Marine power uses the oceans’ tides, currents or waves to produce electricity.
There are areas of significant wave energy potential, particularly in the south west of the state, and a limited number of locations where there is tidal energy potential.
Snapshot of the technology
There are a number of different technologies currently being developed to capture marine energy:
- Tidal energy can be captured from the flooding and ebbing tide through the use of either tidal turbines or tidal barrage systems. There are a large number of different tidal technologies.
- Wave energy can use floating buoys, platforms, or submerged devices placed in deep water to generate electricity from the motion of the ocean’s waves.
The share of tide, wave and ocean energy in comparison to the world’s overall primary energy consumption is currently very small.
Large scale tidal energy has been in use for some time – a 240 megawatt plant was opened in 1966 in France. But tidal energy has not spread widely and there are very few plants in operation today.
Wave is a comparatively new technology. The first commercial wave generator in the world only started operating in 2008. It is 2.25 megawatts in size – roughly the same capacity as one large wind turbine.
However, interest in marine energy is growing. A number of large-scale commercial operations using both wave and tidal technologies have been proposed and a 520 megawatt tidal plant is being built in South Korea.
Status of the marine power industry in Victoria
Australia has had four recently developed wave and tidal power generation units at the demonstration stage. All these units have a small capacity of less than 0.5 megawatts.
In Victoria, this includes a unit in Portland, and a 150 kilowatt tidal device at Phillip Island. Ocean Power Technologies were successful in obtaining Australian Government funding for a 19 megawatt pre-commercial demonstration wave energy project at Portland.
The future for marine energy
The scope for wave and tidal technologies to deliver power to Victoria has yet to be determined, but it is unlikely to be a major contributor in the short to medium term.
As a new technology, a lot of work still needs to be done before wave power can be widely deployed at a commercial scale. This task is made all the more challenging by the harsh marine environment.
It is also important to ensure marine power can be applied with consideration to the impacts to the environment and existing commercial or recreational marine activities.
Marine Energy Policy
The Victorian Government is committed to enabling development of new renewable energy industries and sustainably managing the state’s marine and coastal environments. To achieve this, a comprehensive policy for marine energy is under development in Victoria. For more information visit the DSE website