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Chinese-Australian alliance to bring ocean wave energy system to commercialization

Chinese industrial group Shanghai Electric Power Generation Group and Australian ocean energy company BioPower Systems are forming a strategic alliance for the commercialization of an ocean wave energy system.

“This alliance, between BioPower Systems and what is one of the largest diversified equipment manufacturing groups in China, intends to enable development of the “BioWAVE” to a commercial stage within a reasonable time frame,” said BioPower Systems chief executive officer Dr. Timothy Finnigan.

The BioWAVE is being developed for utility-scale power production by harnessing ocean waves. It is mounted on the seafloor with a pivot near the bottom supporting an array of buoyant floats. The floats sway and move with the ocean waves, and this motion is converted to energy.

BioPower system is in the middle of constructing a pilot demonstration project of the BioWAVE at Port Fairy, Victoria. A 250-kilowatt BioWAVE unit is to be trialed at a site located 850 meters from the shore in 30-meter-deep water. Installation is scheduled for late 2013.

Shanghai Electric will act as an observer during the Port Fairy project before becoming more technically involved in the development and operation of a 1-megawatt commercial scale BioWAVE system.

The Port Fairy pilot project is estimated to cost around $14 million. The project received funding support of $5 million from the Victorian Government’s Sustainable Energy Pilot Demonstration program.

Just this July, the Port Fairy project was one of two new projects sharing almost $10 million in Emerging Renewables Program funding from the Australian government. Port Fairy got $5.6 million while Oceanlinx Limited received $4 million for a wave energy project off the coast of South Australia.

According to minister for resources and energy Martin Ferguson, the Australian government has now contributed close to $20 million to new energy technologies.

“This makes us one of the world’s largest supporters of wave energy with a diverse range of technologies in development,” said Mr. Ferguson.

Australia is considered one of the best areas in the world for wave energy. In 2010, the Australian commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization estimated that the Southern Australian margin – including the coast of Victoria – could produce most of Australia’s energy needs.

Specifically, the research organization concluded that by converting and harnessing only 10 percent of the region’s wave energy potential, 130 terawatt-hours a year or half Australia’s annual energy consumption can be generated. – Katrice R. Jalbuena

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