Feasibility study launched for world-first Integrated Ocean Energy Marketplace in Albany

Headshot of Sarah Makse
Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
A concept image of the Ocean Energy Marketplace in Albany.
Camera IconA concept image of the Ocean Energy Marketplace in Albany. Credit: Australian Ocean Energy Group

Albany’s future as a global renewable energy technology hub has taken a significant step forward with the launch of a feasibility study into the development of a world-first integrated ocean energy marketplace in Albany.

The Australian Ocean Energy Group this month announced the launch of a feasibility study into how the first-of-its-kind Integrated Ocean Energy Marketplace could be delivered in two stages.

The feasibility study comes as part of a partnership between AOEG, the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre, the WA Government and the Albany-based UWA Marine Energy Research Australia.

In August, the State Government committed $1.55 million towards the MERA-led wave energy demonstration project, on top of $1.6m from the Blue Economy CRC, to design, deploy and operate a wave energy device in King George Sound.

The State funding injection came more than two years after the collapse of its $16m common-user infrastructure renewable wave energy project with Carnegie Clean Energy.

MERA centre manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling said works on the reduced-scale energy converter — dubbed a Moored Multi Modal Multibody or M4 — was progressing, with the project set to go to tender in about two months ahead of a scheduled deployment in King George Sound next year.

Marine Energy Research Australia centre manager Wiebke Ebeling with director Christophe Gaudin, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre research director Irene Penesis in Albany in August.
Camera IconMarine Energy Research Australia centre manager Wiebke Ebeling with director Christophe Gaudin, Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre research director Irene Penesis in Albany in August. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

“The M4 project is around designing, building, deploying, operating and commissioning a wave energy converter in King George Sound,” she said.

“And that is really the first foot in the door in making Albany an ocean energy and wave energy location.

“It hasn’t been done before in this location, so that will pave the way towards the bigger vision.”

The Integrated Ocean Energy Marketplace is set to be delivered in two stages — the first is a virtual marketplace and online learning space, and the second a physical marketplace in Albany.

The first stage is a digital platform, aiming to be a central source of information for ocean energy technology and research.

Through simulation, it would help end users discover and match with existing wave and tidal energy projects which they can implement.

The second stage would develop a physical marketplace in a location near Albany, showing technology in action and creating an ocean energy microgrid that would help customers see what global technology is available and how they can use it.

It would be an interactive hub, showing the benefits of switching to the renewable energy in a bid to reduce the barriers to accessing clean energy.

It would include an onshore education building; wind and wave energy converters; on and offshore solar; and storage and application technologies, including green hydrogen production, desalination capability and EV charging.

Dr Ebeling said the data collected from the M4 device in King George Sound would inform the feasibility study.

“While we are running the M4 project in parallel, the marketplace will go into its first phase which is this feasibility study and establish a digital twin,” she said.

“A virtual marketplace will bring together supply chains, technology developers and also customers to raise awareness of the different technologies that are available.

Marine Energy Research Centre manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling with the M4 model.
Camera IconMarine Energy Research Centre manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling with the M4 model. Credit: Supplied

“Not just the one we chose to deploy in King George Sound but also others that might suit other environments and other customers.”

Dr Ebeling said possible locations for the marketplace included the Albany Port near the historic pilot cottages or between Seal Rock Island and Albany’s Historic Whaling Station, the designated site for the M4 device.

The marketplace was “technology agnostic”, meaning it was about working with all companies to demonstrate the benefits of the renewable technology, Dr Ebeling said.

“It is effectively like this ethical salesperson showroom where customers and different technology options come together to really find a suitable match,” she said.

“And there is not this one solution fits all approach.

“What we want to do is feed that information out there so the entire sector can grow.

“We want to raise awareness of ocean energy as a value proposition, the consistency and predictability in the energy output, and really make sure people appreciate the diversity and technologies out there and the fact that they are suitable to different customers and environments.”

AOEG’s Stephanie Thornton said Australian energy markets were largely unaware of the benefits of integrating ocean energy with other renewables.

“We need to address this and raise the market’s awareness of the benefits of multi-purpose offshore energy parks that can optimise energy planning solutions as well as delivering low-carbon solutions to marine-based industries and communities,” she said.

“We’ve identified there are four main barriers to the adoption of ocean energy — awareness, accessibility, affordability and commercial project delivery.

“The IOEM project has been designed to address these challenges head-on and directly connect key end-users to technical solutions in development.”

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