Common causes

Since first opening it's doors to students in 1913, UWA has been at the forefront of research and innovation. But just as important as the projects themselves are the interactions they create with the wider community.

Wave Energy Research Centre

Last November, a buoy – looking a little like a miniature spaceship – was hoisted over the side of a barge into choppy waters 1.5km off the coast of Albany.

As it splashed into the Indian Ocean, the reverberations were felt a full five hours’ drive away in Perth, at UWA’s Oceans Graduate School and Oceans Institute – for Professors Christophe Gaudin and Ryan Lowe, they signalled the start of a project that has been 10 years in the making and in which they will lead research programs.

The buoy was deployed by Carnegie Clean Energy, a Perth-based company working with UWA’s Wave Energy Research Centre (WERC), which has opened next-door to the University’s Albany campus on Stirling Terrace.

The project on which they are collaborating aims to make the Great Southern an international hub for renewable energy expertise, bringing long-term economic benefits and jobs to the region.

Carnegie is owner and developer of CETO, a patented wave-energy technology capable of converting ocean swell into zero-emission renewable power, and the company’s construction of the world’s first grid-connected, commercial-scale CETO system in Albany is already drawing global attention.

Described by State Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan as “a giant power point in the sea”, the device will be deployed off Sandpatch, a popular fishing spot in Torbay that is already home to a wind farm generating some 80 per cent of local power needs.

“The ocean renewable energy industry is being developed in Australia Europe and the United States; Australia is at the leading edge and has an opportunity to be a world leader in the technology,” says Professor Gaudin with cautious enthusiasm.

The French-born scientist is a driving force in offshore renewables, and his team’s research at UWA – making use of a cutting-edge centrifuge facility – has assisted in the design of almost every major pipeline on the North West Shelf of Australia.

Christophe and Ryan
Professor Ryan Lowe (holding Buoy) and Professor Christophe Gaudin (next to him) with some of the team and equipment to be used at the new Wave Energy Research Centre.

Professor Gaudin’s attention is now firmly focused on building capabilities in marine renewable energy, with the wave-energy centre of excellence in Albany at the forefront of his work.

Funded by a four-year $3.75 million State Government grant, WERC will bring together 30 researchers, multidisciplinary experts and PhD students to support Carnegie.

The research will span a multitude of disciplines: geotechnical engineering to develop new economical foundations to anchor wave-energy converters to the seabed; coastal engineering and oceanography to characterise and model the wave conditions in Torbay; and hydrodynamics to analyse the motions and stability of wave-energy converters.

“Unlike oil and gas, the technology for offshore renewable energy is in its infancy, however our southern coastline holds one of the most promising wave-energy resources in the world," says Professor Gaudin.

"It’s the perfect location for developers of the future to demonstrate the performance of their devices."

If successful, this prototype will make Australia the first in the world to ever deliver wave energy to an onshore power station on this scale – that’s pretty exciting for all involved.

The impact on and potential benefits to the local, national and international communities haven’t been forgotten either.

“A public display area will be opened at the centre, providing an important resource for locals and visitors alike,” he says. 

To read all about the myriad of ways UWA touches the community, click through to the stories below.

Rob Shilkin

Awesome Albany

The former whaling port comes into its own

The new Wave Energy Research Centre is just one on the initiatives launched recently in Albany, as the city continues its transformation into a modern and thriving destination.

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Community partnerships

And our Farm of the Future

UWA's Future Farm 2050 Project in the State's Wheatbelt, is a great example of the University's Community Partnerships Program in action... and it's not all about farming!

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The McCusker Centre

Creating active citizens around the globe

Final-year psychology student Shakira Donovan, who spent a three-month internship in New York, says the Centre and its programs makes 'doing good' accessible and possible.

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Giving hope to the homeless

Social issues front and centre for Lisa's team

At UWA's Nedlands campus, just across the road from the University's main operations, Associate Professor Lisa Wood says homelessness is a problem showing no signs of abating.