Victorian grant to pilot ocean wave energy technology
Ocean energy company, BioPower Systems has been awarded conditional funding support of $5 million under the Victorian Government’s Sustainable Energy Pilot Demonstration Program.
The funding will support the $14 million pilot demonstration of the company’s 250kW bioWAVE ocean wave energy system at a grid-connected site near Port Fairy, Victoria.
The bioWAVE consists of a structure that sways back and forth beneath the waves, integrated with a self-contained module (O-Drive) that converts the resulting oscillating forces to electricity by pressurising hydraulic fluid, which is used to spin a generator to produce electricity for delivery to the grid via a subsea cable. The technology is designed to operate in depths of 30 to 50 metres.
“In developing the bioWAVE technology we set out to address the many issues that have bedeviled most wave energy technologies,” said CEO, Dr Timothy Finnigan. Inspired by the motion of large sea plants under wave action, and conscious of the costs and difficulties of doing development work in the ocean, BPS took the unusual step of spending five years performing multiple on land tests at increasing scale prior to ocean deployment. The most critical component has been tested at full scale at its factory in Mascot NSW (Sydney).
“We are now ready for the ultimate test – installing the bioWAVE in high energy 30-metre deep ocean waters. We have to raise another $3.6 million to complete the project funding, and given our results to date we are confident of achieving this in the coming months. The technology has been positively assessed by more than a dozen independent reviewers,” said Dr Finnigan.
The bioWAVE differs from other wave technologies in three ways. First, it is designed to generate grid compatible electricity ‘in situ’ and hence is connected to the shore via a sub sea electrical cable only. This gives flexibility in locating the plant, opening up access to greater energy resources, while transmitting the energy to shore efficiently as high voltage electricity. Secondly, during extreme wave conditions it will automatically assume a “safe” position lying flat against the seabed. This reduces the structural design requirements (and hence cost) while maintaining reliability. Thirdly, the design, utilising a patented wide “multi-blade” structure, is expected to capture a much higher proportion of the available energy than other designs.
“We believe bioWAVE will, when fully commercially developed, produce electricity at a price highly competitive with wind and be closer to baseload characteristics than either wind or solar”, Dr Finnigan said.
Twelve other organisations have signed on to contribute cash and in-kind support for the planned four-year pilot demonstration project, including key suppliers, manufacturers, consultants and three Australian universities.
Up to 23 new jobs will be created in Victoria during the project. Following the pilot, there is significant opportunity for expansion in Victoria using commercial-scale 1MW bioWAVE systems, with the potential for 200 new jobs in the first five years.
Further information is at www.biopowersystems.com