Photo: Sofar Ocean wave buoy at King George Sound, Albany (Courtesy of Wave Energy Research Centre)

Australia launches wave energy demonstrator set to power aquaculture farms

The Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has launched the M4 demonstrator project offshore Western Australia to showcase the region’s potential for using wave energy to power the local aquaculture industry.

Photo showing Sofar Ocean wave buoy at King George Sound, Albany (Courtesy of Wave Energy Research Centre)
Sofar Ocean wave buoy provides real-time ocean conditions data from the designated wave energy site at King George Sound, Albany (Courtesy of Wave Energy Research Centre)

The University of Western Australia’s Wave Energy Research Centre, with headquarters in Albany, is leading the Au$4.8 million ($3.5 million) marine innovation project on the Great Southern coast.

The project – nicknamed M4 and short for ‘Moored MultiModal Multibody’ – is jointly supported by the Western Australian Government and the Blue Economy CRC.

The name M4 describes the wave attenuator technology developed by the Wave Energy Research Centre’s long-standing collaborators at the University of Manchester in UK.

M4 wave device design (Courtesy of Wave Energy Research Centre)
M4 wave device design (Courtesy of Wave Energy Research Centre)

By deploying a small prototype M4, studded with scientific instruments and sensors, in Albany’s outer harbour at King George Sound, for several months, the University of Western Australia’s research teams at the Albany and Perth campuses will learn how this technology performs in various ocean conditions and how it could supply clean energy to nearby aquaculture operations.

Christophe Gaudin from the University of Western Australia said: “We are looking forward to supporting the development of innovative wave technology, showcasing the region’s excellent wave resource that is unparalleled, and how it can play an important role in novel renewable energy microgrid solutions for sustainable aquaculture.

“What this project really promises to do for Australia’s ocean renewable energy industry is to openly map the whole process including permitting, supply chains, risks, operational costs – while these aspects tend to be sensitive in commercial projects”.

John Whittington, chief executive officer of the Blue Economy CRC, added: “The Blue Economy CRC is excited to bring together a team drawn from industry, government and universities to advance the technological and commercial readiness of the M4 wave energy converter.

“Offshore aquaculture presents one pathway to market for this technology, and through working with our aquaculture partners, look forward to the realisation of further integration capabilities”.

Project partners include the University of Western Australia, WA Government Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, BMT, M4 WavePower, Huon Aquaculture, Albany Shellfish Hatchery, University of Tasmania, University of Queensland and Climate-KIC.

The project will include a feasibility study with the industry-led Australian Ocean Energy Group to develop the ocean wave energy market demonstration site in Albany that links customers with a suitable renewable energy microgrid solution.

To remind, the Wave Energy Research Centre was established in early 2018 to grow a new knowledge hub in ocean renewable energy that would put Albany on the world map for research, industry engagement, community outreach and regional impact.