Wave energy project in Australia advances

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What may become the world's largest electricity generation project to rely on the power of ocean waves is moving forward in Australia, as Lockheed Martin has announced that it has signed a contract with Victorian Wave Partners Ltd. to develop a 62.5-megawatt project off the coast of Victoria, Australia.

Waves off the coast of Maine.

The world's oceans contain significant amounts of energy, embodied in waves, tides, and currents.  Winds blowing over the seas also contain substantial energy.  Given the immense size of these marine renewable energy resources, extracting useful power from the oceans offers significant potential to serve society's needs without relying on fossil fuels.  Early projects, like the 2008 Aguçadoura Wave Farm off Portugal, sought to demonstrate the feasibility of wave energy conversion, but the rigors of the marine environment, need for advanced technologies, and costs of developing a wave energy project have limited development of wave and other hydrokinetic energy resources.

Today's announcement by Lockheed Martin of a project development agreement with Victorian Wave Partners Ltd. envisions a much larger project than has previously been developed anywhere in the world.  Victorian Wave Partners is an Australian special purpose company owned by Ocean Power Technologies Australasia Pty Ltd., an affiliate of U.S. company Ocean Power Technologies or OPT.   OPT's PowerBuoy wave generation technology uses a buoy that moves up and down in ocean waves to capture mechanical energy.  This mechanical energy is used to power an electrical generator, whose electricity is transmitted to shore via an underwater cable.  OPT has proposed projects relying on its PowerBuoy technology off the coast of Oregon in the U.S., and has tested its technology off Hawaii, New Jersey, and Scotland.

The Victoria project is scheduled to be developed in three stages.  The first stage is expected to produce approximately 2.5 megawatts of peak power by 2014 or 2015, with subsequent stages designed to build up to 60 additional megawatts of peak capacity by 2018 or 2019.  The project relies in part on funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency or ARENA.  Australia has established a goal of relying on renewable energy for 20 percent of its needs by 2020.  ARENA offers funding to qualified renewable energy projects capable of helping the island nation meet this goal.

While the Victoria project may become the world's largest wave energy project to date, other projects in Australia, Scotland, and the United States are moving forward.  Will waves soon contribute meaningfully to the world's portfolio of energy resources?