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Great Southern businesses needed to help deliver new wave-energy converter in King George sound

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Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
The wave-energy converter will be delployed off King George Sound. INSET: Marine Energy Research Australia centre manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling with a model of the M4 wave attenuator.
Camera IconThe wave-energy converter will be delployed off King George Sound. INSET: Marine Energy Research Australia centre manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling with a model of the M4 wave attenuator. Credit: Supplied

The search is on for Great Southern businesses capable of delivering a new wave-energy converter in King George Sound, set to be a key test of how local industry can support Albany’s planned growth into a globally renowned “wave energy superpower”.

The Albany-based UWA Marine Energy Research Australia is working to deliver a $3.47 million reduced-scale wave energy converter — dubbed a Moored Multi Modal Multibody or M4 — near Seal Island.

Funded by the Blue Economy CRC, WA Government and UWA, the two-armed wave attenuator is designed to gather important data on Albany’s ocean conditions and its potential to produce significant renewable energy.

“What makes it very different to other wave energy projects internationally, is that it is not commercial and that means that everything we learn, everything we do in preparation, gets made publicly available,” MERA centre manager Dr Wiebke Ebeling said.

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If the trial is a success, it could accelerate the commercialisation of wave energy technology in WA and could be built on a bigger scale with the potential to sustain the Albany aquaculture industry.

“This is a device that has never been built before — this has never been done anywhere in the world,” Dr Ebeling said.

The M4 wave attenuator.
Camera IconThe M4 wave attenuator. Credit: Marine Energy Research Australia

The data gathered from the M4 will be an important component of an ongoing feasibility study into the development of a world-first integrated ocean energy marketplace in Albany.

Dr Ebeling said the team was working through the structural engineering of the M4 device, while an environmental assessment of the deployment site was in progress.

The environmental surveys include the gathering of high-resolution imagery and videos to identify the density and species of seagrass in the area and how it could affect the design of the device’s anchor.

Earlier this month, MERA held its first business briefing to outline what was needed needed for the construction, deployment, operation and decommissioning of the device, ahead of a request for tenders in January 2023.

Dr Ebeling said identifying the businesses available locally to build and deploy the M4 project would inform its final design.

She said it would be a way to identify the services in the Great Southern that would help the region become a world-leading location for the manufacturing, testing and deployment of wave energy technology.

“We don’t just want to get generic businesses from Perth or interstate running this operation,” she said.

“We want to maximise input from the local supply chain because ultimately Albany — internationally — is the best place to be for wave energy.

“We now really have to make sure from an industry and from an auxiliary services point of view we can actually do this, we can actually supply the demand for this kind of industry.

“Even for those businesses that might not have an immediate contract coming up as part of the M4, we need to really map out what our capabilities are regionally.

“Because once the M4 has been successful and we attract more attention to wave energy in Albany, there might be other commercial companies moving into this space and we need those services and the supply chain ready.”

Dr Ebeling said supply chain and labour issues had pushed out the project timeline, with the device now set to be built by June 2023, and ready for deployment from October 2023 to March 2024.

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