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NZ wave power project secures US funding

NZ wave power project secures US funding

A New Zealand designed and developed wave power device has won a prestigious grant totalling more than NZ$2 million from the US Department of Energy for a project to deploy its device in the United States.

Wave Energy Technology – New Zealand (WET-NZ) has developed a ¼-scale wave power device which produces 2kW of power. It has been deployed off Christchurch since 2006. Research collaboration WET-NZ comprises Industrial Research Limited (IRL), a Crown Research Institute, and Power Projects Limited, a private Wellington-based company.

The research collaboration is currently developing a ½-scale version with funding received from the NZ Government’s Marine Energy Deployment Fund. It is designed to produce 20kW of power and will be deployed in New Zealand waters in 2011.

WET-NZ has been in discussions with a US-based partner for some time. Northwest Energy Innovations of Portland, Oregon, submitted a bid to the recent US Department of Energy’s 2010 solicitation for ‘marine hydrokinetic’ projects, with support from WET-NZ. The US Department of Energy announced the awards from this solicitation recently, with 27 projects receiving grants totalling $37 million.

As a result of the successful bid, WET-NZ will build and test a ¼-scale version of the device off the coast of Oregon. WET-NZ will also undertake detailed scale modelling at the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Centre's wave tanks at Oregon State University.

Representatives of WET-NZ said the grant represents a considerable fillip for their R&D programme.

“We are delighted to receive this grant,” Power Projects’ director John Huckerby said. “It will enable Power Projects and Industrial Research to complement their R&D and deployment work in New Zealand by adding new skills and capabilities to WET-NZ’s first international venture.

“Taken together our New Zealand and US-based activities will accelerate the design and development of our 100 KW device and our programme towards commercialisation. It also means that project work in both countries will cross-fertilise our development and enable WET-NZ to develop a cadre of New Zealand based experts with expertise in marine energy design and development, deployment and operations. The new funding should enable that expertise to be exported.”

IRL Commercial Manager Gavin Mitchell said that the funding also represented vindication of the approach taken by WET-NZ which began research in 2004 using funding from the Foundation for Research Science and Technology.

“The potential wave energy has to contribute to renewable power generation is almost limitless. However, there are significant design and engineering hurdles to overcome before this new technology can be applied commercially.

“We believe our technology has significant advantages over much of the competition, which globally is considerable. We are delighted that the US Department of Energy views it as having the potential for commercial application in the future.”

About Wave Energy Technology – New Zealand

The Wave Energy Technology – New Zealand research collaboration comprises Crown Research Institute Industrial Research Limited and Power Projects Limited, a private Wellington-based energy industry company. The research collaboration was formed in July 2004 when it was awarded R&D funding by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). A 1/5-scale proof-of-concept prototype wave power device was deployed in late 2006.

WET-NZ was awarded further FRST funding in late 2008 to continue its R&D programme. In May 2009 the research collaboration was the successful bidder for funding from the 2nd Round of the Marine Energy Deployment Fund, which is being used to develop and deploy a ½-scale device. Resource consents have been granted for the deployment of this device in Taranaki and Wellington. Deployment is expected in 2011.


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