmental and Navigational Impacts. Re Vision will establish baseline, technology-based scenarios to identify potential concerns in the siting of marine and hydrokinetic energy devices, and to provide information and data to industry and regulators.

Pacific Energy Ventures, LLC (Portland, Ore.) Siting Protocol for Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Projects. Pacific Energy Ventures will bring together a multi-disciplinary team in an iterative and collaborative process to develop, review, and recommend how emerging hydrokinetic technologies can be sited to minimize environmental impacts.

PCCI, Inc. (Alexandria, Va.) Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Technologies: Identification of Potential Navigational Impacts and Mitigation Measures. PCCI will provide improved guidance to help developers understand how marine and hydrokinetic devices can be sited to minimize navigational impact and to expedite the U.S. Coast Guard review process.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAI) – San Diego, Calif., International Standards Development for Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy. SAIC will assist in the development of relevant marine and hydrokinetic energy industry standards, provide consistency and predictability to their development, and increase U.S. industry’s collaboration and representation in the development process.

Third Topic Area, National Marine Energy Centers (Award size: up to $1.25 million for up to five years)

Oregon State University, and University of Washington – Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. OSU and UW will partner to develop the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center with a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development for the U.S. Center activities are structured to: facilitate device commercialization, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in understanding.

University of Hawaii (Honolulu, Hawaii) National Renewable Marine Energy Center in Hawaii will facilitate the development and implementation of commercial wave energy systems and to assist the private sector in moving ocean thermal energy conversion systems beyond proof-of-concept to pre-commercialization, long-term testing.

Types of Hydro Turbines

There are two main types of hydro turbines: impulse and reaction. The type of hydropower turbine selected for a project is based on the height of standing water— the flow, or volume of water, at the site. Other deciding factors include how deep the turbine must be set, efficiency, and cost.

Impulse Turbines

The impulse turbine generally uses the velocity of the water to move the runner and discharges to atmospheric pressure. The water stream hits each bucket on the runner. There is no suction on the down side of the turbine, and the water flows out the bottom of the turbine housing after hitting the runner. An impulse turbine, for example Pelton or Cross-Flow is generally suitable for high head, low flow applications.

Reaction Turbines

A reaction turbine develops power from the combined action of pressure and moving water. The runner is placed directly in the water stream flowing over the blades rather than striking each individually. Reaction turbines include the Propeller, Bulb, Straflo, Tube, Kaplan, Francis or Kenetic are generally used for sites with lower head and higher flows than compared with the impulse turbines.

Types of Hydropower Plants

There are three types of hydropower facilities: impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage. Some hydropower plants use dams and some do not.

Many dams were built for other purposes and hydropower was added later. In the United States, there are about 80,000 dams of which only 2,400 produce power. The other dams are for recreation, stock/farm ponds, flood control, water supply, and irrigation. Hydropower plants range in size from small systems for a home or village to large projects producing electricity for utilities.


The most common type of hydroelectric power plant (above image) is an impoundment facility. An impoundment facility, typically a large hydropower system, uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. The water may be released either to meet changing electricity needs or to maintain a constant reservoir level.

The Future of Ocean and Wave Energy

Wave energy devices extract energy directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity. (A terawatt is equal to a trillion watts.)

Wave energy rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Japan, Australia, and the northeastern and northwestern coasts of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. The West Coast of the United States is more than a 1,000 miles long.
In general, careful site selection is the key to keeping the environmental impacts of wave energy systems to a minimum. Wave energy system planners can choose sites that preserve scenic shorefronts. They also can avoid areas where wave energy systems can significantly alter flow patterns of sediment on the ocean floor.

Economically, wave energy systems are just beginning to compete with traditional power sources. However, the costs to produce wave energy are quickly coming down. Some European experts predict that wave power devices will soon find lucrative niche markets. Once built, they have low operation and maintenance costs because the fuel they use — seawater — is FREE.

The current cost of wave energy vs. traditional electric power sources?

It has been estimated that improving technology and economies of scale will allow wave generators to produce electricity at a cost comparable to wind-driven turbines, which produce energy at about 4.5 cents kWh.

For now, the best wave generator technology in place in the United Kingdom is producing energy at an average projected/assessed cost of 6.7 cents kWh.

In comparison, electricity generated by large scale coal burning power plants costs about 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Combined-cycle natural gas turbine technology, the primary source of new electric power capacity is about 3 cents per kilowatt hour or higher. It is not unusual to average costs of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour and up for municipal utilities districts.

Currently, the United States, Brazil, Europe, Scotland, Germany, Portugal, Canada and France all lead the developing wave energy industry that will return 30% growth or more for the next five years.

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PaceToday.com, March 16, 2009

abbAUSTRALIA:  ABB has helped Oceanlinx to construct a 250kW Wave Energy Conversion unit – a full-scale prototype designed to extract energy from ocean waves and convert it to electricity or to convert ocean water to clean water. 

The Wave Energy Conversion unit was completed at the ABB Performance Service Centre located in Port Kembla, NSW, Australia. The unit can save thousands of tonnes of CO2 and SO2 emissions annually, says ABB. 

It is a full-scale prototype with a unique commercially-efficient system for extracting energy from ocean waves and converting it to electricity, or utilising that energy to produce clean, fresh water from brine. 

ABB was involved in fabrication modifications and installation of the Wave Energy Conversion unit hood and steel work – including stiffening sections of the structure and fabricating two watertight doors. 

Oceanlinx Limited is an international company working in wave energy conversion. It developed the proprietary technology for extracting energy from ocean waves and converting it into electricity, or utilising that energy to provide desalinated industrial or potable grade water from sea water. 

Oceanlinx has a power purchase agreement with Australian utility Integral Energy for the supply of electricity from the 250kW prototype unit. 

All work was finished on schedule in early February, enabling the unit to be floated out to its operational location off the breakwater north of Port Kembla harbour, NSW, Australia.

“ABB were professional, safety conscious and flexible in meeting all our requirements and we have been delighted with the fabrication, modifications and installation work performed,” said Oceanlinx chief operating officer, Stuart Weylandsmith. 

Oceanlinx’s core patented technology is an oscillating water column (OWC) device, based on the established science of wave energy, but one which, when compared to other OWC technologies offers major improvements in the design of the system, the turbine, and in construction technique, according to ABB. 

The technology has been successfully constructed and tested with the first full scale Oceanlinx wave plant, installed at Port Kembla producing zero CO2 and SO2 pollution.

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CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL, The Advertiser, February 11, 2009

images3Wave energy company Carnegie Corporation has been licensed by the Australian state government to explore the seabed off the southeast coast. It is the first license issued in South Australia for a company to search for suitable sites for wave-harnessing technology.

Carnegie Corporation, which has demonstration wave energy projects operating in Western Australia, has been licensed to search an area covering 17,000ha adjacent to Port MacDonnell.

The South Australia (SA) “coast receives a world class wave energy resource and further adds to SA’s leadership in developing renewable energy including wind, solar and geothermal,” Carnegie Corporation managing director Michael Ottaviano said.

In an announcement this morning to the Australian Securities Exchange, Carnegie noted any successful site in the Southeast would be near existing power infrastructure, enabling the company to tap into the national electricity market.

Australian Premier Mike Rann welcomed the company’s investment. “Wave power – like geothermal power – has the potential to provide a huge base load of sustainable energy in the future,” Mr Rann said.

The license, signed today, also allows Carnegie to investigate building a 50MW wave power station. Carnegie’s CETO system operates by using an array of submerged buoys tethered to seabed pumps and anchored to the ocean floor.

Mr Rann said whether Carnegie determines that Port MacDonnell is a suitable site will depend on its tests. “But Carnegie is one of several emerging companies taking up the challenge of providing a new form of base-load sustainable energy,” he said. “It is one of two companies looking to SA to trial its wave power technology along our coastline – and we want to encourage others to do the same.”

Mr Rann said SA was the “most attractive in Australia” for investors in renewable energy. “SA now has 58% of the nation’s installed wind generation capacity and more than 70% of the geothermal exploration activity,” he said. “I have directed my department to prepare a similar framework specifically for the wave and tidal sector.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 14, 2008

kevinruddAustralian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for a “solar revolution” on Sunday as he unveiled plans to bring forward a A$500 million (US$329 million) fund promoting renewable energy in a bid to stimulate the economy.

Speaking just a day before a key announcement on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, Rudd said the fund’s timescale would be brought forward from the original six-year plan to the next 18 months.

“It’s good for jobs. It’s good for stimulus. It’s good for acting on climate change,” Rudd said of the move. “It’s time for Australia to begin a solar revolution, a renewable energy revolution and we’ve got to fund it for the future.”

Rudd made the announcement at the Queensland town of Windorah, where a new solar energy plant is expected to produce around 360,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and provide the town’s daytime power needs.

The prime minister said A$100 million would be released by June 30 next year, with the remaining A$400 million to be released in the following 12 months.

The only condition, he said in an accompanying statement, was “availability of suitable demonstration projects.” Guidelines would be released early in 2009, the statement said.

The Renewable Energy Fund, which also includes work on biofuels development and geothermal drilling, was set up to help cut the cost of developing technologies that might play a key role in energy supply and security over the next few decades.

The fund was an election commitment by the ruling Labor party in last year’s election, in which Rudd defeated conservative predecessor John Howard. During the campaign Rudd set a target that 20% of Australia’s energy should be from renewable sources by 2020.

A key ‘white paper’ policy document is due on Monday setting out Australia’s official targets for emissions cuts and plans for carbon trading. Australia is widely expected to adopt a target of a 10% cut from 2000 levels by 2020.

Although Rudd has been applauded by environmentalists for his decision for Australia to join the Kyoto protocol, they also say Canberra’s actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions have so far been inadequate.


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Guardian.co.uk, December 3, 2008

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoWay back in Napoleonic Paris, a Monsieur Girard had a novel idea about energy: power from the sea. In 1799, Girard obtained a patent for a machine he and his son had designed to mechanically capture the energy in ocean waves. Wave power could be used, they figured, to run pumps and sawmills and the like.

These inventors would disappear into the mists of history, and fossil fuel would instead provide an industrializing world with almost all its energy for the next two centuries. But Girard et fils were onto something, say a growing number of modern-day inventors, engineers, and researchers. The heave of waves and the tug of tides, they say, are about to begin playing a significant role in the world’s energy future.

In the first commercial scale signal of that, last October a trio of articulated, cylinder-shaped electricity generators began undulating in the waves off the coast of Portugal. The devices look like mechanical sea snakes. (In fact, their manufacturer, Scotland’s Pelamis Wave Power Ltd., takes its name from a mythical ancient Greek sea serpent.) Each Pelamis device consists of four independently hinged segments. The segments capture wave energy like the handle of an old fashioned water pump captures the energy of a human arm: as waves rock the segments to and fro, they pump a hydraulic fluid (biodegradable, in case of spills) powerfully through a turbine, spinning it to generate up to 750,000 watts of electricity per unit. Assuming the devices continue to perform well, Portuguese utility Energis expects to soon purchase another 28 more of the generators.

The completed “wave farm” would feed its collective power onto a single high voltage sea-floor cable, adding to the Portuguese grid about 21 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 15,000 homes.

In a world where a single major coal or nuclear plant can produce more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, it’s a modest start. But from New York’s East River to the offshore waters of South Korea, a host of other projects are in earlier stages of testing. Some, like Pelamis, rely on the motion of waves. Others operate like underwater windmills, tapping the power of the tides.

Ocean-powered technologies are in their infancy, still technologically well behind such energy alternatives as wind and solar. Necessarily designed to operate in an inherently harsh environment, the technologies remain largely unproven and — unless subsidized by governments — expensive. (Portugal is heavily subsidizing the Pelamis project, with an eye to becoming a major European exporter of clean green power in the future.) Little is known about the effects that large wave or tide farms might have on marine ecosystems in general.

Despite the uncertainties, however, proponents say the potential advantages are too striking to ignore. Eight hundred times denser than air, moving water packs a huge energy wallop. Like solar and wind, power from moving seas is free and clean. But sea power is more predictable than either wind or solar. Waves begin forming thousands of miles from coastlines and days in advance; tides rise and fall as dependably as the cycles of the moon. That predictability makes it easier to match supply with demand.

Roger Bedard, who leads ocean energy research at the U.S. utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, says there’s plenty of reason for optimism about the future of what he calls “hydrodynamic” power. Within a decade, he says, the U.S. could realistically meet as much as 10% of its electricity needs from hydrodynamic power. As a point of reference, that’s about half of the electricity the U.S. produces with nuclear power today. Although he acknowledges that initial sea-powered generation projects are going to be expensive, Bedard believes that as experience grows and economies of manufacturing scale kick in, hydrodynamic power will follow the same path toward falling costs and improving technologies as other alternatives.

“Look at wind,” he says. “A kilowatt hour from wind cost fifty cents in the 1980s. Now it’s about seven cents.” (That’s about the same as producing electricity with natural gas, and only about three cents more than coal, the cheapest — and dirtiest — U.S. energy choice. Any future tax on carbon emissions could narrow that gap even more, as would additional clean-power subsidies.)

For some nations, wave and tide power could pack an even bigger punch. Estimates suggest, for instance, that the choppy seas surrounding the United Kingdom could deliver as much as 25% of its electricity. British alternative energy analyst Thomas W. Thorpe believes that on a worldwide basis, waves alone could produce as much as 2,000 terawatt hours of electricity, as much as all the planet’s major hydroelectric plants generate today.

Although none are as far along as Pelamis, most competing wave-power technologies rely not on the undulations of mechanical serpents, but instead on the power captured by the vertical bobbing of large buoys in sea swells. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), based in New Jersey, drives the generators in its PowerBuoy with a straightforward mechanical piston. A stationary section of the mostly submerged, 90-foot buoy is anchored to the ocean floor; a second section simply moves up and down with the movement of sea swells, driving pistons that in turn drive an electrical generator. The Archimedes Wave Swing, a buoy-based system developed by Scotland’s AWS Ocean Energy, harnesses the up-and-down energy of waves by pumping air to spin its turbines. Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables uses seawater as its turbine-driving hydraulic fluid.

Although Pelamis beat all of these companies out of the commercialization gate, OPT appears to be right behind, with plans to install North America’s first commercial-scale wave power array of buoys off the coast of Oregon as early as next year. That array — occupying one square-mile of ocean and, like other wave power installations, located far from shipping lanes — would initially produce 2 megawatts of power. OPT also announced last September an agreement to install a 1.4-megawatt array off the coast of Spain. An Australian subsidiary is in a joint venture to develop a 10-megawatt wave farm off the coast of Australia.

Meanwhile, Pelamis Wave Power plans to install more of its mechanical serpents — three megawatts of generating capacity off the coast of northwest Scotland, and another five-megawatt array off Britain’s Cornwall coast.

The Cornwall installation will be one of four wave power facilities plugged into a single, 20-megawatt underwater transformer at a site called “Wave Hub.” Essentially a giant, underwater version of a socket that each developer can plug into, Wave Hub — which will be connected by undersea cable to the land-based grid — was designed as a tryout site for competing technologies. OPT has won another of the four Wave Hub berths for its buoy-based system.

Other innovators are trying to harness the power of ocean or estuarine tides. Notably, in 2007, Virginia’s Verdant Power installed on the floor of New York’s East River six turbines that look, and function, much like stubby, submerged windmills, their blades — which are 16 feet in diameter — turning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute. The East River is actually a salty and powerful tidal straight that connects Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. Although the “underwater windmills” began pumping out electricity immediately, the trial has been a halting one. The strong tides quickly broke apart the turbines’ first- (fiberglass and steel) and second- (aluminum and magnesium) generation blades, dislodging mounting bolts for good measure.

Undeterred, in September Verdant Power began testing new blades made of a stronger aluminum alloy. If it can overcome the equipment-durability problems, the company hopes to install as many as 300 of its turbines in the East River, enough to power 10,000 New York homes.

A scattering of similar prototype “underwater windmill” projects have been installed at tidal sites in Norway, Northern Ireland, and South Korea. (In addition, interest in moving into freshwater sites is growing. Verdant itself hopes to install its turbines on the St. Lawrence River. At least one other company, Free Flow Power of Massachusetts, has obtained Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits to conduct preliminary studies on an array of sites on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.)

The environmental benefits of hydrodynamic power seem obvious: no carbon dioxide or any other emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based generation. No oil spills or nuclear waste. And for those who object to wind farms for aesthetic reasons, low-profile wave farms are invisible from distant land; tidal windmill-style turbines operate submerged until raised for maintenance.

There are, however, environmental risks associated with these technologies.

New York state regulators required Verdant Power to monitor effects of their its turbines on fish and wildlife. So far, sensors show that fish and water birds are having no trouble avoiding the blades, which rotate at a relatively leisurely 32 maximum revolutions per minute. In fact the company’s sensors have shown that fish tend to seek shelter behind rocks around the channel’s banks and stay out of the central channel entirely when tides are strongest.

But a host of other questions about environment effects remain unanswered. Will high-voltage cables stretching across the sea from wave farms somehow harm marine ecosystems? Will arrays of hundreds of buoys or mechanical serpents interfere with ocean fish movement or whale migrations? What effect will soaking up large amounts of wave energy have on shoreline organisms and ecosystems?

“Environmental effects are the greatest questions right now,” EPRI’s Bedard says, “because there just aren’t any big hydrodynamic projects in the world.”

Projects will probably have to be limited in size and number to protect the environment, he says – that’s a big part of the reason he limits his “realistic” U.S. estimate to 10% of current generation capacity. But the only way to get definitive answers on environmental impact might be to run the actual experiment — that is, to begin building the water-powered facilities, and then monitor the environment for effects.

Bedard suggests that the way to get definitive answers will be to build carefully on a model like Verdant’s: “Start very small. Monitor carefully. Build it a little bigger and monitor some more. I’d like to see it developed in an adaptive way.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 18, 2008

EnviroMission’s Solar Tower technology is focused on large-scale, clean, green renewable energy generation from the world’s first 200MW solar thermal power station.

One 200MW power station will provide enough electricity to around 200,000 typical Australian households and abates over 900,000 tonnes of greenhouse producing gases from entering the environment annually.

The monolithic scale of the project may also add value to the construction of the power station through tourism and associated economic benefits.

The prototype Solar Tower has been tested and proven with a small-scale pilot project in Manzanares, Spain, as a result of collaboration between the Spanish government and German designers, Schlaich Bergermann and Partner.

It even operated for seven years between 1982 and 1989, and consistently generated 50kW output of green energy, proving the concepts works as well as providing data for design modifications to achieve greater commercial and economic benefits associated with an increased scale of economy.

Where Next?

After an extensive search, EnviroMission selected the site for the world’s first Solar Tower power station to be built in the Buronga district of the Wentworth Shire in NSW and 25km NE of Mildura in Victoria, Australia.  The proposed site shows EnviroMission’s commitment to the Australia’s Sunraysia Region of NSW and Victoria. The project still requires planning approval codes, regulations and legislation from Australia’s State and Local Governments.

Background on the Solar Tower and the Market in Australia

Formerly referred to as Solar Chimney technology in academic literature – the Solar Tower is now marketed without the reference to chimney (to avoid confusion with the pollution associated with chimneys – this technology is emission free) – the Solar Tower has had in excess of A$35 million and 20 years of research and development invested in it.  EnviroMission believe that now, more than ever before, the time is ideal to apply this technology.

For more than 100 years it has been relatively cheap, environmentally unaccountable and simple to dig up coal as a fuel source to produce electricity. With concerns over climate change and increasing need for clean, renewable energy solutions account for still less than 10% of all electricity generated in Australia.

Community concern about Australia’s over reliance on coal-based ‘black’ and ‘brown’ energy and the negative impact on the environment has helped to drive political change. There is now a legislated market for clean, green renewable energy, legislated as a Mandated Renewable Energy Target (9500 gWh annual renewable energy target by 2010) has opened the way for investment in new approaches to renewable energy generation.  This recent incentive is important to the growth of renewable energy development including Solar Tower technology.

A further political incentive in the form of the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) developed by the Australian Government in 2001 has encouraged new investment in renewable energy development, with the purpose of reducing greenhouse gases and increasing the amount of renewable energy output.

As new materials, construction methods and government policy are now available to the extent that there is environmental, social and commercial advantage in the development of Solar Tower technology.

EnviroMission claims that each 200MW solar thermal power station will abate over 900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the environment annually. The Solar Tower technology will help Australia meet its Kyoto obligations, provide a bonus to the environment, and will be a major producer of scaleable renewable energy with flow on benefits to the community and our investors.

Terms of Recent Deal with SMT

Following the mutual termination of the 2007 merger proposal between EnviroMission Limited with SolarMission Technologies, Inc (SMT), EnviroMission and SMT have continued to explore alternative corporate actions and structures to facilitate the shared ambition and vision for the long-term Solar Tower development.

As a result, EnviroMission implemented an acquisition model to leverage off the advantage of its public listing, providing the inducement of listing liquidity to SMT common share and warrant holders under the terms of a Stock Exchange Offer, with the aim of securing at least majority control of SMT.

In the weeks leading up to the close of the Stock Exchange Offer (August 1, 2008), EnviroMission negotiated a license agreement with SMT to confirm the strategic intent of the acquisition and ensure the licence also contained sufficient commercial terms to provide equity to all SMT security holders, including security holders that may decline the EnviroMission Stock Exchange Offer. EnviroMission’s license agreement with SMT takes effect from July 31, 2008 to secure the global SolarTower development license in all markets, excluding China.

EnviroMission will issue 5,000,000 (five million) ordinary free trading shares to SMT as an equity consideration for the global Solar Tower license (excluding China), with additional ‘commercial in confidence’ provisions to satisfy the immediate and equitable assignment of the Solar Tower license to EnviroMission; subject also to EnviroMission shareholder approval of the Stock Exchange Offer to SMT.

Commercial terms are based on development milestones to provide an ongoing equity opportunity to SMT (EnviroMission anticipates owning 58.92% of SMT subject to shareholder approval). On this basis, EnviroMission has negotiated an agreement assigning the global Solar Tower license to EnviroMission.

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TINA LIPTAI, The Standard/Fairfax Digital, September 13, 2008

Warrnambool — Rising seas and bigger waves caused by climate change could have a positive spin-off for the south-west – wave power.

A report published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIRO of Australia) researchers has found an increase in the frequency of storms generating larger waves off Australia’s southern coast over the past 45 years.

One of the report’s authors, Dr Mark Hemer of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric research, said harnessing wave power to generate electricity was one of the potentially positive effects of climate change.

“Areas like Warrnambool that are known for producing large, consistent waves might be a good spot for renewable energy projects,” he said. At least three renewable energy companies in Australia had prototype systems to turn wave energy into electricity which could be operating commercially by 2010, Dr Hemer said.

New South Wales company Oceanlinx is in the process of securing permits to launch a project in Portland to harvest wave energy. Portland is also among a number of sites being considered by Western Australian wave energy firm Carnegie Corporation.

The CSIRO research also identified areas of coast which might be vulnerable to potential problems caused by powerful waves such as coastal flooding, inundation, increased storm activity and underwater habitat disruption.

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ROSS KENDALL, CleanTechnica.com, June 4, 2008

Biopower Systems is just one of the wave-energy developers gaining attention by meeting its technological goals and backing this up with investment support.

Last month Biopower Systems everything was in place to test a 250 kilowatt wave power system that should be capable of powering 500 homes on King Island off the south-east Australian coast. This followed news earlier in the year that the company had been able to raise over $11 million for funding the pilot project from both government and private sources.

For those waiting to get their hands on this exciting and clean technology the news is all good according to Biopower Systems’ Dr Tim Finnigan:

“The pilot programs will enable Biopower Systems to test and demonstrate our wave and tidal-current power conversion systems in situ, and to refine the design of the systems for use in commercial projects. We expect to begin commercial sales in 2010.”

Biopower’s wave technology is inspired by nature and mimics the swaying motion of sea plants; its buoyant and bulbous finger-like structures generate energy from their hydrodynamic interaction with ocean waves.

The company also has a tidal power generator is a technology based on mimicking swimming species such as sharks. The tailfin shaped device is fixed to the seabed of a tidal area and the passing water flow drives the resisting force of the generator.

CETO is Also Ready to Go

On the other side of the continent the Perth-based CETO Wave Energy is also mimicking nature to generate wave energy. The company is in the last year of a decade long development program and is currently looking for a site for its first large-scale commercial deployment.

CETO’s technology is also fixed to the sea-floor and harnesses passing wave energy to operate what is essentially a positive displacement pump. This drives seawater to the shore under high pressure where it is then fed into a standard hydro-electricity generator.

New Technology, New Benefits

The beauty of these wave-power technologies is that they move with the power of the ocean rather than putting themselves in confrontation with it, like the some of the other wave power systems do. These first-generation technologies are generally one large solid unit that will always be subject to freak wave activity.

The second-generation systems that operate under water not only get protected from the worst of a storm but are also smaller, lighter and modular units. Large-scale power supply is achieved by building up an array of the units to deliver the required power supply where it is required. Like other distributed systems, these types of wave-power technology reduce their risks by spreading them more widely.

For an island country like Australia where the vast majority of the populace lives near the coast, virtually eliminating power transmission costs, the advantages of this type of power are many.

Oceans of Resource

CETO’s managing director Michael Ottaviano says that the bottom half of the country, from Brisbane to Perth is well endowed with a consistent and sizeable wave resource. He estimates the untapped potential is 500,000 megawatts, ten times the country’s current installed power capacity.

For as long as I can remember a renewable energy resource capable of generating base-load power has seemed like a distant dream. In the few years we will know if wave technology has been able to step up and fulfill its promise. Either way it is good to know we are starting to work with nature rather than against it,

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GLOBE-NET NEWS, May 29, 2008

Forever moving – our restless oceans have enough energy to power the world. As long as the Earth turns and the moon keeps its appointed cycle, the oceans will absorb and dissipate vast amounts of kinetic energy – a renewable energy resource of enormous potential. But harnessing this resource has proven more difficult than first thought. In this the latest installment of the GLOBE-Net Series on Renewable Energy – we look at how the power of the oceans might eventually find its place among other forms of renewable energy.

Ocean Energy – What is it?

According to the United Nations, 44% of the world’s population lives within 150 km of an ocean coast. In Canada and Australia the number is much higher at 80%. In the United States 53% of the population lives in close proximity to an ocean.

Thus it is only natural that many countries look to the oceans as a source of energy to be harnessed. How they seek to exploit this resource varies according to factors of geography and available technologies.

The two main forms of energy associated with our oceans are tidal power and wave power – born of the same source, but different in how they turn energy into electricity.

Tidal Power

Tidal power coverts the energy of tides into electricity utilizing the rise and fall of the ocean tides. The stronger the tide, either in water level height or tidal current velocities, the greater the potential for tidal electricity generation.

Tidal generators act in much the same way as do wind turbines, however the higher density of water (832 times that of air) means that a single generator can provide significant power at velocities much lower than those associated`with the wind power generators.

Tidal power can be classified into two main types; Tidal Stream Systems and Barrages.

Barrages are similar to hydro-electric dams but are placed in an estuary bay or river mouth, where they act as barriers that create artificial tidal lagoons. When water levels outside the lagoon changes relative to water levels inside, turbines in the barrages are able to produce electrical power. There are only three such structures in the world: the Rance River in France, Canada’s Bay of Fundy, and Kislaya Guba, Russia.

Tidal stream systems make use of the kinetic energy of moving water to power turbines. This technology simply relies on individual turbines which are placed in the water column; moored to be suspended, floating or anchored to the ocean floor. As the tide flows in or out, electrical energy is produced as water moves through the turbine.

Tidal power boasts several advantages over other types of renewable energy technology, because tides are more predictable and reliable than wind energy or sunny days for solar power. Tidal energy has an efficiency ratio of approximately 80% in terms of converting the potential energy of the water into electricity. Tidal stream system turbines are only a third the diameter of wind rotors of the same power output.

As with wind power, location is important factor in terms of being able to harness the earth’s natural energy. Tidal stream systems must be located in areas with fast currents where natural flows are concentrated between natural obstructions, for example at the entrances to bays and rivers, around rocky points or headlands, or between islands and other land masses.

Wave Power

Ocean surface waves are also a considerable source of energy potential, but energy that is not as restricted in terms of location as tidal energy systems. Typically wave energy is captured using buoys which generate mechanical energy as they oscillate vertically from wave motion.

Terminator devices extend perpendicular to the direction of wave travel and capture or reflect the power of the wave. Water enters through a subsurface opening into a chamber with air trapped above it and wave action causes the captured water column to move up and down like a piston to force the air though an opening connected to a turbine.

A point absorber is a floating structure with components that move relative to each other due to wave action (e.g., a floating buoy inside a fixed cylinder). The relative motion is used to drive electromechanical or hydraulic energy converters.

Attenuators are long multi-segment floating structures oriented parallel to the direction of the waves. The differing heights of waves along the length of the device causes flexing where the segments connect, and this flexing is connected to hydraulic pumps or other converters.

Overtopping devices have reservoirs that are filled by incoming waves to levels above the average surrounding ocean. The water is then released, and gravity causes it to fall back toward the ocean surface. The energy of the falling water is used to turn hydro turbines.

Wave power varies considerably in different parts of the world, and wave energy can’t be harnessed effectively everywhere. According to the Ocean Renewable Energy Group, a Vancouver based organisation that promotes the development of ocean energy in Canada, regions considered to have “good” wave energy resources are generally those found within 40 to 60 degrees of latitude, where the strongest winds are found. Wave-power rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northwestern coasts of the United States.

Projects Underway

Ocean energy company Clean Current Power Systems estimates a potential global market for 67,000 Megawatts (MW) of tidal and wave action equipment worth $200 billion. At 20 cents/kW hour, the market for tidal electricity could be $27 billion annually. According to Finavera, world-wide wave energy could provide up to 2,000 TWh/year, 10% of world electricity consumption.

It comes as no surprise then, that interest in ocean energy has been building momentum in the past few years as these nations scramble to meet renewable energy targets.

For instance, in November 2007, British company Lunar Energy announced that it would be building the world’s first deep-sea tidal-energy farm off the coast of Pembrokshire in Wales. Eight underwater turbines, each 25 metres long and 15 metres high will provide electricity for 5,000 homes. Construction is due to start in the summer of 2008 and the proposed tidal energy turbines, described as “a wind farm under the sea”, should be operational by 2010.

Plans for a ten-mile barrage across the River Severn, which could generate 5% of the UK’s electricity needs, are currently under development. According to the UK Sustainable Development Commission, a barrage across the Severn would produce clean and sustainable electricity for 120 years. This would have a capacity of 8,640MW and an estimated output of 17 terawatt hours a year.

Scotland boasts roughly 25% of the entire European Union’s tidal power potential and 10% of its wave energy potential and could produce more than 1,300 megawatts by 2020, enough to power a city the size of Seattle. In 2007, Scotland announced $26 million worth of funding packages to develop marine power in the nation. So far $8 million has been procured to develop 3 MW of tidal power.

UK based Marine Current Turbines is developing a tidal stream system off the coast of Ireland. The 1.2-megawatt turbine will be tested for 12 weeks before feeding power into the Northern Ireland grid where it will operate for up to 20 hours per day, producing enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

Both Scotland and England are planning wave energy projects. Scotland will be developing a 3MW array and England will be developing a 20 MW Wave Hub off the north coast of Cornwall, England. The Cornwall project will power up to 7,500 homes.

Canada has the world’s longest coastline and has always been serious about harnessing ocean energy. In early 2008 the Government of Nova Scotia gave the green light to three tidal energy testing projects in the Bay of Fundy to help establish a permanent tidal energy farm (see GLOBE-Net Article Nova Scotia to fund tidal power research). Irving Oil is also studying 11 potential sites in the Bay of Fundy to develop tidal energy farms.

The Government of British Columbia estimates there are more than 6,000 megawatts of potential wave energy that have been identified so far in the province and projects are already underway to develop wave energy systems. In 2006 Vancouver based Clean Current Power Systems began developing a pilot tidal power project near Victoria to demonstrate the potential for tidal power.

PG&E and Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables is developing America’s first commercial wave power plant off the coast of Northern California. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2012, generating a maximum of 2 megawatts of electricity.

In March, 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy announced would be offering up to $7.5 million in grants for hydro-kinetic energy such as wave and tidal power. The department is seeking partnerships with companies and universities to develop the technologies and plans to award up to 17 grants.

Portugal is planning the world’s first commercial wave farm, the Aguçadora Wave Park near Póvoa de Varzim. If successful, a further 70 million euro is likely to be invested before 2009 on a further 28 machines to generate 72.5 MW.

The Challenges

Despite the enormous potential of ocean energy, there remain many pitfalls (if such a word can be used in a watery context) that have proven difficult to overcome, and which explains why ocean energy remains the least developed of all forms renewable energy. Problems still exist regarding cost, maintenance, environmental concerns and our still imperfect understanding of how power from the oceans will impact on the world’s energy infrastructure.

For example, turbines are susceptible to bio-fouling; the growth of aquatic life on or in the turbine. This can severely inhibit the efficiency of energy production and is both costly and difficult to remove. Turbines are also prone to damage from ocean debris.

In the Bay of Fundy, project developers are particularly concerned with ice floes the size of small apartments, and cobblestones the size of watermelons constantly being tossed across the Bay’s terrain by the power of the Bay’s water flows.

Turbines may also be hazardous to marine life and the impacts on marine life are still largely unknown, but concern is warranted.

Barrage systems are affected by problems of high initial infrastructure costs associated with construction and the resulting environmental problems. For example, independent research on the economics of building the proposed Severn Barrage in the UK revealed that, taking environmental costs into account, the structure could cost as much as $12 billion to create – $4 billion more than previously estimated.

Barrage impacts include a decrease in the average salinity and turbidity within a barrage, significantly altering associated ecosystems.

Wave power systems present their own set of challenges. Most electric generators operate at higher speeds, and most turbines require a constant, steady flow. Unfortunately wave energy is slow and ocean waves oscillate at varying frequencies.

The rough realities of the marine environment have also proven difficult to deal with, especially for companies seeking to remain cost-effective. Constructing wave devices that can survive storm damage and saltwater corrosion add to development costs.

The Future

Modern advances in ocean energy technology may eventually see large amounts of power generated from the ocean, especially tidal currents using the tidal stream designs. The technology is still in its infant stage and most projects that exist or are that are in project development stages are mainly pilot projects. But the promise remains.

“It’s not as well-established as solar, thermal, wind and biomass, but it [ocean power] shows a lot of promise,” said Philip Jennings, professor of energy studies at Western Australia’s Murdoch University.

“As the technology develops and becomes more affordable, which it will over time, we can continue to expand pretty much anywhere where there is an ocean,” said Chief Executive Officer Phil Metcalf of Pelamis Wave Power.

The market potential for tidal power still remains unclear [says who?]. Sector analysts believe Initial Public Offerings (IPO) for wave and tidal power projects will be much harder to price than for comparable wind power projects, because wave firms cannot give exact estimates on the scale of benefits and few have technologies that are up and running.

Regardless, both ocean wave and tidal power have attracted growing interest from investors and power utilities looking for the next long-term play in renewable energy.

“Water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface,” said Andy Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DOE. “Using environmentally responsible technologies, we have a tremendous opportunity to harness energy produced from ocean waves, tides or ocean currents, free-flowing water in rivers and other water resources to…provide clean and reliable power.”

According to Jennings ocean power could not match fossil fuels for electricity production but could be competitive with other forms of renewable energy.

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ANDREA GIL, the Maui Weekly, May 1, 2008

North Shore devices could be among the first commercial wave power plants in the world.

The announcement in February that Oceanlinx, an Australian company that plans to deploy some of its wave energy devices off Pa’uwela Point along Maui’s northern coast, rocketed the Valley Isle into the exciting, international, wave energy community. If the Oceanlinx devices are installed as planned, perhaps in 2009, they could be among the first commercial wave power plants in the world.

What is wave energy, and how can it be tapped to provide renewable electricity to Maui and other communities? What’s involved in the Oceanlinx project? What will it look like, and what impacts can be expected? What other companies are involved in wave power?

These questions, and others, will be addressed in upcoming article, but let’s start with some background on Oceanlinx. This innovative company used to be called Energetech, and its representatives first visited Hawai’i in 2006 to discuss the potential for their technology here. Their device works on the “oscillating water column” principle (to be explained in a future article), one of many concepts for tapping the energy in ocean waves. Oceanlinx’s design has the potential of either producing purified water through reverse osmosis or generating electricity, depending on the equipment installed.

In plants intended to generate electricity, Oceanlinx would install an innovative turbine designed by one of the company’s founders, Dr. Tom Denniss. This patented Denniss-Auld turbine was named by the International Academy of Sciences as one of the world’s ten most outstanding technologies for 2006.

Oceanlinx has demonstrated its technology in the harbor at Port Kembla, south of Sydney, Australia. They made some design improvements to their first-generation machine, and have tested a smaller-scale version of the second-generation device. The Maui machines will be among the first of the full-scale second-generation Oceanlinx machines to be installed anywhere in the world.

Oceanlinx does have agreements in the works to install its machines at other locations, including in the U.S., Europe and Africa. Maui’s machines—there might be two or three of them—will be fabricated in Southeast Asia and transported to Hawaiian waters. They will be able to be remotely operated, though local expertise for troubleshooting and maintenance is likely to be needed.

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NANEA KALANI, Pacific Business News, March 21, 2008

Australian technology company Oceanlinx is moving ahead with a wave energy project that would anchor large floating generators off Maui’s Pauwela Point and could power up to 2,500 homes.

A month after announcing the $20 million project, Oceanlinx has hired Honolulu-based Planning Solutions to conduct an environmental impact assessment, which could take up to a year.

Oceanlinx expects the project to be on line by the end of 2009, generating 2.7 megawatts of power that it would sell to Maui Electric Company.

The company’s patented turbine technology will harness air generated by rising and falling sea swells near the big wave surf spot known as Jaws. The air flow would spin the turbine’s blades, generating electricity.

State lawmakers are considering legislation to provide Oceanlinx with up to $20 million in special-purpose revenue bonds.

“For Maui, this will be one more link in a renewable energy chain that includes biomass and wind,” said Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Peter Rosegg. “As oil prices continue upward … clean, local renewables like solar, wind and wave power offer more stable prices and increased energy security in the long run.”

This month, the average Maui household will see an electric bill of $206.10 for 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity usage.

The wave energy project will add to the 30-megawatt wind farm above Maalaea, which MECO says accounts for about 9% of Maui’s electrical power.

The Oceanlinx project will involve anchoring two to three 450-ton floating generators a half-mile off of Pauwela Point in waters about 120 feet deep.

Each 25-foot-high platform is about the size of a basketball court — 90 feet long by 65 feet wide — but Oceanlinx says they will not be visible from the highway or any residences in the area.

Environmental groups on Maui say they don’t anticipate environmental issues with the project.

“We haven’t seen an EIS yet, and there’s some concern about the view plane, but so far we think this is a real project with potential,” said Lance Holter, chairman of the Maui Sierra Club. “The downside with visual issues is minimal compared to the upside of creating a new renewable energy source for Maui residents.”

Maui Tomorrow, the advocacy group that strongly opposed the Hawaii Superferry, says it also supports additional alternative energy options for Maui residents.

“The Oceanlinx group has been really proactive and engaged with the community, which is refreshing,” said Executive Director Irene Bowie. “We’ll reserve judgement until the environmental review is done, but we’re optimistic.”

Oceanlinx and MECO say the selected site on the northeastern coast of the island has no fishing, boating or surfing activity nearby. The site was chosen over another area in Kapalua past Honolua Bay.

The company will install underwater transmission cables that will run along the shoreline to Maliko Bay, where it will then feed into a utility substation on MECO’s grid.

The Maui units would be the 11-year-old company’s first commercial project. Oceanlinx also is in talks with energy companies in Rhode Island, Portugal, Namibia, Mexico and Australia.

The wave technology has yet to take off in the United States. Fewer than 50 so-called hydrokinetic projects have been permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and none has been built.

FERC, which oversees energy industries, said in December it issued its first license for a wave energy project to be built off the coast of Washington state.

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The World, April 10, 2008

The proposed Florence, Oregon wave energy park is no more.

At least, not on paper.

“Energetech America, under Oceanlinx Limited, respectfully requests to withdraw its preliminary permit application for the Florence Oregon Ocean Wave Energy Project …,” the company said in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on March 26.

Oceanlinx filed for a preliminary permit in April 2007 to study a site within Oregon’s territorial sea off of Florence. The project, as planned, would have consisted of 10 offshore floating steel frame structures, moored to the seafloor and comprising an oscillating water column, turbine and electric generator. Each structure would have weighed about 300 metric tons and the footprint for each, including mooring anchors, would have been about 300 feet by 300 feet. It was planned to have a peak capacity of 10 megawatts.

The company gave no reason for its withdrawal and a call to the company’s U.S. office in Connecticut resulted in a recording directing calls to its Australia headquarters.

So far, Ocean Power Technologies is the only company on the South Coast to have submitted preliminary application documents to FERC for a full license, after a preliminary permit is granted.

Finavera Renewables, which received preliminary permit approval from FERC to study a site off of Bandon, is scheduled to submit its preliminary license application this month.

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ROBIN KWONG, The Financial Times, February 26, 2008

Australia is to build the world’s biggest solar power plant after the Hong Kong-based CLP power generating group announced on Monday that it would invest $270m in the project.

The 154MW scheme, located in the south-eastern state of Victoria, would have nearly twice the capacity of the biggest existing solar power plant, in California’s Mojave desert.

The Mojave system, however, links nine power plants together for a total capacity of 354MW.

The Victoria project was conceived and planned by Solar Systems, an Australian private company, and aims to lower generating costs by using mirror arrays that track the sun to concentrate light on to advanced photovoltaic cells.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2013 would generate enough electricity to power 45,000 homes.

However, that is equivalent to only about 0.1 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation in 2006.

The cost of solar power has dropped by a factor of 10 in the past three decades, according to Christophe Inglin, managing director of Singapore-based solar systems specialist Phoenix Solar.

“But there is still a long way to go before it is competitive with grid [ie conventional] energy costs,” he said.

Mr Inglin said that he expected some markets to achieve “grid parity” within the next five to 10 years.

CLP Group, which is making the investment through its Australian subsidiary TRUenergy, admits that solar energy is still expensive to produce but said that other factors meant the investment would be commercially viable.

The Australian federal government and the Victoria state government have given a total of A$125m ($115.5m, £59m, €78m) in grants to the project. CLP’s investment will pay for the remainder of the construction costs, including a 2MW pilot plant.

The power plant, would produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, compared with an estimated 396,000 tonnes a year for a conventional power plant with a similar output. This difference in output would also generate tradeable emissions credits that would meet renewable energy targets set by the federal government.

In addition to the CLP investment in the project, TRUenergy is also investing A$40m for a 20 per cent stake in Solar Systems.

CLP has signed a 10-year agreement to deploy the technology in Asia Pacific.

Andrew Brandler, CLP’s chief executive, said: “There is tremendous opportunity to transfer this solar technology into the Asia Pacific region because it has the potential to cost-efficiently generate electricity at scale with no greenhouse gas emissions.”

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Press Release, Oceanlinx, February 4, 2008

HONOLULU – At a press conference with Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle today, Oceanlinx Limited, an Australia-based high-tech company, formally announced plans to provide electricity to Maui Electric Company from Hawaii’s first wave energy project.

“A week ago we announced the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, an unprecedented partnership between the State of Hawai‘i and U.S. Department of Energy to transform our state into one of the world’s first economies based primarily on clean energy resources,” said Governor Lingle. “This innovative and environmentally based wave energy project is an ideal example of using Hawai‘i’s abundant natural sources of energy to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuel and increase our energy security.”

The project aims to provide up to 2.7 megawatts from two to three floating platforms located one-half to three-quarters of a mile due north of Pauwela Point on the northeast coast of Maui.

Oceanlinx is an international renewable energy company with a unique, commercially efficient wave-to-electricity system combining the established science of the oscillating water column with Oceanlinx own patented turbine technology. Rising and falling sea swells push and pull air past the turbine; its blades shift in response to the direction of the air flow, enabling the turbine to turn continuously in one direction. Electricity is then brought ashore through an undersea cable to a substation tied to the island electrical grid.

David Weaver, executive chairman and CEO of Oceanlinx, said: “We are very pleased to be a part of Hawaii’s move to increase its production of electricity from clean energy sources. The Oceanlinx technology is an ideal fit for Maui, with its excellent wave climate, and we hope to be able to continue working with Hawaii on wave energy projects in the future.”

“This is an historic occasion for Hawaii,” said Mike May, Hawaiian Electric president & CEO, who offered special thanks and praise for State Representative Cynthia Thielen, a long-time proponent of ocean energy. “Representative Thielen’s persistence and commitment to developing ocean energy in Hawaii have helped bring us to this day.

“Ocean energy today is where wind was 15 to 20 years ago – with many competing technologies,” May said. “Hawaiian Electric has monitored their progress and we have consulted and assisted whenever possible.

“In Oceanlinx, we believe we have found an excellent wave technology that makes sense for Hawaii and many other places as well.”

Oceanlinx will prepare an environmental impact statement for the project and apply for necessary permits and approvals. Maui Electric Company will execute a purchase power agreement with Oceanlinx and seek approvals from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

The project will include three wave platforms and could be operational by the end of 2009. The cost, to be borne by Oceanlinx and its investors, is estimated at $20 million. Oceanlinx has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Renewable Hawaii, Inc., an unregulated subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Company, for possible passive investment in the project.

“In preliminary discussions with government and environmental leaders we have heard nothing but strong support for this project,” said Ed Reinhardt, Maui Electric president. “Representative Angus McKelvey in particular has been instrumental in bringing this ocean energy project on Maui. We are planning additional meetings with community and ocean groups on Maui to assure them that this project will have a low profile and address any concerns they may have.”

“Wave energy is more available and more predictable than most other types of renewable resources,” said Weaver. “Commercial satellites allow long range tracking of wave patterns days in advance. With such advanced data, the utility is better able to plan for the generation output of the Oceanlinx unit.”

More information on Oceanlinx (previously Energetech Australia Pty. Ltd. founded in 1997) is available on-line at www.oceanlinx.com.

Key advantages of the Oceanlinx unit

• Increased power output: The technology can be deployed in a variety of water depths including near shore and in offshore deep water where wave power levels are higher.

• Low Maintenance: The design has kept moving parts to a minimum and located them above water, to minimise failure rates and reduce downtime. The stability of the platforms and accessibility from the deck of the rotating machinery allows for routine maintenance to be performed on location instead of requiring units to be removed to dockside. The units contain a small number of rotating machinery parts, which are accessible from the deck of the unit minimising the cost of operations and maintenance.

• Scalability: The modular design means that facilities can be scaled to meet the needs of the customer by grouping multiple units into arrays. In addition, the units themselves have a higher capacity rating than other wave energy alternatives.

• Mass production benefits: The units are modular in design and can be manufactured using mass production techniques in standard fabrication facilities and shipyards. The topside modules can be factory assembled and then delivered to the shipyard for integration, hook-up and commissioning onto the marine structure. This allows for the units to be pre-commissioned and tested before installation.

• Product diversification: Oceanlinx has also developed technology to use the energy generated by the turbine to drive a desalination unit converting sea water to fresh water using a reverse osmosis technique.

• Renewable energy and carbon credits: Both the generation of electricity and the desalination of sea water to produce fresh water will qualify for renewable energy and/or carbon credits in most Oceanlinx target markets.

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