South-west Coast Wave Monitoring project

The South-west Coast Wave Monitoring project has now been completed. Data captured between January 2011 and January 2013 from the coast of Port Campbell and Cape Bridgewater is available below:

Project background

Map of Victoria showing wave energy buoy locations

By capturing the energy of waves, it is possible to produce electricity. In general the larger the wave the more energy it contains. However, the energy of a wave is not just determined by its overall size. There are a number of factors, including wave height and speed as well as the density of the water. The wave's size and speed are influenced by two main factors wind speed and the presence of land nearby.

According to a 2004 study conducted by Water Technology (PDF, 5.1MB), electricity generation from waves is typically considered viable where the annual median wave energy exceeds 30kW/m. We know from previous studies that the Victorian coastline between Cape Otway and the South Australian border meets this criterion.

Wave energy technologies are an emerging form of renewable energy generation, and there is no commercially mature technology at this time. However, there is significant focus on this sector with work being undertaken around the globe, in countries including the UK, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, EU, USA, Canada and Australia and the world's first commercial project in Portugal. See the Wave Energy Fact Sheet (PDF, 432kB) for more information.

Where waves come from

Graphic showing how waves work

Ocean waves are primarily created by wind. Due to the contours of the earth's surface, unequal heating from the sun occurs creating warmer and cooler pockets of air, ultimately leading to the generation of wind. As wind blows over water it transfers some of its energy into the water and creates waves. Air pressure differences between the upwind and the lee side of a wave crest, as well as friction on the water surface by the wind, cause the waves to grow.

In addition to wind, the gravitation forces of the Sun and the Moon have an influence, as can geological changes such as subsea earthquakes. The largest wave ever recorded was approximately 520 metres: it was in 1958 in Alaska at a place called Lituya Bay – the wave was a tsunami and the product of an earthquake.

Wave energy in Australia

In 2010, CSIRO released a report that found the southern coastline of Australia has one of the strongest wave regimes in the world.

[The] Southern Australian margin is one of the most energetic regions in the world suitable for the extraction of wave energy for electricity generation.

The report went on to say:

[We] estimate that if 10% of the incident near-shore energy in this region, which is an ambitious target when conversion efficiency is considered, were converted to electricity, approximately 130TWh/yr (one-half of Australia's total present-day electricity consumption) would be produced.