Switch flicked on for wave power project

The Federal Energy Minister has declared the "Holy Grail" of base-load renewable energy is a step closer after the world's first ever wave power project was activated off Garden Island today.

Almost 10 years after it was conceived as an idea, North Fremantle-based Carnegie Wave Energy this morning switched on a pilot plant to supply wave-generated electricity to the South West grid.

The project cost about $100 million in State and Federal Government funds and investor capital and is backed by AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and developer Dale Alcock.

Carnegie is using groundbreaking technology to build submerged buoys which are tethered to seabed pump units.

Passing waves move the buoys, which drive the pumps.

The pumps pressurise water, which is piped onshore to drive hydroelectric turbines.

Carnegie chief executive Michael Ottaviano said the project was the first of its kind in the world and could pave the way for much bigger versions capable of powering towns.

Under the pilot project, which involved the installation of three 240kW buoys, or CETO 5 modules, Carnegie is only required to provide power to HMAS Stirling naval base on Garden Island as well as desalinated water.

But Mr Ottaviano said Carnegie was developing bigger. 1MW versions of the modules.

"The great thing about it is we know it works," Mr Ottaviano said. "The challenge from here on is really about scale and cost.

"We need to make the technology bigger, we need to make our projects bigger because that's what allows you to get your costs down."

Federal Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane, who visited Carnegie's Garden Island facilities to officially activate the plant, echoed the comments.

Mr Macfarlane said wave-powered generation could hold the key to the viability of renewable energy because it was predictable and could run all day, every day.

He said this was in stark contrast to other renewable energy sources such as wind farms and solar panels, which were unreliable.

"This is one of the great success stories in innovation in renewable energy," Mr Macfarlane said.