How Australia could harness its energy tides

Harnessing Australia's tides for energy

Among those exploiting this tidal potential is Mako Energy, based in Sydney. The company manufactures submarine turbines between two and four meters in diameter. A turbine operating in constantly flowing water can produce enough electricity to power up to 20 homes.

Their design allows them to generate electricity even in low flow waters, which means they could be used in rivers and irrigation canals as well as in the ocean.

“We are developing turbines on a scale where they can be easily deployed in remote communities, coastal businesses, island communities and resorts,” Douglas Hunt, general manager of Mako Energy, told CNN Business.

Although tidal power is still in its infancy, it could help reduce Australia’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“Most of the energy on the national grid comes from coal,” said Jenny Hayward, a researcher at the Australian National Science Agency, CSIRO. “We also have wind and solar photovoltaic energy [photovoltaic]. ”

Renewable energy accounted for only 6% of Australia’s primary energy consumption and 17% of its electricity production during the 2017-2018 fiscal year, by country Department of the Environment and Energy. This is partly because Australia has abundant and inexpensive coal resources.
But renewable energy is growing and Australia has increased its wind power production by 20% and solar 23% this year.
The island nation is only beginning to explore tidal energy through a number of pilot projects. But this form of energy has a major advantage: its predictability. While the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, the sea moves in predictable tidal currents.

Make tidal energy accessible

Large tidal power systems can be expensive to install. The world’s largest tidal power station, at Lake Sihwa in South Korea, cost almost $ 300 million to be built in 2011.

A Mako turbine costs between $ 20,000 and $ 70,000, depending on the power supplied and the location.

Until now, Mako’s customers have been mainly large industrial and government sites, but it wishes to make its turbines accessible to large and small energy consumers.

“Tidal turbines exist, but the challenge has been to build them profitably,” said Hunt.

Cutting costs means the turbines could be accessible to everyone, from coal-fired power plants looking to add green energy to their operations, to off-grid coastal communities.

Offshore wind could power the world

“It is built on a scale where individuals are readily available for maintenance without teams of experts,” said Hunt. This means that a community, business or household with access to running water could produce their own electricity and maintain their turbines locally.

“We want to contribute to an energy mix less dependent on fossil fuels, by enabling businesses and local communities to generate their own electricity from a predictable and abundant source that is hidden from view – often flowing directly in front of communities” says Hunt. .

While the potential of tidal power may seem as vast as the ocean, there are challenges to overcome. CSIRO Notes that “the size of this resource has not been sufficiently quantified.” One 2017 EU report highlights a lack of research on the possible effects of tidal power installations on marine life, and another considers that high construction costs constitute an obstacle to the deployment of tidal energy in the world.
The Australian government is currently investing in various ocean energy projects. He indicates that this will allow decision-makers to better understand how tidal and wave energy can contribute to the country’s energy mix.


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