Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wave Energy Project in Portugal Awarded Funds

Finavera Renewables Limited's wholly owned subsidiary, AquaEnergy Group Ltd., has been successful in its application to the European Commission under the Framework Protocol 6 (FP6) program, RenewableEnergyAccess (REA) reports.

As a result, the European Commission may contribute up to Euro 1.37 million [US$1.75 million] toward the deployment of a 2 megawatt (MW) full-scale wave-energy power plant off the coast of Portugal, subject to successful contract negotiations and completion of the internal, formal selection process.

According to REA, the proposed power plant will be situated in 60 meters of water approximately 10 kilometers off the coastline midway between the Portuguese cities of Lisbon and Porto. Once successful operation of the plant has been demonstrated, the plant generating capacity is expected to be increased to 100 MW - enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes.

"This award reflects the last four years of work that the team has put into the project," said Alla Weinstein, CEO of AquaEnergy. "With our partners, Dunlop Oil and Marine, Portuguese engineering group Kynamar and Labelec, a division of the Portugal's largest utility - Energias de Portugal (EDP) - we will begin executing our deployment plan once negotiations with the European Commission and the partners are completed."

"The Portuguese groups in particular have been very supportive," said Weinstein, "as they see the long term value in building a wave technology industry. It has been estimated recently that the country's coastline contains enough exploitable energy to contribute up 20% of the country's total electricity consumption - a total value of over Euro 5 billion [US$6.3 billion]."

"We are looking towards the future where wave power generation will join the commercial realm along with other types of renewables like wind energy," said Jason Bak, CEO of Finavera Renewables. "Recent technological advances are moving wave energy forward to a cost competitive renewable source of electricity. Not only does this award assist us in deploying our AquaBuOY technology at a true commercial scale, but along with our 1 MW Makah Bay project in Washington, USA, we can now start to look at building a pipeline of other projects worldwide."

Well this should help kickstart AquaEnergy's wave energy projects, both in Portugal and elsewhere. As Finavera's CEO, Jason Bak, mentioned above, AquaEnergy is also developing a 1 MW project in Makah Bay off the Northwestern tip of Washington's Olympic Penninsula. The funding for their Portugese project will help them prove their technology, and if the project expands to 100 MW, will help AquaEnergy build a supply chain that will bring down their costs and further spur the development of other wave energy projects, including Makah Bay.

AquaEnergy's CEO, Alla Weinstein, spoke at the recent Ocean Renewable Energy Conference in Newport on AquaEnergy's efforts, including the Makah Bay and Portugal projects. A summary of that conference can be found here.

Portugal seems to be setting itself up as the European proving grounds for wave energy companies, with both Ocean Power Delivery, and now AquaEnergy, deploying their first commercial projects in Portugese waters. Scotland is also competing to become the center of the emerging European ocean energy industry, and if Oregon is smart (and the efforts of local ocean energy boosters pays off), it could become the center of the North American ocean (or at least wave) energy industry.

The ocean energy industry is going to be fun to watch over the next four or five years, as a number of companies get their first projects in the water, and try to expand to truly utility scale projects (i.e., in the 10s to 100s of megawatts). This truly is the birth of a new renewable energy industry, and I for one welcome this new addition to our toolbox of renewable energy resources.

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