$21 Million And 7 Years Later, New Ocean Energy Project Will Imitate Kelp

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Ocean energy was barely mentioned during the just-completed COP21 Paris climate talks, but considering that more of the Earth’s surface will be undersea in the coming years, the ocean will likely become a key player in our sustainable energy future. With that in mind let’s take a look at a new $21 million ocean energy device called bioWAVE, which has just been deployed off the coast of Australia near Port Fairy, Victoria.

Ocean energy BioPower

The BioWAVE Ocean Energy Harvester

For those of you new to the topic, the idea behind ocean energy is fairly simple. The seven seas provide a boundless source of kinetic energy in the form of surface waves and sub-surface swells, which could be turned into an electrical current. The problem is coming up with a device that’s cost-effective, efficient, and durable.

The bioWAVE is designed to harvest sub-surface swells. It’s from the company BioPower Systems, helped along by $16 million in government funding, so group hug all you Australian taxpayers.

CleanTechnica first caught wind of bioWAVE back in 2008 when we described it as a kind of “underwater wind turbine,” though mechanically speaking, kelp is a more accurate comparison. This ocean energy device doesn’t spin or rotate, it sways back and forth with the motion of sub-surface swells:

BioWave ocean energy schematic

When we caught up with BioWAVE back in July 2015, work had just been completed on a prototype version of the device, with the eventual goal of installing whole arrays of larger production models. Here’s the rundown from BioPower Systems:

The unique bioWAVE device is a 26-meter tall oscillating structure designed to sway back-and-forth beneath the ocean swell, capturing energy from the waves and converting it into electricity that is fed into the grid via an undersea cable. The design was inspired by undersea plants and the entire device can lie flat on the seabed out of harm’s way during bad weather.

Apparently the deployment went smoothly despite powerful swells in the area (somewhat ironically, the best areas for wave energy generation pose the trickiest deployment issues):

bioWAVE wave energy

There will be a shakedown period before bioWAVE is producing electricity and connected to the grid, so we’ll keep an eye out for the news when that phase is complete.

Wave Power In The USA

If our US readers are wondering what the USA is doing with its abundant ocean energy resources, that’s coming along slowly. But, it’s coming.

One major project is the appropriately named WETS, an ocean energy test bed in Hawaii established several years ago by the US Navy, which was recently expanded. WETS got this mention in a November 30 update on the Navy’s considerable sustainable energy initiatives:

Navy and Marine Corps representatives gathered in February at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s (MCBH) Klipper Golf Course to bless the new wave energy test site (WETS) located in the waters off North Beach. This Navy-funded project plans to utilize wave power devices to extract energy from the surface-motion of ocean waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface.

In September, the Fred Olsen Lifesaver wave energy converter (WEC) received a special Hawaiian blessing at Kilo Pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH). The Lifesaver, considered one of the most sophisticated WECs on the market today, was developed in Norway by Fred Olsen Renewables and is deployed for offshore testing at the MCBH WETS site.

In case you’re wondering what Norway is doing in our test bed, WETS was designed to support private sector investment in new ocean energy technology by enabling companies to share a state-of-the-art test facility, so group hug US taxpayers.

CleanTechnica took note of the Fred Olson converter last year in a Bloomberg New Energy Finance critique of ocean energy investment, but it looks like the Navy has a different take on the topic.

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Images: via BioPower Systems.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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