The AUSTEn tidal energy project is mapping Australia’s tidal energy resource in unprecedented detail – assessing its economic feasibility and ability to contribute to our nation’s energy needs. Co-funded by the ARENA Advancing Renewables Program, this collaborative effort between the Australian Maritime College and research and industry partners will aid our emerging tidal industry in development of eventual commercial-scale projects.
Since the AUSTEn project began its work on one of Australia’s largest tidal energy projects, the 11-strong team has carried out two field campaigns, mapped 200 square kilometres of sea floor, and generated numerical models covering scales from the 15-kilometre-wide Banks Strait to the entire nation.
The Clarence Strait
A promising tidal energy site in the Clarence Strait – 50 kilometres north of Darwin – was mapped by the AUSTEn project during a week-long field campaign in May. To help understand the site’s suitability for tidal energy extraction, factors like tidal speeds, bathymetry, water temperature and seabed composition were characterised.
A multi-criteria assessment pointed to the Clarence Strait as a promising location for tidal projects – including predicted powerful tides, proximity to electricity grids, and nearby energy demand. Initial measurements support predictions that the Clarence Strait shows a lot of promise for tidal energy development.
The Banks Strait
In braving the Banks Strait, 28 days have been spent on board vessels to collect data from 10 locations. These expeditions have set out to gather data needed to determine the tidal energy potential of the Banks Strait – a narrow channel above Tasmania’s north-east coast that connects the Bass Strait with the Tasman Sea.
The team has deployed instruments to measure the strength and rhythm of ocean currents and turbulence, as well as collect environmental parameters – like water temperature and sediment characteristics – to help assess the site for deploying tidal energy devices. They have also studied the bathymetry of the sea floor, which is important for conducting a geotechnical analysis of the site and for numerical models.
AOEG is particularly enthusiastic about outcomes of the AUSTEn project, as they provide considerable benefits to the tidal energy industry, strategic-level decision makers in the Australian energy sector and the management of Australian marine resources, by helping everyone understand the resource, risks and opportunities available.
Go to the AUSTEn website for more information on the project’s latest updates.