Image for Harnessing the Ocean’s Energy

*Pic: A vigorous swell of raw-earth energy pounds the Tarkine’s coastline – pic Ted Mead

Bombora’s prototype wave energy converter.  - Design artwork - Bombora

First published March 23

Wave energy may soon be a new player in our renewable energy supply thanks to Bombora, a techno wave energy company based in Perth, Western Australia. Bombora’s ingenuity has devised a revolutionary new conversion system that transforms ocean waves into renewable energy called the mWave.

To date, wave energy conversion to renewable power has commercially fallen behind the rapidly expanding solar and wind markets, yet new technology is pushing ahead to make wave energy cost competitive within our renewable energy markets by 2020.

According to Bombora’s executive director Shawn Ryan “10 percent of the world’s energy could be derived from waves”

Bombora’s device has generated keen national and global interest, and the company has recently launched a project to construct and install its first 1.5MW commercial-scale mWave.

What happens beneath the waves

Wave energy is an appealing source of energy due to it abundance and predictability. Considering that each cubic metre of water weighs a tonne, then a wave movement is an immensely strong force that should be harnessed. It has long been considered too expensive to build structures in the ocean that can withstand such forces. Research has revealed that more than 80 percent of wave energy is accessible 10 metres below the ocean’s surface, and that is where Bombora’s technology has come into its own.

Bombora’s mWave captures wave pressure from the sea floor, enabling a simpler and more cost-effective design. It comprises a concrete structure that rests on the sea floor and features a series of air-inflated rubber membranes arranged at an angle to the incoming waves. As waves pass over the device, the air inside the membranes is squeezed into a central duct and through a turbine, which spins a generator to produce electricity. The air is then recycled to reinflate the membranes, ready for the next wave.

Each full-scale Bombora mWave has the potential to supply sustainable electricity to 350 homes.

The West Australia initiative

Although natural gas supplies more than 50% of the state’s energy, the Western Australian government has recently announced plans to establish a $19.5 million state funded Wave Energy Centre of Excellence in Albany. This will include a wave energy demonstration project, and the creation of a supporting research hub. The Wave Energy Centre will combine the Western Australia University and renewable industry interest to progress wave power technology with an aim to transform Albany into Australia’s first renewable energy city.

There are essentially no days when the sun, wind or sea, are not releasing energy. Solar and wind renewable energy have attracted a huge amount of investment globally as they are have now become competitively cheaper and faster to construct or integrate than fossil fuel sources. Wave power is the next key energy source in the transition away from fossil fuels.

Australia has approximately 35,000 kilometres of coastline, and the availability to harness this energy source is extensive.

Wave energy development is an initiative well worthy of support ...

*Ted Mead has been sceptical about wave energy in the past, not because of the concept, but more about the pragmatic problems of establishing something requiring low maintenance that would operate in a high-energy field. The mWave appears to have dramatically refined wave energy force issues, and may pave a niche somewhere in the renewable energy field.  Ted believes the marketing potential for such technology is not overly convincing when compared to a non-mechanical photovoltaic panel, though he does supports the mWave initiative strongly.