Published on May 22nd, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Massive Offshore Waves Sink Australia's Oceanlinx Wavepower Pilot

May 22nd, 2010 by  

Oceanlinx; named one of the world’s Top Ten Renewable Energy Investments by the UN, needs to go back to the drawing board to iron out some kinks in the design of its 2.5 MW wave energy power station.

A massive swell at the Port Kembla site, 150 meters off the coast of Australia was able to sink the continent’s first wave power device to feed power to the Australian grid. The $5 million pre-commercial pilot project had just begun supplying power to the shore in February 2010.

The wave energy industry is in its infancy. Other than this, only half a dozen pilots are actually are delivering electricity to grids, (most in Europe) and which designs will prevail remains to be seen. The US has tremendous potential off the Northwest coast from Oregon to Alaska.

Because it is a completely new industry, wave power entrepreneurs are trying out many different engineering designs to capture the power of the ocean. Some are sited on the sea floor, some float, and some are moored to the sea floor.

The Oceanlinx design was modeled on an off-shore oil rig – and moored to the sea floor

Essentially it was a platform floating partly above the sea surface with turbines suspended above the water;  inside a wind tunnel. These are designed to capture air pushed up and down as the waves beneath them swell and sink. The power generated by the spinning turbines is then fed to the coast to supply the grid.

Initially, the powerful waves just ripped the device from its moorings. Efforts to capture and tow it back to safety had to be abandoned in high seas, and the next day, it sank.

Unlike the other deep-sea energy failure going on now as a real oilmageddon gushes from the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico, there is no horrific environmental disaster associated with this clean energy failure: just the need to get back to the drawing board and find another way to capture the ocean’s power. If anything, it just demonstrates the tremendous power of the sea.

With so many brilliant engineers working on wave energy, this will be more instructive to the nascent wave  energy industry – rather than a huge set-back.

Good luck to Oceanlinx as it figures out the solution and gets a revised attempt going.

Illustration: Arthur Mount

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

  • I found your blog very interesting. I will check back often to read your updates.

  • david lasker

    I see where you have had corrected your comment about the device being “93 miles off the coast of Australia” – good on you. For your further information it is really a case of back to the drawing board as the latest info is that the device has literally broken up into “40 pieces” and salvage and repair is not an option – to add insult to injury the local port authority (who own the breakwater against which the device foundered) have instructed Oceanlinx to move the debris off the ocean floor asap so that it does not become a hazard to shipping entering Port Kembla !!! Engineers who have had experience with designing structures subject to the power of the ocean along the coast of New South Wales cannot understand how anybody would have been so ill informed as to place their equipment (dredges,platforms etc) so close to “a hard place” like a breakwater or revetment wall- David Lasker

  • david lasker

    re Susan Kraemers article on the Port Kembla fiasco – the device was moored approx 150 metres off Pt Kembla’s Eastern breakwater so please cannot reconcile this with SK’s comment that the device was located “93 miles off the coast of Australia” – is there something I’m missing?


    david lasker

    civil engineer

  • Ed Swanson

    Honesty means all the relevant facts.

    Links to originating story and web resources are helpful.

    What does our society expect? Getting the moon and back on first launch?

    If any of you youngsters look back at the US Navy Vanguard program, see at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguard_(rocket) , it takes trial and “learning failures” to achieve something new or out of the box.

  • Martin Aker

    Thanks for the report. We need more honesty in this industry. In Europe there seems to be some progress but there are plenty of failures too.

    Pelamis (the sea snake) – their 3 machines in Portugal are tied up on the dock. The only guys still working it seems are Aquamarine Power they have their first 315kW machine operating in Orkney. They duck under the big waves – seems to make sense to me.

    Not sure if the OPT guys are actually producing any power. They are not grid connected but could be producing power to a load bank.

    More honesty from all – please!

    • I don’t think there is any dishonesty in “this industry”. There’s nothing to hide.Harnessing wave power is completely new – hardly an industry yet – just a few prototypes.

      And R&D is inherently full of school-of-hard-knocks lessons – that’s how R&D will come up with the right way to harness wave power.

      • G.Bowyer.

        Absolute rubbish, a competent engineer should anticipate a worst case scenario before the manufacture of any structure. Let’s build it and see if it works is a recipy for adisaster, a method usually adopted when someone else is picking up the tab.

        • Jl3793

           And I note that many newspapers actually said that the Maui project would be delivering electricity to the grid in 2011 – based on information from the company. I’ve always floated “pie-in-the-sky” info too when I wanted to float some shares too. This whole thing doesn’t pass the smell test. Even after a couple of years.

  • Paul

    Link to the actual news report might help.


    [SK: thanks, sorry, forgot it]

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