Welcome back Francois! Marine renewable energy expert returns

Dr Francois FlocardDr Francois Flocard is an expert in ocean wave energy conversion. Having spent the past 2 years refining his skills and presence in this exciting and developing field, Francois returns to WRL in the role of Principal Engineer, Water and Energy.

We asked Francois about the growing field of water and energy engineering, and what he hopes to achieve in his new role at WRL.

First off, what is ocean wave energy conversion?

“Wave energy conversion aims to convert the energy contained in ocean waves into electricity using a range of different technologies. Wave energy conversion (WEC) devices are still in the early stages of technological development, and there are currently dozens of technologies in development in this emerging industry as researchers and developers seek to prove their technologies’ viability.

Australia arguably possesses the world’s largest wave energy resource, evaluated to being able to satisfy multiple times the countries energy needs. Moreover, waves heights are predictable multiple days in advance and vary less than wind or solar energy.”

Francois standing beside a bioWAVE energy deviceWhat got you interested in studying renewable wave energy engineering?

“I had the opportunity in high school to go visit the Rance Tidal Power Station in France and was really amazed by the concept of converting energy from the sea into electricity. From then on, I always was attracted by the potential of marine energy in all its forms but also by the fact that it was still an engineering area where no clear solution has been found yet! It’s funny to think that the first known patent on wave energy was taken in France in 1799 and that people all around the world are still working on it in 2017!”

What do people most not understand about what you do?

“People often ask me why we should consider using or even undertake research on ocean wave energy, given the current development state of other renewables such as solar or wind. Why bother? It’s too hard! It’s too expensive! My answer to them is that ocean wave energy can be of a great benefit to our energy supply in the future by being able to offer more stability to the renewable energy mix. Available wind or solar power can vary relatively quickly whereas wave conditions changes gradually over days and do not stop at night.“

What do you hope to bring to WRL in your return as a Principal Engineer?

“My recent experience on the developer side of this sector has allowed me to get a better understanding of the technical challenges facing this industry as well as some of the areas where knowledge is currently lacking. For instance, not much is understood of the potential influence of WEC devices on the coastal environment, which is an area where WRL has typically a lot of expertise and capabilities, be it through numerical modelling, experiments and field measurements.

I firmly believe that WRL can be an important player in the development of marine renewable energy technologies by providing sound technical solutions to the industry, but also increase the understanding of the potential benefits WECs can have on the coastal environment, such as coastal protection.”

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