In Mechanical Engineering

Renewable energy technology ready to make waves

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Frank Soto

In an Australian first, energy technology developed by Wave Swell Energy and SOTO engineers will soon be supplying a third form of renewable power to Tasmanian homes.

The wave energy unit, a 200-kilowatt demonstration version of Wave Swell Energy’s technology, was this month deployed for commissioning and testing at Grassy Harbour on Tasmania’s King Island.

The technology has been called a game-changer for renewable capabilities, and when connected to the grid, it will produce enough energy to power 200 homes. It also means that Tasmanian will have renewable energy coming from solar, wind, and wave sources.

The technology is based on the concept of a blowhole, where the generator captures waves in the chamber, forcing air upwards, which then spins a turbine to produce clean, renewable energy.

While other forms of wave energy generation have been trialled, the challenge has been balancing design complexity with energy harvesting efficiency. The blowhole design means the turbine spins only when the wave forces air up the chamber and rotates in one direction only.

The chamber design gathers maximum energy from each wave intake, while a single-direction turbine rotation reduces complexity and improves reliability.

After months of assembly and testing at Bell Bay, it was recently towed into the harbour, where it will sit on the seabed about 100 metres from shore in 5.75 metres of water.

ABC News Tasmania report.

The commissioning phase will test how the unit fares in the marine environment, where durability in rough conditions, accessibility for maintenance and repairs, and energy generation efficiency are critical criteria for validating the technology.

Wave Swell Energy expects the unit to be connected to Hydro Tasmania’s hybrid grid during the first quarter of this year.

SOTO engineers have been key players in helping the technology reach this significant milestone. Throughout the project, they have worked with the client and an overseas manufacturer for a prototype turbine, as well as solutions for the design, fabrication, and assembly of the turbine unit.

SOTO’s imaginative thinking encompassed the full context of the turbine unit, from its manufacture, transport and assembly, to producing a design that considered the operating environment, as well as ongoing maintenance requirements and safety of maintenance personnel.

SOTO’s contribution has demonstrated a capability to deliver engineering solutions for a range of industries, including rapidly developing renewable energy technology.

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