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Australia looks to ocean waves for energy

Aug. 17, 2010 at 7:14 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Researchers say ocean waves off the southern coast of Australia have the potential to generate as much as half of the country's current electricity needs.

Interest is growing in wave energy as a viable source of renewable electricity generation as the world faces dwindling fossil fuels supplies, an American Institute of Physics release said Monday.

Wave-energy developers, however, face the problem that all previous estimates of wave-energy potential were based on data from deep ocean waters, while "wave-energy generation systems are typically positioned near to shore," Australian physical oceanographer Mark Hemer says.

In a journal article, Hemer and his colleagues have made new estimates of the wave-energy potential of Australia's southern near-shore regions, and have calculated what percentage of the country's energy needs could be supplied by wave energy alone.

Hemer says if 10 percent of the near-shore wave energy available along Australia's Southern coastline could be converted into electricity, it could meet half of the country's present-day annual electricity consumption of 130,000 gigawatt-hours.

Wave energy offers a "massive resource" to contribute to the Australian Government's aim of producing 45,000 gigawatt-hours a year of additional renewable energy before 2020, Hemer said.

"Convert 10 percent of available wave energy from a 1000-km stretch in this area to electricity, " Hemer says, and "the quota could be achieved by wave energy alone."

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