14 November 2019

Is wave energy the future

Dani Bertram
German PhD Student at at the University of Waikato

Ph.D. student Dani Bertram chose New Zealand to carry out her research into wave energy – one of the world’s most promising sources of renewable energy.

Electricity is an integral part of life in modern society, and it is how we generate that electricity that will ensure future generations can thrive. 

Ocean wave energy is considered to be one of the most promising forms of clean, renewable energy. It’s estimated that when this sector reaches maturity it will be able to meet approximately 10% of the global energy demand. 

New Zealand is an ideal location for my Ph.D. Not only does it have an abundance of ocean energy, but due to the government’s open data and transparency initiatives I have access to real data. 

I’m also part of a multidisciplinary, cross-generational, and multicultural team here at the University of Waikato.

This has enabled me to enrich and expand my research, and has led to the development of my holistic and integrated wave energy device and site selection methodology. It will be applicable not only to New Zealand but to any coastal country in the world.

New Zealand is in an excellent position to develop wave farms as it’s an island nation with an extensive marine area (it controls the sixth-largest ocean territory in the world!), which has a fantastic wave energy resource.

New Zealand is also quite a forward-thinking nation, as it aims to transition to an electric grid powered solely by renewables by 2035 and produce net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Harnessing this energy from the waves represents a considerable renewable resource that could make a significant contribution towards New Zealand’s future energy supply as well as reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

However, as wave technology is not fully developed, my research is investigating if the pursuit of wave energy in New Zealand will be economically viable and sustainable. 

So key components of my research will be to identify all wave energy devices currently in development (134 and counting), and selecting wave energy farm sites that will ensure economic prosperity as well as social and cultural inclusion while minimising negative interactions with the environment.

A tall order, you might say, but I’m up for the challenge!

Other than the excellent research opportunities, my experience in New Zealand in general has been fantastic. 

In my spare time, I love exploring the beautiful and diverse New Zealand landscapes with my husband and trying out new activities like paddleboarding and surfing. (Not going to lie, I spend more time off the surfboard than on it, but we all have to start somewhere!) 

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About the contributors
Dani Bertram
German PhD Student at at the University of Waikato