Biopower down under

Australian ocean power company BioPower Systems has commenced work on a renewable energy project to test two unique ocean power technologies.

Australian ocean power company BioPower Systems has commenced work on a renewable energy project to test two unique ocean power technologies in Tasmania, Australia.

The bioWAVE wave power system and bioSTREAM tidal power system are designed to move and respond in a similar manner to ocean plants and fish, while efficiently extracting power from the waves and tidal streams.

BioPower’s chief executive officer, Dr Tim Finnigan, said the company was preparing for full-scale system deployment and operation.

‘This project will allow us to develop the technologies to be ready for commercial production within a couple of years,’ he said.

Preferred deployment sites have been identified on the west coast of King Island for the bioWAVE wave power system and near Flinders Island for the bioSTREAM tidal power system.

‘We aim to have both systems connected to the distribution grids with preliminary discussions already held with Hydro Tasmania, which provides power on both islands,’ Dr Finnigan said.

Each prototype unit will generate up to 250kW, with the power supply moderated at all times to meet demand. The main objective of the project is to gain experience in the deployment and operation of the systems. The devices will be installed for an initial one-year trial period, with their performance continuously assessed.

Following six months of engineering design and development and the completion of a connection agreement, BioPower expects to commence fabrication of 20m prototypes by mid-2008 with site installation planned by early 2009.

Once installed, the units will provide clean power to King and Flinders islands, both of which now rely on diesel fuel and wind for their power supply. The project will offset greenhouse gas emissions and could be expanded on a commercial basis to supply additional power to Tasmania and Victoria.

BioPower was recently awarded a A$5m grant under the Australian government’s AusIndustry Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI). The grant funds will be matched by BioPower to fund the A$10.3m project.