Disconnect on wave power

Talitha WolfeAlbany Advertiser

A wave energy farm planned off Albany’s coast has hit a major snag, with the State Government unable to confirm how the energy generated will connect to the power grid.

As part of a Labor election commitment, $15.75 million was announced to fund a wave energy project at Sandpatch, able to produce 1MW of power, enough to power about 200 homes.

In a media statement from Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan in October last year, the Government said the wave farm would feed power into the South West energy grid.

At the same time, Ms MacTiernan announced Carnegie Clean Energy had won the tender for the wave energy project.

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However, Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by Member for Warren-Blackwood Terry Redman and viewed by the Albany Advertiser have revealed that wave energy infrastructure would be unable to connect to the local Albany-Grasmere Wind Farm substation for transfer into South West Interconnected System because of capacity issues.

In an email chain from August between Synergy and Treasurer and Minister for Energy Ben Wyatt’s office, Synergy expressed concerns about assumptions during the project’s expression of interest phase that the Albany Wave Farm would connect to the wind farm substation.

“Our advice to date, and what it will continue to be in the future, is that connection via an Albany-Grasmere Wind Farm substation is not possible due to current capacity issues,” the email said.

“Curtailing exiting wind turbine generation in order to accommodate a wave energy project is also not an option.”

Synergy also raised issues of commercial viability.

“There seems to be an expectation that Synergy will enter into an offtake agreement with the successful proponents ... unfortunately, as there has been no consultation with Synergy ... we have been flying a bit blind...” the documents said.

Synergy has since confirmed there have been no discussions to procure any energy from the facility.

Mr Wyatt said the Albany wave power project was primarily for research and technology development.

“The Albany Wave Project is an exciting pilot project that will investigate how we may make the most of wave resources to generate another clean energy alternative,” he said.

“However, I will not direct the Synergy board to enter into any arrangements that do not provide value for money to the taxpayer.

“Decisions around how the project will connect to the SWIS will be ongoing as the project develops, and these discussions between Carnegie, Western Power and the State Government will continue.”

The Albany wave project will include the installation of the common user infrastructure which will become available to other wave energy developers, after the 12-month trial of Carnegie’s CET06 energy device.

Mr Redman expressed his concerns about the cost of the project.

“This seems an extraordinary high price to pay, especially when the average annual needs of Albany are 45 megawatts per year,” he said.

“The deal struck with Carnegie basically says they can spend $16 million of tax payer’s money, generate 1 megawatt of energy for one year and then leave.”

A Western Power spokesman said it was working on a feasibility study for how the proposed wave energy farm would connect to the network in the Albany region.

Carnegie Clean Energy were contacted for comment.

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