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The world’s first grid-connected wave energy plant in Western Australia: This is how it works

Installing wave generators off Perth. Image: Carnegie Wave Energy Limited

The world’s first grid-connected wave energy array is now pumping enough electricity to power between 1,500 to 2,000 households in Western Australia.

The system was switched on this week. At the moment, the Department of Defence buys all the wave power for use on Garden Island by HMAS Stirling, Australia’s largest naval base.

Carnegie Wave Energy says the Perth Wave Energy Project is the first grid connected wave power plant and the only one anywhere in the world operating multiple wave units.

A wave generator being floated into place. Image: Carnegie Wave Energy Limited

Carnegie’s CETO technology has been under development for approximately 10 years and has had some $100 million invested in its commercialisation.

The CSIRO, Australia’s peak science body, estimates that wave energy is at least three times more predictable than wind.

The system is different from other wave energy devices because it operates underwater where it is safer from large storms and invisible from the shore.

Buoys, tethered to seabed pump units, move with the motion of passing waves. This pushes along pressurised fluid to drive turbines and generators to produce electricity.

Here’s what the system looks like:

Carnegie CEO Michael Ottaviano says the project will soon also become the first wave power station in the world to produce both power and freshwater when a desalination plant on Garden Island is integrated.

This will allow zero-emission freshwater to be produced from the ocean’s waves at the same time as clean electricity.

The next stage, the CETO 6 project, will have a 1MW (1000kW) power capacity, some four times that of the current generation.

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