A $24 million pilot wave energy project off the coast of Port Fairy, that failed to produce any electricity, has been decommissioned.
The complex removal of the bioWAVE unit has begun. It will involve diving works to raise and tow the 26-metre-high steel structure from the sea bed near Port Fairy to the Port of Portland.
The work, which includes dismantling and recycling the unit, is scheduled to be completed by early May.
While works may be visible to some residents it is not expected to disrupt boat users.
Ongoing technical problems and uncertainties surrounding projection viability have plagued the Port Fairy Wave Energy Project, after the unit was deployed in December 2015. The pilot was Victoria's first wave energy project.
Its aim was to investigate the potential for producing electricity from wave action with early predictions that the structure had the capacity to produce 250 kilowatts of electricity into the national grid.
The location, five kilometers west of Port Fairy, was chosen because of the area's high-powered waves which caused challenges throughout the project. The unit was located about 850 metres off shore.
The bioWAVE unit was connected to onshore electrical equipment, with the sub-sea cable to be removed as part of the decommissioning.
BioPower Systems chief executive Tim Finnigan said despite not achieving its outcomes, they regarded it as a fantastic project.
"We gained a huge amount of information and experience from developing the project and taking it all the way through to the installation," Mr Finnigan said.
"It was in the commissioning phase and it was turned on but it didn't get all the way to exporting (energy). It didn't achieve all the outcomes that we had as aims at the beginning but it was still, in our view, a success.
"We did run into a whole range of technical challenges in the harsh marine environment and in the end the project was cut short on the basis of some of those challenges."
Mr Finnigan said a lot of data was gathered during the project which would advance marine energy forward, and he thanked the Port Fairy community for its support.
The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) said this week that "ongoing technical problems, which indicated uncertainties surrounding projection viability, resulted in the project testing phase being terminated in June 2017". The decision to decommission the device was confirmed in December 2017.
It said site rehabilitation work would commence in the area after the decommissioning, ensuring there was minimal impact to marine life, or the sea bed and nearby reef system, during the decommissioning process, which included removing an electrical cable attached to the mainland electrical grid.
DELWP said wave energy technology was still in the research and development phase in Australia and the pilot project would inform any future research.
DELWP said the project allowed the state to see the difficulties and challenges ocean wave energy generation projects faced such as capturing the energy of the wave, having technology that can stand up to the hostile sea environment, transmission of the wave energy and maintenance and repair of the unit.
The state government contributed $5 million to the project and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency kicked in $11 million.
Mr Finnigan told The Standard in March 2017 that Port Fairy and Victoria's south-west coast had "one of the best wave climates anywhere, but with that it also has one of the most intense and strongest wave impacts".
"It's definitely challenging to work in it and we're learning that by doing it," Mr Finnigan said.
The Standard reported in March 2017 that the unit was yet to funnel electricity into the national grid, with damaged equipment and heavy swells delaying the project.
"The original cable that we installed was damaged," Mr Finnigan said. "Despite efforts to repair it and rectify it during 2016, we concluded it was significantly damaged so we had to replace it."
The Standard reported in early September 2016 that the BioWAVE wasn't generating electricity due to damage caused by the impact of the BioWAVE equipment on the cable during installation and large waves at the reef during installation.
He said heavy swells in January and February 2016 caused delays, with divers needing calm conditions to complete underwater mechanical work.
"There's been a complete redesign of the cable protection," Mr Finnigan said in September 2016. "We're planning to replace the damaged section late September early October and then we'll attempt to complete the commissioning."
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