First Grid-Connected Wave Energy Facility

An electrical generating plant powered by wave energy has commenced operations near Perth, Australia. Built by Carnegie Wave Earth, the Perth Wave Energy Project is the first and only operational wave power plant anywhere in the world that uses multiple wave units. The facility has a peak generating capacity of 240 kilowatts — enough to power up to 2,000 homes.

Almost $100,000,000 has been invested to bring the technology out of the laboratory and make it suitable for commercial use. All of the electricity from the facility will be purchased by the Australian Department of Defense, which is vitally interested in getting its power from renewable, local sources.

Carnegie’s unique CETO technology is different from the conventional energy generating devices because it operates fully underwater and is safe from large storms and other surface hurdles. The equipment consists of submerged buoys coupled to pump units affixed to the ocean floor. Waves cause the buoys to rise and fall. This motion is converted into rotatory motion at the pumps, which deliver high pressure water to a hydroelectric power station on shore.

The Australian Renewable Energy Association provided a third of the $32 million invested in the project. Its CEO. Ivor Frischknecht, says, “This is the future of the world’s energy needs. During the testing, the wave unit operated more than 2000 hours at 240 kW peak capacity.” He also noted that Carnegie is already taking the next steps to make its technology competitive with other power generation sources.

According to Tek-Think, the next CETO project is expected to generate 1 megawatt of electricity — about 4 times the capacity of the Perth facility. Industry Minister Ian Macfarlance says “The lessons learned during the development of Carnegie’s CETO project are being shared with other Wave power units all over the world and let’s hope this reduces the hurdles faced until now. The vision is to create a clean and renewable energy source for the future.”

An additional benefit of the CETO system is that it can also power a reverse osmosis desalinization installation to make fresh drinking water without using electrically or gasoline powered pumps.

It still costs more to generate electricity from wave motion than from other renewable sources like solar or wind, but projects like the Perth installation will help find ways to drive costs down. The earth will never rely solely on one source of renewable power. Wave energy could prove to be a vital part of the spectrum of renewable energy sources available in the future.

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