Labor defends $20 million wave energy farm proposal

Gareth ThomasAlbany Advertiser

A proposal to transition Albany into a city completely powered by renewable energy sources has received a scathing assessment from the Energy minister who said it lacked “any credibility” despite the project being backed by a global leader in wave farm technology.

Mike Nahan returned serve following Labor’s announcement to invest $19.5 million in the development of infrastructure to allow Carnegie Clean Energy to construct a wave energy farm off the coast of Albany.

Mr Nahan said the “plan lacks any credibility” and “it doesn’t even explain how many Mega Watts this power station will deliver”.

“Labor needs to explain how much energy will be generated, what the impact on edge-of-grid network security and reliability will be, and when the project will be up and running and delivering power to the people of Albany,” he said.

Carnegie managing director Mike Ottaviano confirmed a 1mw generator was planned for the initial stages and that could be upgraded to 20mw with private investment with 100mw being achievable given the swell conditions of the South Coast.

Mr Nahan also said Labor had to explain how they planned to pay for the project.

WA Labor leader Mark McGowan said Mr Nahan was fully aware the project was already fully funded with money once budgeted for the now shelved Bunbury to Albany gas pipeline.

“The project is funded and Mr Nahan knows it – his claims are false,” he said.

“Despite Mr Nahan's scaremongering, we have always said that transmission lines will remain.”

Mr Nahan went on to criticise the Labor Party’s renewable targets and said a 50 per cent target was predicted to cost the WA economy $8.4 billion.

“Mark McGowan needs to tell voters how he will pay for that without significantly jacking up household electricity bills,” Mr Nahan said.

“Labor’s 50 per cent renewables target by 2030 would mean the death of the coal industry … that’s 1938 direct jobs that would be at risk in Collie under Labor.”

Mr McGowan denied that WA Labor had a renewable energy target and said the Albany wave energy project would create new jobs.

“Albany will become a renewable energy city and will lead the way in renewables in this State, creating hundreds of jobs for Western Australians.”

Mr Ottaviano told the Advertiser its plans for a project off Sandpatch, west of Albany, would move ahead with an underwater study if a WA Labor government is elected on March 11.

“We’ve been trying to work up a wave energy project in Albany for a long time,” he said.

“We’ve done sight surveys, we’ve done geophysical surveys, wave resource mapping, and there’s good connectivity.”

The company found Albany had one of the most consistent wave resources in the world, producing swell of more than 1m 99.7 per cent of the time.

“It’s been our opinion for a long time that Albany is the best location in the world for a wave farm,” Mr Ottaviano said.

“We don’t say that lightly, because we’ve done a lot of work globally on wave energy now.

“We’ve got island locations and a site in the UK and we’ve got £10 million ($16.2 million) in funding there, but the combination of the characteristics of Albany really do make it second to none.”

Labor announcement to develop “common user infrastructure” in Albany for energy companies to develop renewable energy if elected next month would allow Carnegie, and potential other generators, to connect to the existing grid.

“We would very much like to be deploying our commercial generation of technology at Albany … but for first generation of renewable power that requires investment from Government,” Mr Ottaviano said.

“What Labor is proposing is the sort of Government support required to unlock a wave farm at Albany.”

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