Posts Tagged ‘Aguçadoura’

JAMES RICKMAN, Seeking Alpha, June 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. As the world’s largest solar collectors, oceans generate thermal energy from the sun. They also produce mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Even though the sun affects all ocean activity, the gravitational pull of the moon primarily drives the tides, and the wind powers the ocean waves.

Wave energy is the capture of the power from waves on the surface of the ocean. It is one of the newer forms of renewable or ‘green’ energy under development, not as advanced as solar energy, fuel cells, wind energy, ethanol, geothermal companies, and flywheels. However, interest in wave energy is increasing and may be the wave of the future in coastal areas according to many sources including the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on Ocean Energy Systems (Report 2009).

Although fewer than 12 MW of ocean power capacity has been installed to date worldwide, we find a significant increase of investments reaching over $2 billion for R&D worldwide within the ocean power market including the development of commercial ocean wave power combination wind farms within the next three years.

Tidal turbines are a new technology that can be used in many tidal areas. They are basically wind turbines that can be located anywhere there is strong tidal flow. Because water is about 800 times denser than air, tidal turbines will have to be much sturdier than wind turbines. They will be heavier and more expensive to build but will be able to capture more energy. For example, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest region alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity.

Companies to Watch in the Developing Wave Power Industry:

Siemens AG (SI) is a joint venture partner of Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation, a leader in advanced hydro power technology and services, which owns Wavegen, Scotland’s first wave power company. Wavegen’s device is known as an oscillating water column, which is normally sited at the shoreline rather than in open water. A small facility is already connected to the Scottish power grid, and the company is working on another project in Northern Spain.

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc (OPTT) develops proprietary systems that generate electricity through ocean waves. Its PowerBuoy system is used to supply electricity to local and regional electric power grids. Iberdrola hired the company to build and operate a small wave power station off Santona, Spain, and is talking with French oil major Total (TOT) about another wave energy project off the French coast. It is also working on projects in England, Scotland, Hawaii, and Oregon.

Pelamis Wave Power, formerly known as Ocean Power Delivery, is a privately held company which has several owners including various venture capital funds, General Electric Energy (GE) and Norsk Hydro ADR (NHYDY.PK). Pelamis Wave Power is an excellent example of Scottish success in developing groundbreaking technology which may put Scotland at the forefront of Europe’s renewable revolution and create over 18,000 green high wage jobs in Scotland over the next decade. The Pelamis project is also being studied by Chevron (CVX).

Endesa SA ADS (ELEYY.PK) is a Spanish electric utility which is developing, in partnership with Pelamis, the world’s first full scale commercial wave power farm off Aguçadoura, Portugal which powers over 15,000 homes. A second phase of the project is now planned to increase the installed capacity from 2.25MW to 21MW using a further 25 Pelamis machines.

RWE AG ADR (RWEOY.PK) is a German management holding company with six divisions involved in power and energy. It is developing wave power stations in Siadar Bay on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland.

Australia’s Oceanlinx offers an oscillating wave column design and counts Germany’s largest power generator RWE as an investor. It has multiple projects in Australia and the U.S., as well as South Africa, Mexico, and Britain.

Alstom (AOMFF.PK) has also announced development in the promising but challenging field of capturing energy from waves and tides adding to the further interest from major renewable power developers in this emerging industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced several wave energy developments including a cost-shared value of over $18 million, under the DOE’s competitive solicitation for Advanced Water Power Projects. The projects will advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers. The DOE has selected the following organizations and projects for grant awards:

First Topic Area: Technology Development (Up to $600,000 for up to two years)

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc (EPRI) (Palo Alto, Calif.) Fish-friendly hydropower turbine development & deployment. EPRI will address the additional developmental engineering required to prepare a more efficient and environmentally friendly hydropower turbine for the commercial market and allow it to compete with traditional designs.

Verdant Power Inc. (New York, N.Y.) Improved structure and fabrication of large, high-power kinetic hydropower systems rotors. Verdant will design, analyze, develop for manufacture, fabricate and thoroughly test an improved turbine blade design structure to allow for larger, higher-power and more cost-effective tidal power turbines.

Public Utility District #1 of Snohomish County (SnoPUD) (Everett, Wash.) Puget Sound Tidal Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. SnoPUD will conduct in-water testing and demonstration of tidal flow technology as a first step toward potential construction of a commercial-scale power plant. The specific goal of this proposal is to complete engineering design and obtain construction approvals for a Puget Sound tidal pilot demonstration plant in the Admiralty Inlet region of the Sound.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company – San Francisco, Calif. WaveConnect Wave Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. PG&E will complete engineering design, conduct baseline environmental studies, and submit all license construction and operation applications required for a wave energy demonstration plant for the Humboldt WaveConnect site in Northern California.

Concepts ETI, Inc (White River Junction, Vt.) Development and Demonstration of an Ocean Wave Converter (OWC) Power System. Concepts ETI will prepare detailed design, manufacturing and installation drawings of an OWC. They will then manufacture and install the system in Maui, Hawaii.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMT) – Manassas, Va., Advanced Composite Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion – “OTEC”, cold water pipe project. Lockheed Martin will validate manufacturing techniques for coldwater pipes critical to OTEC in order to help create a more cost-effective OTEC system.

Second Topic Area, Market Acceleration (Award size: up to $500,000)

Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, Calif.) Wave Energy Resource Assessment and GIS Database for the U.S. EPRI will determine the naturally available resource base and the maximum practicable extractable wave energy resource in the U.S., as well as the annual electrical energy which could be produced by typical wave energy conversion devices from that resource.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, Ga.) Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the U.S. Georgia Tech will utilize an advanced ocean circulation numerical model to predict tidal currents and compute both available and effective power densities for distribution to potential project developers and the general public.

Re Vision Consulting, LLC (Sacramento, Calif.) Best Siting Practices for Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies With Respect to Environmental and Navigational Impacts. Re Vision will establish baseline, technology-based scenarios to identify potential concerns in the siting of marine and hydrokinetic energy devices, and to provide information and data to industry and regulators.

Pacific Energy Ventures, LLC (Portland, Ore.) Siting Protocol for Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Projects. Pacific Energy Ventures will bring together a multi-disciplinary team in an iterative and collaborative process to develop, review, and recommend how emerging hydrokinetic technologies can be sited to minimize environmental impacts.

PCCI, Inc. (Alexandria, Va.) Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Technologies: Identification of Potential Navigational Impacts and Mitigation Measures. PCCI will provide improved guidance to help developers understand how marine and hydrokinetic devices can be sited to minimize navigational impact and to expedite the U.S. Coast Guard review process.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAI) – San Diego, Calif., International Standards Development for Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy. SAIC will assist in the development of relevant marine and hydrokinetic energy industry standards, provide consistency and predictability to their development, and increase U.S. industry’s collaboration and representation in the development process.

Third Topic Area, National Marine Energy Centers (Award size: up to $1.25 million for up to five years)

Oregon State University, and University of Washington – Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. OSU and UW will partner to develop the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center with a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development for the U.S. Center activities are structured to: facilitate device commercialization, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in understanding.

University of Hawaii (Honolulu, Hawaii) National Renewable Marine Energy Center in Hawaii will facilitate the development and implementation of commercial wave energy systems and to assist the private sector in moving ocean thermal energy conversion systems beyond proof-of-concept to pre-commercialization, long-term testing.

Types of Hydro Turbines

There are two main types of hydro turbines: impulse and reaction. The type of hydropower turbine selected for a project is based on the height of standing water— the flow, or volume of water, at the site. Other deciding factors include how deep the turbine must be set, efficiency, and cost.

Impulse Turbines

The impulse turbine generally uses the velocity of the water to move the runner and discharges to atmospheric pressure. The water stream hits each bucket on the runner. There is no suction on the down side of the turbine, and the water flows out the bottom of the turbine housing after hitting the runner. An impulse turbine, for example Pelton or Cross-Flow is generally suitable for high head, low flow applications.

Reaction Turbines

A reaction turbine develops power from the combined action of pressure and moving water. The runner is placed directly in the water stream flowing over the blades rather than striking each individually. Reaction turbines include the Propeller, Bulb, Straflo, Tube, Kaplan, Francis or Kenetic are generally used for sites with lower head and higher flows than compared with the impulse turbines.

Types of Hydropower Plants

There are three types of hydropower facilities: impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage. Some hydropower plants use dams and some do not.

Many dams were built for other purposes and hydropower was added later. In the United States, there are about 80,000 dams of which only 2,400 produce power. The other dams are for recreation, stock/farm ponds, flood control, water supply, and irrigation. Hydropower plants range in size from small systems for a home or village to large projects producing electricity for utilities.


The most common type of hydroelectric power plant (above image) is an impoundment facility. An impoundment facility, typically a large hydropower system, uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. The water may be released either to meet changing electricity needs or to maintain a constant reservoir level.

The Future of Ocean and Wave Energy

Wave energy devices extract energy directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity. (A terawatt is equal to a trillion watts.)

Wave energy rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Japan, Australia, and the northeastern and northwestern coasts of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. The West Coast of the United States is more than a 1,000 miles long.
In general, careful site selection is the key to keeping the environmental impacts of wave energy systems to a minimum. Wave energy system planners can choose sites that preserve scenic shorefronts. They also can avoid areas where wave energy systems can significantly alter flow patterns of sediment on the ocean floor.

Economically, wave energy systems are just beginning to compete with traditional power sources. However, the costs to produce wave energy are quickly coming down. Some European experts predict that wave power devices will soon find lucrative niche markets. Once built, they have low operation and maintenance costs because the fuel they use — seawater — is FREE.

The current cost of wave energy vs. traditional electric power sources?

It has been estimated that improving technology and economies of scale will allow wave generators to produce electricity at a cost comparable to wind-driven turbines, which produce energy at about 4.5 cents kWh.

For now, the best wave generator technology in place in the United Kingdom is producing energy at an average projected/assessed cost of 6.7 cents kWh.

In comparison, electricity generated by large scale coal burning power plants costs about 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Combined-cycle natural gas turbine technology, the primary source of new electric power capacity is about 3 cents per kilowatt hour or higher. It is not unusual to average costs of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour and up for municipal utilities districts.

Currently, the United States, Brazil, Europe, Scotland, Germany, Portugal, Canada and France all lead the developing wave energy industry that will return 30% growth or more for the next five years.


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PATRICK BLUM, International Herald Tribune, March 15, 2009

LISBON: Projects for wind and wave energy beset by technical snags and dwindling investment

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisIn July, a Pelamis wave power generator, an articulated steel machine like a giant semi-submerged sausage, was towed into the deep Atlantic, off the coast of Aguçadoura in northern Portugal, and attached to a floating mooring.

By September, two more Pelamis units, each capable of generating 750 kilowatts of electricity, had joined the first, about three miles, or five kilometers, off shore, and the Portuguese power utility Energias de Portugal was able to announce proudly that “the world’s first commercial wave power project,” was transmitting electricity to the national grid.

Costing about €9 million, or $11.5 million, the three machines were the first phase of a plan intended ultimately to be expanded to 28 units, with a total generating capacity of 21 megawatts — enough to power more than 15,000 homes and save more than 60,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide from being spewed into the skies by conventional power plants.

In mid-November all three were disconnected and towed back to land, where they now lie in Leixões harbor, near the city of Porto, with no date set for their return to operation.

So what went wrong?

First, there was a buoyancy problem, said Max Carcas, a spokesman for Pelamis Wave Power, the British company that designed and built the units and retained a 23% stake in the project. According to a report on ocean energy systems published by the International Energy Agency, foam-filled buoyancy tanks for the mooring installation leaked and needed to be replaced, delaying startup.

The buoyancy problem was resolved, Mr. Carcas said during a telephone interview this month, but other technical issues emerged, as could be expected in a prototype project. “Like all things new, you have niggles to work through, and we continue to do that.”

Then, the financial crisis kicked in.

The Aguçadoura wave farm was announced in September as a joint venture between Pelamis and a group of three promoters including EDP, the Portuguese electrical engineering company Efacec, and the asset manager Babcock & Brown, an Australia-based specialist in power and other infrastructure investments.

But, by November, as the global credit crunch and falling share markets took a deepening toll of highly leveraged investors, Babcock & Brown announced a major program of asset sales to pay down its debt: and the Portuguese partners pulled back from the venture.

“Babcock & Brown are in process of winding down and we’re looking at offers for all our assets,” Anthony Kennaway, a Babcock & Brown spokesman, said from London. “Pelamis is part of that. All our assets are for sale. We are not putting any more money into the project.”

Against that background, Mr. Carcas, of Pelamis, said that there was no timetable for returning the generators to sea.

“As soon as things are resolved,” he said. “Could be next week. Could be anything.”

Harnessing ocean power for energy seemed an ideal option for Portugal, a small country with no oil and limited resources, and a long Atlantic coastline south of the Bay of Biscay, famed for its fierce waves and storms.

Portugal now imports more than 80% of its energy supplies, far above the European Union average. Domestic power generation is heavily dependent on hydroelectric projects, which are vulnerable to big fluctuations in output, depending on seasonal weather conditions.

Ambitious government plans still aim for a radical transformation of Portugal’s energy profile, with as much as 60% of the country’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. That compares with an EU target of 20% for the union as a whole.

But the Aguçadoura project points up the risks of a strategy relying on cutting-edge, and potentially costly, technology. Whether or not the target is achievable, particularly in current economic conditions, is a subject of debate among the country’s renewable energy specialists.

“We assumed there would be no critical technical issues,” to hinder deployment of offshore generators, said Antonio Sarmento, director of the Wave Energy Center, WavEC, a Portuguese nonprofit organization that promotes ocean wave power generation.

“Also we assumed there would be no environmental impact and that the energy would be relatively cheap. So we were optimistic,” Mr. Sarmento said. “It’s an educated guess. We are still guessing. When you pick up a new technology and look at the future it’s difficult to say what will be.”

On the cost side, investments in ocean-based technologies “are very high and operating costs are not entirely negligible because you have the problem of corrosion from salt water,” said Colette Lewiner, head of the global energy and utilities sector at the French consultancy and services company Capgemini.

While the Aguçadoura partners put the cost of the first phase at a relatively modest €9 million, the true cost of such developments is difficult to calculate, said Hugo Chandler, a renewable energy analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris.

“Part of the problem is the absence of data,” he said. “Countries are still at an early stage and don’t want to reveal real costs.”

It’s a very young technology, Mr. Chandler said, but “the indications are that it is considerably more expensive than other technologies.”

Still, the Aguçadoura experience has not discouraged EDP from pursuing other high-tech ocean solutions. Last month it signed an agreement with Principle Power of the United States to develop and install a floating offshore wind farm off the Portuguese coast, one of the first projects of its kind in Europe.

The project would use proprietary Principle Power technology designed to allow wind turbines to be set in high-wind but previously inaccessible ocean locations where water depth exceeds 50 meters, or 164 feet. The agreement foresees commercial deployment in three phases, but sets no timetable.

Offshore wind power generation currently costs 50% to 100% more than equivalent onshore wind farms, according to a recent Capgemini report on clean technologies in Europe. But Portugal is eager to press ahead with the new technology. “Offshore wind is one of our key innovation priorities,” said the chief executive of EDP, António Mexia.

“The development of floating foundations for wind turbines is a prerequisite to the development of offshore wind farms world-wide, as areas in which the sea bed is less than 50 meters deep are scarce and fixed structures in deeper waters are economically not feasible,” he said.

Still, he noted, the agreement with Principle Power “is not a binding contract; there are a number of prerequisites, technical and financial, that need to be met.”

A €30 million first phase, covering development and infrastructure construction, could see a small, five megawatt floating generator in operation by the second half of 2012. But for that to happen, full funding would need to be in place “by the end of this semester,” Mr. Mexia said.

WavEC, meanwhile, has several wave power projects in the pipeline, including tests of prototype systems from three companies — WaveRoller, of Finland; Ocean Power Technologies of the United States; and Wavebob, of Ireland.

For sure, the economic recession and financial crisis are adding to the challenges facing such projects, as investors pull back. “There will be a pause, a slowdown, in renewable energy investment until we see the recovery,” said Ms. Lewiner, of Capgemini. But “these investments take time and you can’t sleep through the recession. These plants are needed.”

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MaritimeJournal.com, February 12, 2009

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisEdinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power has won an order from UK renewable energy generator E.On for the next generation Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, known as the P2.

The P2 will be built at the Pelamis Leith Docks facility and trialed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. This is the first time a major utility has ordered a wave energy converter for installation in the UK and the first time the Pelamis P2 machine will be tested anywhere in the world.

Pelamis already has the world’s first multi-unit wave farm operational some 5km off the north coast of Portugal at Agucadora, where three 750kW machines deliver 2.25MW of electricity to the Portuguese grid. Operator Enersis has issued a letter of intent to Pelamis for a further 20MW of capacity to expand the successful project.

Licenses, consents and funding have been granted for the Orcadian Wave Farm, which will consist of four Pelamis generators supplied to ScottishPower Renewables. This installation, also at EMEC, will utilise existing electrical subsea cables, substation and grid connection.

Funding and consent has also been granted for Wave Hub, a wave energy test facility 15km off the north coast of Cornwall UK which is expected to be commissioned this year. It will consist of four separate berths, each capable of exporting 5MW of wave generated electricity. Ocean Prospect has secured exclusive access to one of the Wave Hub berths for the connection of multiple Pelamis devices.

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SIMON GOMPERTZ, BBC News, September 24, 2008

The beach at Agucadoura, just north of Porto, is where electricity from the world’s first wave farm is being cabled ashore. Five kilometres out to sea a Pelamis wave machine is gently riding the Atlantic swell, generating power for the Portuguese grid.

The wave farm has just been officially launched after a frustrating delay of more than a year. “We had an issue with the underwater connections”, explains engineering manager, Ross Henderson. He is sitting with me in the beachfront substation which takes in the power. “I can’t believe such a small thing cost the project a whole year.”

The Practicalities

To understand the engineering problem, you have to appreciate how the wave machines work. Pelamis is an ancient word for sea snake. And it is true that the machines look like giant metal snakes floating in the water.

Each one has four long sections with three “power modules” hinged between them. There are large hydraulic rams sticking into the modules. As the long sections twist and turn in the waves they pull the rams in and out of the modules like pistons.

The huge force of the rams is harnessed to run generators in the power modules. But tethering the snakes to the seabed is a major challenge. The system has to be able to cope with the worst sea conditions.

Pelamis Wave Power developed an underwater plug, which floats 15 to 20 metres below the surface. The snakes can be attached in one movement without any help from divers. But when the system was installed off Portugal in slightly deeper water than engineers were used to, the plug wouldn’t float properly. The foam keeping it buoyant couldn’t stand the extra water pressure.

“We worked it out quickly, but it took a while to fix the problem,” laments Ross. “Our buoyancy foam was fine when we tried it out off Orkney but it couldn’t cope in Portugal.”

The Pelamis engineers designed new floats, changing the foam. Then they had to wait through a stormy winter before they could install them.

What Happens Next?

Two more wave machines should soon be in position, making three in all. At full production the company says they will be able to generate enough power for 1,500 homes.

And 25 more machines are on order for Portugal. It’s been an expensive wait, but Ross Henderson believes the company has built up the expertise to deal with a variety of sea conditions.

“We managed to do the changeover using much smaller boats than we’re used to in the North Sea, where everything is geared up for the oil industry.” So installations should be cheaper in future.

Pelamis is looking at new projects in Norway, Spain, France, South African and North America. Meanwhile, four machines are being installed off Orkney next year, with seven more due to go in north of Cornwall the year after.

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Platt/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

As well as the US, many other nations are also looking to crack the wave energy market.

In Sweden, for instance, the first wave-powered plant is set to begin delivering electricity to twenty homes on the country’s west coast within a few weeks. Seabased, a marine-energy technology headquartered in Uppsala, Sweden, is using its patented turbine system in the pilot project, which it is financing through a combination of investment capital and grant money. Investors include Finnish power company Fortum, which has invested SEK 6 million ($989,000) as well as Swedish utility Vattenfall and a Swedish state pension fund. In addition, the Swedish Energy Agency gave the company a SEK 13.6 million ($2.2 million) grant earlier in 2008. In the first phase, 10 generators with capacity of about 100 kW will be installed. Seabased is looking to expand the project to 12 MW of installed capacity. That plan, however, could be stopped by the Swedish military. In a letter to Minister for Enterprise and Energy Maud Olofsson, military officers expressed concern that wave power generators could interfere with defense operations on Sweden’s west coast.

In addition, China, with ample potential wave power along its 18,000-kilometer (11,160-mile) coastline, is taking steps to develop marine energy. Israeli company S.D.E. Energy recently signed an agreement to sell wave-power plants in China. The company said that the power plants will be financed by investors in Hong Kong and other parts of China. Two joint venture companies, formed in Hong Kong, will build an initial model in Guangzhou province in southern China. SDE said that if the model proves successful, the joint ventures will establish sea wave power plants across the country. The process is subject to the approval of the Chinese government. SDE executives said the cost of erecting a 1-MW wave power station starts at $650,000. This compares to $900,000 for a similar sized natural gas station, $1.5 million for a coal-fired or wind powered station and $3 million for a solar station, the company said.

All told, wave energy has recently made major strides toward commercial development – progress that could accelerate in countries like Portugal and the UK in the coming months. Winners and losers still must be sorted: Energy analyst Douglas Westwood estimates that more than 80 wave and tidal systems are currently competing for market share. The next challenges will surface as initiatives like the Portuguese Aguçadoura project near the brink of commercial-scale power generation.

Wave energy’s “adoption as a credible renewable energy source is vital,” an industry observer said in an interview. “The technology is still expensive. But it’s a question of how quickly rather than whether it develops.”

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Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

The burgeoning wave energy sector, which has endured ups and downs in recent years through initial testing of devices and uncertain government support, has recently set sail with new projects that have brought the industry to the brink of commercial development.

Portugal has established its role as a pioneer in wave energy development. Through the Aguçadoura project off the coast of northern Portugal, for instance, Enersis and its technology partner Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power (PWP) completed initial deployment of a 750-kW PWP wave-power unit, in August 2008, that generated electricity for the Portuguese grid, a source familiar with the initiative told Platts. The unit initially encountered difficulties with buoyancy, but these problems were solved, the source noted.

Though the system did not reach peak generation, it produced “hundreds of kilowatts,” he said, adding that it has since been disconnected to prove it can be returned to harbor for inspection of the component parts. “Everything is in very good order,” the source added. The Aguçadoura project partners are looking to have three 750-kW machines ready by September 2008. The goal is to have 30 machines deployed within a few years exceeding 20 MW – a venture that could expand “up to 500 MW,” the source said.

The Portuguese government is supporting the project by a feed-in tariff provided specifically for marine energy of about €0.23/kWh (US36¢/kWh), according to PWP’s Web site.

Portugal has established its role as a pioneer in wave energy development, with national institute Instituto Superior Técnico studying the technology since 1977. It boasts a 250-350-kilometer (150-220 mile) stretch of coast deemed suitable for wave-energy exploitation.

Other companies are looking to join the rush in Portugal for wave power, as developers Tecdragon, EDP and Eneólica take major steps in experimental development.

Additionally, Portuguese steel construction giant Martifer has created a joint marine-energy venture with Scottish Briggs, while Generg conducts research and planning for a wave energy plant.

EDP, Portugal’s largest power utility, is in the final stages of talks to install wave energy demonstration projects in Portugal. This deployment would follow the company’s participation in a review of more than 50 offshore wave energy technologies. Final site selection has begun on one EDP project known as the Breakwave, a system financed with €2 million ($3.1 million) of European Union funds that uses oscillating water column technology.

More advanced is Tecdragon, which aims to install in Portugal’s São Pedro de Moel pilot zone the first world’s 7-MW wave-energy plant. “Until now the start of installation was not possible due to adverse meteorological conditions,” explained Tecdragon Manager Borges da Cunha. The system would be based on Wave Dragon technology, which the company describes as a “floating, slack-moored energy converter” that meshes current offshore and hydropower turbine technology. Wave Dragon, the company said, is the only wave energy converter being developed that can be freely scaled up.

António Sarmento, director of Portugal’s Wave Energy Center, said that over the next 30 years Portugal could invest €5 billion ($7.8 billion) to install up to 5 GW of wave energy capacity along its western coast and along the coasts of its Madeira and Azores islands.

Another EU member is jockeying with Portugal to become the world leader in wave energy deployment – and to reap the anticipated benefits in new jobs and export earnings that the emerging marine energy industry is expected to generate.

The UK wave power sector moved ahead on July 30 when Jim Mather, minister of enterprise and energy for the Scottish regional government, commissioned a 100-kw Wavegen turbine. Scotland offers developers some of the world’s best wave-power levels.

The 100-kW turbine is “a major step forward,” the Scottish government said, for the Siadar Wave Energy Project, which is being developed by Npower Renewables, RWE Innogy’s UK operating company, on the Scottish isle of Lewis. Npower Renewables submitted planning applications in April for SWEP, which would generate up to 4 MW using 40 Wavegen 100-kW turbines.

If the Scottish government approves the plans, construction could start as early as 2009 and would take an estimated 18 months to complete.

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LARRY GREENEMEIER, Scientific American, March 10, 2008

Thirty feet (nine meters) below Manhattan’s East River, next to Roosevelt Island, six turbines—each 16 feet (five meters) in diameter, churning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute—stand at attention on the riverbed. The turbines—which belong to New York City-based Verdant Power, Inc., —are built on a swiveling platform that keeps their nose cones facing the tide, whether it’s coming in or going out. Resembling an underwater wind farm, these kinetic hydropower systems use gearboxes and speed increasers—which convert the slower rotating rotor into a faster rotating generator—to transform each turbine’s mechanical power into electricity.

Verdant’s turbines require tides that move at least six feet per second in order to generate enough energy for them to be cost-effective, and the East River is more than obliging. “The East River is a good tidal channel that links the Long Island Sound to the ocean,” says Trey Taylor, the company’s president and head of market development. “Plus, New York is an expensive place to buy power, so it would be easier here to prove that this could help.”

A few dozen feet away from the closest turbine, an onshore control room gets a feed of the energy created by the entire cluster. To prove that this energy could be usable for local businesses, Verdant last year sent a test transmission of electricity to a supermarket and parking garage on Roosevelt Island that were willing to participate in the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project.

The Earth’s oceans, pushed by wind and tugged by the moon and sun, ebb and flow over more than 70 percent of the planet, but only recently has technology emerged to finally harness some of that kinetic energy as usable power for us landlubbers. Underwater turbines, submerged “wind” farms and wave-riding electrical generators are being tested around the world, with new advances in technology promising relief for overworked energy utilities. “We consider wave energy to be more predictable than wind,” says Phil Metcalf, CEO of Edinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power, Ltd., a company taking a different approach than Verdant in developing ocean power–utilizing devices. “You look at the ocean 1,000 miles out, you’ll get a good idea of what to expect over the next 24 to 48 hours. We think it’s actually going to be easier to dispatch to the grid.”

Pelamis’s devices are big red tubes, each 426.5 feet (130 meters) long, 13 feet (about four meters) in diameter, weighing around 750 tons (635 metric tons), and with a life expectancy of up to 20 years. They flex as the ocean swells around them. The wave-induced motion of the tubes’ joints is resisted by hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure fluid through hydraulic motors that drive electrical generators to produce electricity. Power from all the joints is fed down a single umbilical cable to a junction on the seabed. Three of the tubes, which work best at a depth of 165 to 230 feet (50 to 70 meters) and roughly 3.7 miles (six kilometers) from the shore, can produce up to 2.25 megawatts.

Pelamis—which until September had been called Ocean Power Delivery—has taken its prototype through about 2,000 hours of testing at the European Marine Energy Center’s wave test site near Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Three additional machines will form the initial phase of Agucadoura, the world’s first commercial wave farm, in April off the coast of Portugal, a project developed by Portuguese utility Enersis, a subsidiary of Babcock and Brown. Pelamis is negotiating with other utilities and governments as well, with future deployments depending on how well the Portuguese project is able to turn waves of water into currents of electricity.

The waters around Scotland are also host to tidal turbine testing by several organizations, including Lunar Energy, Ltd., in East Yorkshire, England, which in March 2007 announced a deal with Germany-based power utility E.On UK, to develop a tidal stream power project of up to eight megawatts off Scotland’s west coast.

Meanwhile, Florida researchers may soon be testing both wave- and tide-powered energy technologies that could take advantage of the Gulf Stream, which flows north-northeastward about 15 miles (25 kilometers) off Florida’s southern and eastern shores at more than eight billion gallons (30 billion liters) per second. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology in Dania Beach, Fla., are using a $5-million state research grant awarded in late 2006 to develop air-conditioning technologies that tap into the powerful Gulf Stream and large water temperature differences off Florida’s shores. The researchers envision thousands of underwater turbines producing as much energy as 10 nuclear power plants and supplying one third of the state’s electricity. The university is working with academic, government and industry partners on the project, including the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the U.S. departments of Navy and Energy, Lockheed Martin, Oceaneering International, Inc., in Hanover, Md., and Verdant Power, which has provided them with a 10-foot (three-meter) diameter rotor system that they used during 2002 East River tests.

Verdant first began testing its three-blade, horizontal-axis turbines from the surface of the East River in 2002. There have been some hitches: Some of the turbines’ fiberglass blades broke under the tidal force. (The fiberglass blades will be replaced by the end of April with ones made of a magnesium alloy.)

Still, the site has produced nearly 50,000 kilowatt-hours of energy from December 2006 to May 2007. Verdant’s East River testing spot has the potential to support as many as 300 turbines and nearly 10 megawatts of installed capacity. Verdant has been working for the past several years to tweak its tidal turbines so that by the end of 2010 they can deliver up to 1.5 megawatts to the city’s electrical grid (800 households use about one megawatt).

The East River is not Verdant’s only site. The company is also testing its technology in Canada’s St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario, with the hope of creating a turbine infrastructure capable of producing an output of 15 megawatts. The company is also looking at sites in China and India.

It is unclear just how much it will cost to tap into energy from large bodies of water, since there is no tidal or wave power industry. Verdant’s Taylor says his company is at least two years away from being able to quote costs to potential customers. That said, a rough cost estimate for Verdant’s marine renewable energy technology is up to $3,600 per kilowatt hour—a higher price tag than wind power, fossil fuels or hydroelectric dams today, he says. However, he also points out that Verdant will be able to lower its costs over time through the mass production of its technology and the reduction of inefficiencies in the licensing and implementation processes.

The next step for Verdant in the U.S. is to apply for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license that would allow the company to continue its pilot project attempting to prove tidal turbines can be a reliable source of energy for the city’s grid. It took four years to secure the necessary permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That bureaucratic delay speaks to the difficulty of navigating the regulatory processes required to get such turbines into the water. Verdant’s Taylor says his company has spent about $9 million getting its East River project to its current state, with one third of that cost going toward studies gauging how the turbines might affect vessel navigation, aquatic life and fish migration. Although the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) chipped in $3 million toward the East River project, Taylor says the time and money spent to secure changing, and sometimes redundant, regulatory approval wastes precious time that could be used testing new technologies. “That’s got to change,” he adds. “The world is burning up, and we’re fiddling.”

For its part, FERC doesn’t see itself as fiddling as much as trying to find the right tune when it comes new hydroelectric technologies. Chairman Joseph Kelliher last year noted, “these technologies present some challenges relating to reliability, environmental and safety implications, and commercial viability.”

More projects:

In August 2007 nonprofit research and development firm SRI International and Japanese wave-powered generator maker Hyper Drive Corporation, Ltd., tested a prototype ocean wave–powered generator mounted on a buoy in Florida’s Tampa Bay. As the unit bobbed up and down, absorbing energy from the waves, an accordionlike device made of artificial muscle expanded and contracted, creating mechanical energy that was converted into electricity. In the fall SRI will test its more powerful and durable next-generation prototype wave-powered generator.

Finavera Renewables, a Vancouver, British Columbia, renewable-energy technology company, recently signed a contract to deliver power for San Francisco–based Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) by 2012. The deal is North America’s first commercial power purchase agreement for a two-megawatt wave-energy project. The PG&E project will be built about 2.5 miles (four kilometers) off the coast of Humboldt County, Calif., for electricity delivery to PG&E’s customers throughout the company’s northern and central California service territory. Finavera’s technology is the AquaBuOY, a floating structure that converts the up-and-down motion of waves into electricity.

The company was also granted a five-year operating license for its one-megawatt Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project in Washington State by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commissionthe first-ever FERC license issued for a wave, tidal or current energy project in the U.S. Finavera is also looking to develop wave-power projects off the coast of Oregon and South Africa, and is determining the feasibility of a five-megawatt wave energy project off the coast of Ucluelet, British Columbia.

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