Wave power and clean tech jobs

The following article from the AMWU website profiles the AquaGen demonstration wave power generator, and the benefits of renewable energy industry for skilled jobs in engineering and fabrication industries.

Riding a wave of clean technology jobs

Jun 07, 2011

Wave power has been explored as an energy source since the late 19th century but one Australian innovator has developed a unique approach which is making wave technology viable in 2011.

“The ocean is vast and has enormous power,” says Nick Boyd, “but to date, wave power technologies have been too expensive because most of their equipment is underwater.

“The components are susceptible to storm damage and difficult to maintain underwater.”

Sitting on an oil and gas rig in Bass Strait three years ago, Nick Boyd had an idea which turned the way people think about wave technology upside down.

Mr Boyd’s solution was a wave farm module called ‘SurgeDrive’, which simplified the capture of wave energy and kept most of the components above water.

In co-partnership with metal fabricator, Buden Industries, Mr Boyd created AquaGen, a company now based in Rowville, Victoria.

Last year AquaGen was awarded an Australian Government Commercialisation Australia project grant of $186 496 to manufacture, install and demonstrate the first pilot version of the patented SurgeDrive® system on Lorne Pier in Victoria.

He says the process has proved the viability of the technology and the capacity for a potential transfer of existing jobs into clean technology jobs.

“Our fitter and turner was very important in the whole process. He was responsible for actually making it the system work. Making the components align perfectly. There’s a lot of work in that.

“Ordinarily he worked on jobs for the coal fired power industry, but in working on our project he really got into it.

“He used the same skills but applied them to new technology which he really got a buzz out of. His skills are exactly the ones we need – they are easily transferrable.”

Mr Boyd says the job opportunities presented by wave power technologies are only limited by the size of the wave farms themselves.

A report by CSIRO researchers last year found half of Australia’s electricity needs could be met by harnessing just 10 per cent of the energy generated by waves on the southern Australian coastline.

“It gives you some kind of idea of the job opportunities. Putting aside the obvious environmental benefits – this is a huge economic opportunity,” Mr Boyd says.

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