There is much to discover for divers around King Island in Tasmania. More than sixty sunken shipwrecks have already been found there. They are a testament to the power that the waves can unleash around the small island. This is exactly what Australian company Wave Swell Energy (WSE) now wants to take advantage of. The group’s engineers have developed a special wave power plant for this purpose, which has now been extensively tested in the straits between Tasmania and the Australian mainland. After about a year it can be said that the approach actually seems to work. On average, the company was able to convert about 48 percent of the energy supplied by the waves into usable electricity. In good wave conditions, this was enough to supply about 200 houses. In fact, it is the first time in Australian history that a wave power plant actually supplies electricity to the public grid on a permanent.
Negative pressure replaces direct contact with seawater
The installation, which is somewhat reminiscent of a bunker, is based on a new method of generating electricity. The waves therefore do not directly drive a generator. Instead, they flush water into a concrete chamber, which then flows out again. This creates a vacuum, which in turn drives a turbine. The major advantage of this approach: the important components do not come into direct contact with the seawater. On the one hand, this simplifies the design – for example, because the turbine only needs to rotate in one direction. At the same time, it also causes less damage. In the past, many ideas for wave and tidal power plants have failed because the enormous powers of the sea were underestimated. Important parts were therefore repeatedly destroyed and had to be repaired at great expense. Here, on the other hand, the water only ends up on solid concrete, which should actually be able to withstand the pressure well.
Waves can generate green electricity 24/7
In addition, it can be ensured that no animals are harmed. However, the production of the now tested system cost an impressive twelve million dollars. The electricity produced is therefore sustainable, but not particularly cheap. This could change with the construction of larger factories. In fact, WSE is already working on another wave power plant that uses the same technology, but is said to be able to produce about five times more electricity. In theory, the system could then be used worldwide. There have already been initial requests from interested companies. Specific locations have not yet been communicated. Especially the fact that it is a renewable energy source that supplies power around the clock should be attractive. In theory, it is therefore a supplement to the rather fluctuating wind and solar energy.