Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oregon Wave Project

Oregon is moving ahead with plans for the nation’s first commercial wave energy station.

On Friday morning, Ocean Power Technologies of New Jersey announced a deal with Oregon Iron Works to build a 10-buoy prototype system 2.5 miles off the coast of Reedsport, OR.

“We’re thrilled to be under way,” said Mark Draper, Ocean Power’s chief executive, in a telephone interview before the announcement. “We hope this is just the beginning of a new phase in capturing a major source of renewable energy.”

The first buoy will weigh about 200 tons and stand as tall as a three-story building, it is expected to deploy next year; with the remaining nine going in the water over the next two years. The full system price tag is $60 million and expected capacity is 1.5 megawatts, about half the peak of a single giant wind turbine. Wave energy, however, will be 24x7 consistent rather than intermittent like wind.

The project is being paid for by Ocean Power, Oregon tax breaks, federal funds, and PNGC Power coop, which has agreed to purchase the energy for its customers in Douglass County, Ore. It will create about 150 local jobs. If this prototype goes well, Ocean Power Tech expects to deploy a 200 buoy system nearby.

Wave-power is still a nascent technology, success is far from guaranteed. Two years ago a 40-ton wave-power buoy from Finavera Co sank off the Oregon coast after only two months of use. In California, state regulators last rejected a wave power project (also Finavera’s), saying that the technology was “pre-commercial” and that the “contract price is not reasonable.” The wave project that is furthest along, off the coast of Portugal, ran into financial difficulties earlier this year.

This Oregon project has also seen resistance from local fishermen. Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission, said his group is “not particularly excited about Ocean Power Technologies’s plans. But we’re keeping an open mind.” He added that while his members have accepted the presence of the initial buoys, they are very concerned about plans for the larger array, which “is too big a project in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mr. Draper of Ocean Power said his company has worked hard to make sure the buoys will withstand powerful storms and is trying to make sure no one’s livelihood is harmed.

If this project is successful, it could be the start of a cleaner powered future. If a method is found to harness oceanic energy, studies have shown that it alone could power the world's current demand twice over.

Via NY Times & EcoGeek

Oregon Wave Energy Back Story

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