Seismicity around Mauritius and Rodrigues article published in l’Express Tuesday 6 March 2018 Read Article
MOI Exploiting Wave Energy Potential in Mauritius
Mauritius faces the common challenge of small islands developing states (SIDS) which comprise of a highly volatile economical structure, with heavy dependence on international markets to satisfy the energy needs of its population. About 85% of the total primary energy requirement of the island stems from imported fossil fuels, mostly from the Middle-East. With the objective of phasing out progressively the reliance on petroleum products and coal, the Government of Mauritius is encouraging the gradual penetration of renewable energy technologies in the electricity distribution network of the island. Consequently, a number of solar, wind and hydro-electricity schemes are being promoted by local authorities. In an attempt to sustain power system decarbonisation and improve energy security, a capital share has been allocated in the recent 2017 socio-economic budget of the island to increase grid absorption capacity from intermittent renewable energy resources.
Despite the vested interest of the Government in the promotion of sustainable energy development in Mauritius, wave energy technology is inexistent in the coastal and offshore waters of the tropical microcosm. A study undertaken by the Mauritius Oceanography Institute, reveals that the geographical location of the island near the Tropic of Capricorn ensures tremendous wave energy potential, which can be successfully converted into electricity through the deployment of wave energy converters. The research carried out highlights the favourable wave energy climate of the eastern region of Roches Noires for tapping into the less variable and high energy potential surface waves, as compared to western sites which are more variable with significantly lower wave energy potential for electricity generation. The optimum configurations of wave energy converters as well as maintenance operations that need to be carried out on wave energy farms in order not to disrupt the peak performance conditions for electricity production has been delved.
The attractiveness of wave energy as compared to other renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, lies in its predictability. The fluctuations in solar and wind energy harnessed are mainly attributed to the heterogeneity in the sky and surface wind conditions. The ability to forecast with better accuracy the electricity production from wave energy systems is of paramount importance to grid operators to better manage the electricity dispatch in the network of the island. Additionally, unlike solar which operates only in daylight hours, wave energy can be harnessed 24/7. A feasibility study carried out by the institute estimates that a 50 MW wave power plant constructed on about 200 square meters of open sea can contribute to a net electricity generation of 20 MW in the energy grid, representing about 4.3% of the peak power demand in 2016 in Mauritius. This would imply an eventual return of roughly about 2.4 billion MUR over a certain timeframe through savings in fossil fuel imports.
Our generation has the moral obligation to develop and integrate renewable energy technologies, especially considering the finiteness of fossil fuels and its implications on the environment through the effects of global warming and climate change. Wave energy appears to be the best choice, which would bring Mauritius to another level in terms of energetic requirements. As rightly said by James Cameron: “The nation that leads in renewable energy will be the nation that leads the world.”