THE south-west's steady swell could host the latest in wave power systems if a Melbourne company secures investor support to pursue the project.
AquaGen Technologies has been given approval to start trials of its SurgeDrive concept at the Lorne pier and hopes the demonstration will ultimately become a permanent way to run the structure's lights and ancillaries.
Managing director Nick Boyd said harnessing wave power off Portland was an exciting prospect due to consistent swell and the city's proximity to transmission lines.
Efforts to establish a suitable local site would not start until results from the Lorne project were known, he said.
"Part of the work we're doing with the pier firstly is to prove the technology in the open water - in a real environment as opposed to a wave tank environment - and the second thing is to get investors," he said.
"There's a lot of talk out there about renewables, and we want some action."
Final touches are now being made to a unit for the Lorne site, which is expected to be running by November.
Mr Boyd said AquaGen's prototype differed from other wave power systems in that expensive equipment was kept above the ocean's surface, minimising costly underwater maintenance.
The movement of waves across each buoyancy unit pulls on cables attached to the unit, with this force moved via tension transfer elements to an above-water structure.
Forces are then turned into either electricity or desalinated water by a conversion unit which is also kept dry, a system that aims to generate power at a lower cost than other wave technologies.
The system is also capable of sinking below the water's surface during a storm to reduce the risk of damage but would continue to harness power from churning seas.
"You might have 100 buoyancy units running to one central platform to process the energy," Mr Boyd said.
"It really is only limited by the size of the marine area you have so it's pretty unlimited as to how much energy you can get, and obviously if you're in the higher wave regions like Portland or King Island then you get more energy for your dollar."
US-based Ocean Power Technologies received a $66.5 million federal government grant late last year for a 19-megawatt wave project off the Portland coast and is presently planning for the site.
"The wave power industry is like wind power was 30 years ago, in that everyone was trying to come up with the right final technological solution to get the energy at the least cost," Mr Boyd said.
"The three-blade turbine that you see was the winner, whereas wave power is still trying to come up with the winner. We believe we have that winner."