Average current speed

What is ocean energy?

Ocean energy is renewable energy from the ocean. There are four main types of ocean energy:

  • Wave energy – the energy of ocean waves (swells) converted into other forms of energy. Wave energy is strongest where there are trade winds and ocean swells.
  • Tidal energy – tides contain potential energy, related to changes in sea level, and kinetic energy, related to the horizontal motion of the water. As tides are generated by gravitational forces between the Earth and Moon, tidal energy is generally stronger near the Equator.
  • Ocean thermal energy – the temperature difference between warm surface waters and cool deep ocean waters can be converted into energy using a heat exchange process.
  • Ocean current energy – kinetic energy related to the continuous motion of large ocean currents, such as the East Australian Current.

What can ocean energy be used for?

Ocean energy can be used to generate electricity. It is harnessed by using a floating buoy, platform, or submerged device (for wave, tidal and ocean current energy) or a heat exchange system (for ocean thermal energy). Both systems are attached to a hydraulic system or turbine and combined with an electrical generator. Wave and tidal energy technologies are more developed than other ocean energy technologies, but are still in the developmental stage.

Are there ocean energy resources in NSW?

The current potential for wave, tidal and ocean thermal energy in NSW is relatively low. However, as technology develops, this untapped resource may be harnessed. For example, the East Australian Current flows as a fast narrow jet of water past northern NSW, providing excellent potential for ocean current energy. It continues further south but the flow weakens into a series of large, swirling circular currents, called eddies.

How is ocean energy used in NSW?

Ocean energy is not currently being used in NSW, but several research projects and demonstration facilities have been conducted recently.

What is the future of ocean energy in NSW?

Ocean current energy has great potential in NSW but is the least developed ocean energy technology. The future of ocean energy relies on significant advances in technology and an improved understanding of environmental impacts. The excellent predictability of ocean energy, combined with relatively easy access to the electricity grid along most of the coastline, could make ocean energy an attractive resource in the future.



the ability to do ‘work’ or to ‘make something happen’. It can exist in different forms, such as thermal (heat), kinetic, electrical, chemical and potential (stored). Energy is measured in joules (J).

kinetic energy

the energy of an object that is moving


the movement of electricity along transmission lines once it leaves the power station

For further information
Geological Survey of New South Wales
+61 (0)2 4931 6666
+61 (0)2 4931 6700
PO Box 344, Hunter Region Mail Centre NSW 2310
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