A study by the CSIRO has found that the waves in the ocean could supply about 10% of Australia’s electricity by 2050. This is equivalent to powering a city the size of Melbourne.
The report, "Ocean Renewable Energy: 2015-2050", concludes that the areas that could benefit from ocean energy technology include Perth, the southern coastline and to a lesser extent the east coast of Australia. Tidal technology could supply niche areas.
Wave energy has the greatest potential for Australia. The southern coastline of Australia has the greatest wave resource because strong Southern Ocean winds generate consistently large waves which travel northwards to Australia’s southern coastline. The large consistent swell provides ideal conditions for wave energy production.
Australia’s east coast also provides a consistent, although not as large, wave energy resource.
Tidal energy could supply very specific areas, notably the Kimberley region and Banks Strait off Tasmania.
Ocean currents off the east coast of Australia are a potential resource but the technology to make generator blades large enough and strong enough is still being developed and the location of greatest current flow can move many kilometres.
There may be a niche opportunity to use ocean thermal energy for the supply of local electricity off the coast of far north Queensland but the technology for this is unproven.
The study warns that any economic, technological, environmental and societal challenges will determine the place of wave energy in Australia’s future energy mix.