Engerati’s Week In Energy – Is The Marine Environment The Next Energy Frontier?

Published: Tue 10 Mar 2015
A blog entry by Jonathan Spencer Jones

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Jonathan Spencer Jones
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In the last two weeks we have published several marine related stories. Among these is the coming into operation of the world’s first grid-connected wave array off Australia’s west coast, and the approval of plans to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm out in the North Sea. [First Grid-Connected Wave Energy Array Operates In Australia and Offshore Windfarms Set To Reach New Levels]

The two technologies are at different stages of development with the wave array in demonstration and the wind project based on tested technologies. However, both are at the cutting edge in terms of their scope. Wave and other forms of marine energy have lagged the development of other renewables, principally because of the difficulty of harnessing these energies, and indeed a number of challenges still need to be overcome (which we will cover in a forthcoming review). Offshore wind on the other hand, has followed the development of onshore wind, so the developmental transition has been more straightforward, but in terms of scale there have been few onshore wind farms of over 1GW, let alone offshore.

Both of these resources clearly have significant potential and they also avoid issues such as siting with shore-based renewables. They also tend to be more predictable, with wave energy being estimated by the CSIRO at least three times more predictable than wind while offshore wind tends to be more predictable and both steadier and stronger than onshore wind. Nevertheless, the marine environment is extremely harsh and how these technologies stand up to a 20-year-plus lifetime remains to be seen. At least modern smart remote monitoring solutions will help to ensure that their lifetimes are maximized.

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