Although Wave Swell Energy is a young company, having been founded in October 2016, the risks associated with the technology are low and well understood. Twenty-five years of experience in developing both the oscillating water column (OWC) and turbine, including the benefit of several devices installed in the real ocean, has provided a vast depth of experience and information which minimises the risks and enhances the likelihood of the success of the WSE project on King Island.
The OWC is constructed from concrete using simple moulds and steel reinforcing. While the nominal life of a project is given as 25 years, this is more for accounting purposes to calculate the amortization of the unit. The OWC will actually survive for fifty or even a hundred years. Concrete caissons of a similar size and shape, used in the Normandy landing during World War II, are still in existence in the same location, with little evidence of structural wear and tear. Large concrete structures weighing thousands of tonnes (as is the case with the WSE OWC) are one of the few things that are highly resistant to the ravages of the ocean.
While the WSE turbine is not expected to exhibit the same immunity to ocean conditions as the OWC, it will readily survive the nominal device life of 25 years. Past wave energy turbines, including those developed by WSE personnel, have operated properly for many years without any unexpected issues. In addition, the WSE turbine is of a simpler design and is more robust than any previous wave energy turbine deployed in the real ocean. Standard regular maintenance of components such as bearings will ensure the turbine’s operational ability throughout its life in the ocean.
Overall, the WSE technology has been fine-tuned over a quarter of a century. This fact, coupled with the company’s wealth of experience in construction of similar units, provides an unusually high level of confidence in the success of WSE projects planned for King Island and elsewhere.
Bass Strait, 5.75 metres depth, near township of Grassy, King Island, Tasmania, Australia
The King Island project officially commenced in March 2019. Detailed design has been completed and is currently being independently reviewed. Construction is expected to begin in August. Community consultation meetings on King Island have been held, with broad support for the project being expressed by local authorities and individuals. No objections were expressed. Local Tasmanian regulatory and environmental consultants, Project E, have been commissioned to handle all licensing and regulatory issues.
The local licensing procedure involves submitting an application of intent to Crown Lands in Hobart (capital of Tasmania), requesting the location of the project on the seabed administered by that authority. This application has already been submitted. Once consent to use the ‘land’ is granted, a standard Development Application is submitted to King Island Council for approval. Council will seek an opinion from the local Tasmanian EPA, which has already expressed an opinion that no adverse environmental effects will result from the project. However, a recommendation to monitor underwater noise levels 100 metres from the unit has been advised.
As above, the only environmental issued expressed by authorities at this stage is the recommendation to monitor underwater noise levels to gather information related the effects of unit on local mammalian sea life (whales, seals), as well as penguins.