Stephanie is the Cluster Manager for the national Australian Ocean Energy Group (AOEG), whose aim is to accelerate commercialisation of Australia’s ocean energy sector. Stephanie launched her ocean energy career in 2007 as the Executive Director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, a public/private organisation established to advance wave energy development in the State of Oregon, US. Subsequent to that role, she served as U.S. Program Director for WaveEnergy, AS, a Norwegian wave energy technology developer.
Upon arriving in Australia, she worked over two years as Program Director for MAKO Tidal Turbines in Sydney before launching the ocean energy cluster. Stephanie is currently a member of the Standards Australia committee for Marine Energy, EL-066. Stephanie has an undergraduate degree in Marine Science, a Master’s in Business Administration and Professional Project Management certification from the international Project Management Institute.
Standards Australia (SA): When did you first encounter standards in your professional career?
Stephanie Thornton (ST):
My first exposure to ocean energy standards was when I worked as Program Director for MAKO Tidal Turbines, a Sydney-based tidal technology developer. MAKO’s combined office and turbine manufacturing facility provided me a direct opportunity to engage with the turbine engineers about the application of standards into the turbine build.
SA: What is ocean energy and how can it be used in Australia?
Ocean energy refers to the massive energy which can be harnessed from ocean waves, tides, currents, and ocean temperature differentials. The natural movement of water within oceans creates a vast resource from which energy can be extracted and transformed into electricity and other useful purposes, such as hydrogen production and desalinated water.
As the ocean energy sector matures, a wide range of unique Australian market opportunities will be established, leading to corresponding jobs and additional economic benefits to Australia. Key market opportunities include:
SA: Why is the work of the committee EL-066 Marine Energy important for the sector?
- Remote communities. Through creation of integrated ocean energy micro-grid systems communities will enjoy numerous complementary and ancillary benefits. Ocean Energy microgrids support multiple sources of renewable energy which, when combined, can meet the load demand of various modular technologies, such as hydrolyzers, desalination units, wastewater treatment units, etc.
- Aquaculture – ocean energy to provide electricity production in ocean waters for sustainable food production.
- Marine security (national defence).
- Remote operations (oil & gas, etc.).
- Ocean based scientific equipment for coastal monitoring, safety and navigation.
- Protection of the coastline.
Internationally developed marine energy standards underpin each stage of development of marine energy devices. It is critical for technologies to incorporate these standards in their engineering designs because they provide high-quality, reproducible operational results that lead to cost reductions and improve the quality of devices. They will also reduce risks and instil confidence for all industry stakeholders.
It Is also important because our sector needs to be a part of the global marine energy community. It is vital that we have a seat at the international table, have our voice heard and contribute towards standards development that will have impact worldwide.
Three years ago, the Australian government supported renewal of its membership into the Ocean Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Programme (OES) established by the International Energy Agency, for the development of ocean wave and tidal current energy. OES consists of 24 member countries.
Membership and active engagement in TC 114 (the International Electrotechnical Commission committee for marine energy - wave, tidal and other water current converters) enables Australia to strengthen the synergistic role we play in OES. The OES works on the technical side of ocean energy development, but they have a broader perspective than just devices and guidelines, they are looking industry wide. This is complementary enabling Australia to work on the technical side of standards which fits very well into the broader industry development.
SA: What do you think is the future of standardisation?
In the future, standards will become critically important as AOEG transitions from a technology centric focus to market centric (eg, systems approach). What we want to do is demonstrate how ocean energy devices integrate to energy systems and solve an energy problem for an end-user or ‘customer’. Standards will be vital to provide consistency among how devices are installed and connected and how we deliver electricity for the market.