Wave plan buoyed by military millions
There has been some interest in a plan to build a large-scale wave energy farm off the coast of Victoria.
The $230 million project would see 28 buoys in the water near the town of Portland, collectively gathering about 62 megawatts of electricity from the motion of the ocean.
The wave farm has been in planning stages for some time, with major investors Lockheed Martin putting tens of millions toward the idea. US-owned renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is using its Australian subsidiary, Victorian Wave Partners, to push for approval from the state government.
The project has the approval and monetary backing of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has signed-off on a grant for $66 million. It was good timing for the wave energy project, as ARENA now faces a $435 million funding cut from the federal government.
OPT chairman Dr George Taylor says having the money already for the firt two phases is useful; “so we can prove to our financiers and the world that this is a viable project”.
“OPT itself has put $11 million in and we have investors who are supporting us,” he said.
It appears the involvement of a company better known for jet fighters than generators was actually quite a good fit.
“Lockheed Martin is our delivery partner... They decided that renewable energy is a very important part of defence,” Dr Taylor said.
“In times of war the shipment of fuel and oil can be a strategic problem and US bases want to be as independent as they can,” he said, adding that Lockheed would likely speak to the Australian Defence Force about additional capabilities like using the buoys as a surveillance rig for “over the horizon radar”
Despite the floating array being a largely hands-off project to run, proponents say the steel fabrication of the power buoys will create a number of jobs.
Dr Ariel Liebman, Monash University’s director of energy and carbon pricing says wave power is; “where solar and wind were 10 years ago... it’s one of the emerging technologies.”
“It’s yet to prove itself on a large economic scale.”