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Marine Energy In New Zealand

aotearoa wave and tidal energy association

Marine Energy In New Zealand


Harnessing energy from marine waves and tides has become an attractive proposition as new technologies have been developed since the 1990s. Resources Offshore swells and waves contain large amounts of energy.

The main islands are exposed to the open Southern Oceans and capture the full effects of the ‘Roaring Forties’, which bring energetic waves to our west- and south-facing coasts. New Zealand’s wave resources are ‘world-class’.

New Zealand’s tides sweep anticlockwise around our coast roughly twice a day, but give only a small rise and fall (2 – 3 m). Consequently, tidal currents have lower velocities than in other countries and tidal currents are patchily distributed around New Zealand.

Offshore islands, passages and seabed irregularities can provide a focussing mechanism and there are some areas of significant tidal current flow, for example, Cook Strait. Technologies Marine energy technologies are under development in a number of countries but most technologies are not yet mature.

The first offshore commercial ‘wave farm’, utilizing a Scottish wave device called Pelamis, will be operating before the end of 2006. The first full-scale trial of a tidal energy device is being conducted in Northern Ireland. British Government forecasts that there will be over 100 MW of operational marine energy devices by 2009.

Investment in R & D and Demonstration Projects The United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal and Denmark are currently investing significantly in marine energy with the UK being the current leader in technology developments. Canada, the United States and Australia all have active projects to develop marine energy technologies and particular sites.

New Zealand has to date invested very little in marine energy but our natural resource advantage could make marine energy a significant contributor to future energy supply. Possibly as much as 20% of New Zealand’s electricity could be generated from marine energy sources.

Projects There are currently fourteen active wave and tidal energy projects in New Zealand. All are in the early stages, all are relatively small. There are two publicly announced tidal projects, and two wave projects, one developing a wave device and a second seeking to import an overseas technology.

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