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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

News From My Backyard: Application Filed for Reedsport, OR Wave Energy Park - First Commercial Wave Energy Project in U.S.

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), known for its PowerBuoy wave energy device [see image below], filed an application for construction permission to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a 50-megawatt (MW) wave power generation project in Oregon, the first request in the U.S. for such a power project on a utility-scale level [see previous post]

As part of the initial program for the OPT Wave Park to be located at Reedsport, OR, the company expects to install its ocean-tested PowerBuoys approximately 2.5 miles off the coast at a depth of 50 meters initially generating a total of 2 MW. Approval for the full-scale 50 MW wave power plant will follow completion of the initial 2 MW program.

"This application to FERC represents a major step in the development of OPT's wave power projects in the U.S. for large-scale electricity generation," said George Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of OPT. "When completed, this plant will provide renewable power into the grid supplying the West Coast of the U.S."

The company has already consulted key stakeholder groups about its plans and will continue to work closely with these groups over the initial stages of the project. According to the company, a key strength of the PowerBuoy system is its compact nature and low visual impact.

OPT's wave energy converter consists of a vertically oriented column or cylinder that absorbs the rising and falling motion of ocean waves to cause the buoy mechanics to move freely up and down. This movement in turn drives an electric generator that creates usable on-site power or power that can be cabled away to a nearby mainland location.

OPT's PowerBuoy technology was cited in recent U.S. Congressional hearings in support of increasing funding for ocean energy demonstration programs. U.S. Representative Inslee (D-Washington) proposed an amendment to the Deep Ocean Energy Resources (DOER) Act, which would increase the funding for ocean energy demonstration programs from $6 million to $20 million per year. The Congressman also specifically cited the technology being offered by OPT.

The Reedsport wave park [see previous post], which could be the first commercial-scale wave facilty in North America. This project (as discussed above), would feature Ocean Power Technology's PowerBuoy wave energy converters and we be located offshore of Reedsport and the mouth of the Umpqua River. The Reedsport site is a prime location for wave energy development because it has an excellent wave resource, and because of old paper mill site near Reedsport left behind an existing power substation with capacity for 50 MW as well as a three kilometer underwater effluent pipeline that can be used to run underwater power cables from the wave park to shore.

The Reedsport OPT project would start with a 2 MW pilot-scale installation, most likely consisting of 13-14 of OPT's 150 kW PowerBuoy's. The second phase would be commercial-scale and be up to 50 MW, potentially using the larger 500 kW version of the PowerBuoy that OPT is planning to develop (every doubling in diameter of the power conversion device quadruples the amount of wave energy captured, meaning a wave energy has a very strong economy of scale similar to that for wind power). Central Lincoln County Public Utility District is supportive of the project and has said they would purchase power from the Reedsport wave park.

OPT is also planning a 1.5 MW project off the coast of Spain as well as a 2-5 MW project in France (in partnership with Totale) and a potential project in southwest England.

[A hat tip to RenewableEnergyAcccess]

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