Multi-criteria evaluation of wave energy projects on the south-east Australian coast
In the last decade, multiple studies focusing on national-scale assessments of the ocean wave energy resource in Australia identified the Southern Margin to be one of the most energetic areas worldwide suitable for the extraction of wave energy for electricity production. While several companies have deployed single unit devices, the next phase of development will most likely be the deployment of parks with dozens of units, introducing the risk of conflicts within the marine space.
This paper presents a geo-spatial multi-criteria evaluation approach to identify optimal locations to deploy a wave energy farm while minimizing potential conflicts with other coastal and offshore users. The methodology presented is based around five major criteria: ocean wave climatology, nature of the seabed, distance to key infrastructure, environmental factors and potential conflict with other users such as shipping and fisheries.
A case study is presented for an area off the south-east Australian coast using a total of 18 physical, environmental and socio-economic parameters. The spatial restrictions associated with environmental factors, wave climate, as well as conflict of use, resulted in an overall exclusion of 20% of the study area. Highly suitable areas identified ranged between 11 and 34% of the study area based on scenarios with varying criteria weighting. By spatially comparing different scenarios we identified persistence of a highly suitable area of 700 km2 off the coast of Portland across all model domains investigated. We demonstrate the value of incorporation spatial information at the scale relevant to resource exploitation when examining multiple criteria for optimal site selection of Wave Energy Converters over broad geographic regions.