An Australian company is looking to turn the tide on wave power, developing a new device to harness the power of the ocean, set for commercial installation in 2018. Francis Maguire reports.
Renewable energy companies want to tap the potential of waves. It's proved tough to commercialise. But Australian firm Wave Swell Energy thinks it's turned the tide on wave energy. Its device harnesses wave power "like an artificial blowhole." SOUNDBITE (English) WAVE SWELL ENERGY CEO, TOM DENNISS, SAYING: "The waves pass by and it causes the water level inside this artificial chamber, which is open underneath the water, to rise and fall and as it does so it compresses air, and then creates a partial vacuum as it's falling and we use that motion to drive an air turbine." The oscillating water column concept has been used before, but the Wave Swell model comes with a difference. SOUNDBITE (English) WAVE SWELL ENERGY CEO, TOM DENNISS, SAYING: "We use uni-directional flow, in other hands, air-flow simply coming in one direction past the turbine, whereas all other attempts have used bidirectional flow." Independent tests found the model was at least twice as efficient as a conventional device. When fully constructed, the device will measure 20 metres by 20 metres, with the air turbine sitting above the water. It will operate off the coast of King Island - in Bass Strait - in May next year. SOUNDBITE (English) WAVES SWELL ENERGY CEO, TOM DENNISS, SAYING: "The excellent wave climate there and the support of the local community meant that it was just an ideal location for us to use as a demonstration of the commercial viability of our technology." The company hopes to rival the cost of the cheapest global energy sources in five years....finally untapping the power of the ocean.