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Aussie innovation yields electricity, carbon-free desalination

cetoAustralia’s Carnegie Corporation expects to soon select a site off the nation’s southwest coast for its next installation of CETO, a system that converts ocean wave energy into clean electricity while also producing zero-emissions desalinated water.

The innovative system relies on a series of buoys harnessed to pumps below the ocean’s surface at depths of 15 to 50 meters. As the buoys rise and fall with each passing wave, they power the pumps and push water through on-shore turbines to produce electricity. The pressure of the incoming water also pushes the water through a membrane that removes salt and other minerals, producing fresh water without the typical desalination plant’s high electricity demands.

Carnegie says the CETO technology (named for the sea monster of the same name in Greek mythology) offers numerous advantages over other wind- and wave-energy systems. The benefits include:

  • The reliability of wave energy, which is more predictable than wind energy;
  • Zero offshore aesthetic impact, as the wave-driven pumps are moored underwater;
  • No interference with marine life or human activities like surfing;
  • No offshore electrical components, meaning pump units can last for more than 30 years; and
  • A system that uses multiple identical units that are easy to mass-produce and ship anywhere.

Australia’s Albany Advertiser (PDF) reports that Carnegie expects to decide by mid-year between one of two potential test sites for the first CETO installation. The company last year installed two prototype systems off the western coast of Australia. This year’s project would be the first commercial application of the CETO technology, and is expected to generate up to 60 megawatts of power in the early stages. Later development could push that capacity to 50 megawatts, enough power for 50,000 homes, according to the Advertiser.

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