Three-year project to assess tidal energy in Australia


By Sustainability Matters Staff
Friday, 14 July, 2017


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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has made available $2.49 million to support a three-year project which will explore the potential of tidal energy in Australia to attract future investment.

The $5.85 million project, titled Tidal Energy in Australia — Assessing Resource and Feasibility in Australia’s Future Energy Mix, will be led by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania in partnership with CSIRO, the University of Queensland and industry partners.

Tidal energy is generated by harnessing the movement of tides. Tides contain both potential energy, related to the vertical fluctuations in sea level, as well as kinetic energy, related to ocean currents. A modern tidal generator works like an underwater wind turbine, utilising the current created by the tide.

This energy resource has the advantage of being potentially available for more than 18 hours a day, with only the ‘slack’ period between high and low tide when the water is not able to generate. Since the rise and fall of the tide is well known, this means that tidal energy is entirely predictable in terms of output for many years in advance, enabling other forms of generation and storage to be built around it. Tidal generation technology could thus be used to enhance Australia’s grid stability or to provide support to off-grid industrial sites and remote communities.

A hydrodynamic tidal model will be developed as part of the project to map the scale and distribution of Australia’s tidal energy resources to the nearest 500 m, with the results published in an online atlas. The project will also encompass a feasibility assessment of potential sites, technical performance modelling of known tidal energy devices and an environmental impact assessment.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Irene Penesis said the project will overcome current barriers to investment in commercial-scale tidal farms in Australia by addressing knowledge gaps, thus giving investors more certainty in the technology.

“With some of the largest tides in the world, Australia is ideal for this extremely reliable and low-carbon form of energy,” said Associate Professor Penesis. “But potential investors are currently held back by a lack of detailed information on tidal resources that would help them understand the risks and opportunities available.

“This project will address this knowledge gap and provide the information that developers need to deploy their technology in the most energetic tidal sites in Australia.”

Industry partners OpenHydro, Protean Wave Energy, MAKO Tidal Turbines and BioPower Systems will make financial contributions and provide the researchers with proprietary information on their tidal energy devices, as well as commercial implementation know-how. The project will also benefit from collaboration with researchers from Acadia University, Canada and Bangor University, UK, both of which are at the forefront of global developments in tidal energy.

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