Q. Explain what sort of company Wave Swell Energy is and what you are trying to achieve?
• WSE is an Australian company with a unique technology
to generate electricity using the energy contained in ocean
waves. The technology was developed and refined over 20
years by Dr Tom Denniss.
• Using WSE technology, we want to establish the lowest-cost renewable energy in the world within five years. Our dream is to see WSE’s technology contributing to the global requirement for cheap, clean green energy and for Australia to be playing a key role.
Q. How do you actually extract the energy from the ocean waves and what is so good about wave energy?
• The wave energy generator runs on the principle of an artificial
blowhole: a wave flows into a wide hollow cavity inside the
device, forcing air out through valves at the top of the unit.
As the wave subsides, these valves close and the resulting
vacuum sucks air through a turbine, generating electricity.
• Wave energy is good because it is clean – using it will create no pollution. And it is good because there is an almost inexhaustible supply of it in the world’s oceans – more than twice mankind’s global energy consumption.
• In addition, wave energy is the most predictable source of renewable energy. While energy production from wind and solar can be intermittent and unpredictable, we are able to calculate wave height and intensity up to a week ahead. This is useful when the WSE generator is used to complement an existing fossil-fuel energy supply, so that wave energy is considered complementary baseline power.
Q. Are there other wave-energy generation technologies out there? What makes yours unique?
Yes, there are other wave-energy generation technologies
on the market, but none of them are as efficient as the WSE
device. Previous wave-energy technologies have failed because
they are not cost competitive. WSE’s technology is competitive
with fossil fuel energy and does not rely on government
• The operation of many other wave-energy devices takes place underwater, which leaves them exposed to the corrosive and damaging effects of saltwater and makes them difficult to maintain or repair. The only part of the WSE device that is underwater is the concrete structure; the turbine and the generator are kept above the waterline, meaning there is less maintenance and any servicing can be carried out without the need for scuba equipment.
• Research by the Australian Maritime College (AMC), a specialist institute of the University of Tasmania, has demonstrated the WSE device is 121% more efficient than other similar wave-energy generation devices. That gives it a significant commercial advantage over other renewable-energy devices and will lead to cheaper power.
• The expected cost of energy production using WSE technology is 10 cents per kilowatt hour, which makes it comparable with new coal power. This cost will fall further in coming years.
Q. Have you had anyone independently verify the claims you are making about the WSE wave generation device?
• Yes. The Australian Maritime College (AMC) (part of the
University of Tasmania and a centre of excellence in the field
of maritime engineering) independently tested our technology
and confirmed it produces 60% more power than other
comparable wave-energy technologies.
• The AMC is a world-leader in maritime technology research and has tested a large number of different marine renewable energy technologies from around the world. It refers to the WSE technology as “one of the best, if not the best” of all marine renewable energy technologies in the world.
Q. How big are these wave energy generators and what will they cost to build?
• The devices measure 20 metres by 20 metres and are 18
metres tall. Of this, only 8 metres projects above the waterline.
• To build the first generator will cost about $5.5 million.
Q. What is WSE’s current project?
• WSE is finalising details for a WSE wave-energy device to be
located just off King Island. It will be operational by the middle
• The King Island device is an exciting and world-leading project that will feed power into the King Island power grid. WSE is in the final stages of negotiating an offtake agreement with Hydro Tasmania for the power generated by the device.
Q. Why have you decided on King Island?
• King Island has an excellent wave climate and is currently
heavily reliant on fossil fuel power at the times when wind and
sun are not adequate to produce the required power.
• Also, Hydro Tasmania has a strong presence on King Island and this is a great opportunity for WSE to work with a world leader in sustainable power. It is the perfect opportunity for WSE to demonstrate the commercial strengths of its technology.
Q. How do you intend to fund building these generators?
• WSE is currently raising $12 million which will be used to build, deploy and commission the King Island device and in turn develop a global project pipeline.
Q. What comes next for WSE?
• Once WSE has the King Island generator in place in mid-2018
and we are successfully feeding electricity into the King Island
power grid, we expect a major energy company or other
industry player will want to get involved either through a trade
sale, a partial sale or a partnership agreement.
• That will be the first step in the broader commercialisation of WSE’s wave-energy generation technology.
Q. How is renewable energy paid for?
• Renewable energy certificates (RECs) are tradable, non- tangible energy commodities that represent proof that 1 megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource (renewable electricity) and was fed into the national (or other qualifying) grid. Eligible generators of renewable energy receive a payment for each REC, in addition to the price they would otherwise receive. In Australia at present, this price is approximately $87 per MWh.
Q. Why is diesel power used in Hawaii if its so expensive – why don’t they use coal?
• The Hawaiian electricity infrastructure has been set up to use diesel. Converting to coal via the construction of new coal-fired power plants, plus the expense of developing the shipping and port facilities to transport coal to the various islands, is forbidding.
Q. Will WSE build giant moulds and then simply mass produce by adding wet concrete and steel reinforcing arrays?
• Not quite as the question implies, but, yes, in general the process will involve reusable moulds and other infrastructure which will greatly reduce the cost of each subsequent unit constructed at that location.
Q. Was all the IP in WSE transferred by the inventors when original shares in WSE were issued?
• Yes, all the IP is contained in WSE.
Q. Does WSE have to invent smarts to control stable electricity flow and voltage to the grid – or is the same “black box” that is now used by wind energy?
• These “smarts” have already been developed (some aspects are currently being fine-tuned for the King Island project) and will essentially be used as a ‘black box’ in future projects. In some cases ‘tweaks’ may be required to ensure compliance with local electrical grid requirements.
Q. Won’t it be noisy when the waves crash into the interior of the box?
• The WSE generation units will be located far enough out to sea that no noise will be heard from shore.
Q. Will there be low frequency sound wave (windfarm) syndrome?
• The only low frequency sounds will be in sync with the periodic noise of the waves. This will not be heard from shore over the sound of the waves breaking on the beaches and headlands. A higher frequency sound will be emitted by the turbine, but this has been independently measured at around 74 dB; equivalent to a household vacuum cleaner. Similarly, this will not be heard from shore.
Q. What about ocean debris getting inside the chamber, like a pallet or shipping container? Or even plastic and styrene fouling up the workings?
• If it floats on the surface, it will be virtually impossible for such an object to enter the chamber, as it will need to be forced a few metres underwater in order to do so. While some debris will probably enter the chamber from time to time, it will not interfere with the working of the Oscillating Water Column (OWC), which operates on the compression and rarefaction of the air column above the water.
Q. What about mussels, oysters etc fouling the chamber?
• The action of the oscillatory water flow appears to deter such creatures from setting up home in the OWC. This has been the experience from previous OWCs. Even if some marine life did grow inside the chamber, it only becomes an issue if the build- up exceeds a thickness of around one metre.
Q. How are you going to get crane access onto the top – barges? What about the waves?
• We will not require crane access to provide maintenance; a boat will pull up to a ladder and maintenance crews will climb up to do any work required within the electrical room or turbine. If the turbine or generator requires replacing at any time, the cheapest option is to have a local helicopter perform the half hour job.
Q. Won’t these have to be placed in some remote location to avoid spoiling accessible coastline? What colour will it be?
• The WSE generation units will generally be located some distance from shore, in ten metres of water depth. They will be located far enough from shore that they will appear indistinguishable from a boat or small ship and will not spoil the ocean view, though this is subjective issue.
Q. Why is it better than wind or solar?
• Wave energy is considered ‘better’ than wind and solar by many experts because of its predictive reliability. Waves can be accurately forecast many days in advance, allowing it to be considered as complementary base load power. Conventional fossil fuel generators take some time to adjust their output, and it is impossible to do so perfectly given the, at times, rapid variation in output from wind turbines and solar cells. Waves vary much more slowly and can work in tandem with conventional power sources to provide a smooth delivery of electrical energy to consumers.
Q. If Wave Swell Energy’s invention is so good, why hasn’t someone overseas already done it?
• They simply haven’t. To assume the best inventions must emanate from ‘overseas’ is a good example of cultural cringe.
Q. Can it be easily copied?
• The general concept can be fairly easily copied, but such a copy would not entail the subtle nuances that allow the WSE technology to be so economically viable. These nuanced aspects of the technology are not at all easy to copy and are protected by patents.
Q. Do you think it will replace coal?
• No single source of renewable power will replace coal. While coal will be phased out over the coming years and decades, it will be a combination of wave, wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and other renewable sources which replace coal and, eventually, gas. Whichever source provides the best economics for that specific region will be the one that is favoured. In many places the most commercially viable option will be the WSE wave energy technology.
Q. How will you protect the concrete chamber and steel framework from corrosion?
• The concrete does not require protection. Exposed steel work will be of a marine grade and, thus, protected from corrosion for the length of the unit’s life.
Q. What is the design life of unit?
• Each unit has a nominal design life of 25 years, although it is expected they will last a lot longer than that.
Q. How will you remove a unit at the end of its design life?
• The bespoke barge used for the deployment will be utilised in a mirror image operation to decommission each unit. This operation will be fast, effective, and virtually risk free.
Q. How much fresh water could the unit produce each day?
• If the average energy produced per day by the King Island unit was used entirely for reverse osmosis desalinated water, it would result in the production of almost four million litres of fresh potable water per day.