Waves Can Power Australia's Future


"The country is one of the developed world's top carbon emitters."

Waves crashing on to Australia's southern shores each year contain enough energy to power the country three times over, scientists said Tuesday in a study that underscores the scale of Australia's green energy.

The research comes as the nation is struggling to wean itself of years of using cheap, polluting coal to power the economy and to put a price on carbon emissions.

Oceanographers Mark Hemer and David Griffin from the state-funded research body CSIRO examined how wave energy propagates across the continental shelf and how much is lost. The aim—to quantify the amount of annual energy and determine its reliability.

The government has passed laws that mandate 20% renewable electricity generation by 2020, and wind power is likely to make up the bulk of the green energy investment.

"So what we're saying is that we can achieve that target if we harness 10% of the available wave energy resource," Hemer said.

Hemer and Griffin used complex computer models to map how the energy in the waves attenuates near the shore. "Averaged over the whole year, Australia's southern coastline has a sustained wave energy resource of 146 gigawatts (1,329 terawatt-hours/year)," the researchers say in their study, or 3x Australia's total installed generation capacity.

The government, facing an election on Saturday, is under pressure to put a price on planet-warming carbon emissions and further boost investment in cleaner energy.

The country is one of the developed world's top carbon emitters and relies on coal to generate about 80% of its electricity.

Hemer and Griffin's work has created a series of maps of the coastline that helps wave power investors find the right sites and design projects that can cope with calm and stormy conditions and how frequent these might be.

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