Australian tidal energy to be mapped in $5.85m project

A new ARENA-funded study will explore the future potential of tidal energy in Australia.

The three-year project – Tidal Energy in Australia – Assessing Resource and Feasibility in Australia’s Future Energy Mix – will map the country’s tidal energy resource in unprecedented detail.

The $5.85 million project, led by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania, in partnership with CSIRO, the University of Queensland and industry partners, will create an online atlas mapping tidal energy nationwide to the nearest 500 metres.

The project will also involve a full feasibility study of two high potential sites, and modelling of existing tidal energy devices at these sites.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Irene Penesis said this survey would overcome current barriers to investment in commercial­-scale tidal farms in Australia.

“With some of the largest tides in the world, Australia is ideal for this extremely reliable and low­carbon form of energy,” Associate Professor Penesis said.

“But potential investors are currently held back by a lack of detailed information on tidal resources that would help them understand the risks and opportunities available.

“This project will address this knowledge gap and provide the information that developers need to deploy their technology in the most energetic tidal sites in Australia.”

ARENA chief executive officer Ivor Frischknecht said the project would help unlock the potential of tidal energy to contribute to Australia’s energy needs.

“This research will help Australia to better understand tidal energy and help to maximise renewable energy into the market,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Ocean energy technologies are in their early stages of development. With ARENA’s help, we hope to see exciting steps forward being made in understanding the benefits of tidal energy.”

Tidal energy is generated by harnessing the movement of tides. Tides contain both potential energy, related to the vertical fluctuations in sea level, as well as kinetic energy, related to ocean currents.

A modern tidal generator works much like an underwater wind turbine, harnessing the current created by the tide.

Four industry partners OpenHydro, Protean Wave Energy, MAKO Tidal Turbines and BioPower Systems will make financial contributions and provide the researchers with proprietary information on their tidal energy devices, as well as commercial implementation know­how.