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Posts Tagged ‘OPT’

GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN, New York Times, March 2, 2010

Harnessing the ocean waves for emission-free power seems like a tidy concept, but the ocean is anything but tidy. Waves crash from multiple directions on a seemingly random basis, and converting the kinetic energy into electricity is a frontier of alternative energy research that requires grappling with large unknowns.

But with several utility companies and states, and in one case, the U.S. Navy, investing in wave power, or hydrokinetic energy, may not be too far off in the utility mix. At least two companies hope to reach commercial deployments within the next three to five years.

Off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, is the Oyster, a white- and yellow-flapped cylinder, 40 feet tall and firmly locked into the ocean’s bed. With a total of seven moving parts, two of which are pistons, it captures waves as they near the coast. Oyster funnels them into a pipe and carries the power inland to a hydroelectric power generator. The generator has been supplying the United Kingdom’s grid with 315 kilowatts of energy at peak power since October.

A farm of up to 100 Oysters could yield 100 megawatts, according to Aquamarine Power, the Scottish company that developed the technology.

“From an environmental perspective, in the sea you have a very simple machine that uses no oil, no chemicals, no electromagnetic radiation,” said Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine.

The Oyster provides a tiny fraction of the 250 gigawatts of power that the water is capable of providing, including conventional hydroelectric energy by 2030, according to the United Nations. At least 25 gigawatts of that will come from marine renewables, according to Pike Research, a clean technology market research group. The non-conservative estimate is as much as 200 gigawatts. And 2015 will be the benchmark year to determine which of these estimates will be true.

The field of hydrokinetic power has a number of companies such as Aquamarine, all with unique designs and funded by utility companies, government grants and venture capitalists. If at least 50% of these projects come online by 2015, marine power could supply 2.7 gigawatts to the mix, according to Pike Research. A gigawatt is the electrical output of a large nuclear power plant.

‘PowerBuoy’ joins the Marines

There are six marine renewable technologies currently under development that aim to take advantage of ocean waves, tides, rivers, ocean currents, differences in ocean temperatures with depth, and osmosis.

“The energy landscape is going to be a mix of different energy sources, with an increasing proportion coming from renewables,” said Charles Dunleavy, CEO of Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-based research group also developing wave energy. “We aim to be a very big part of this.”

The company has been testing its wave energy device, called the PowerBuoy, in the ocean since 2005. It recently launched another device a mile offshore from the island of Oahu in Hawaii and connected it to the power grid of the U.S. Marine Corps base. It now supplies 40 kilowatts of energy at peak, enough to power about 25 to 30 homes.

“The Navy wants to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuel; they have a strong need to establish greater energy independence,” said Dunleavy.

The buoy captures the energy from right-sized waves (between 3 and 22 feet tall), which drive a hydraulic pump. The pump converts the motion into electricity in the ocean using a generator embedded into its base. A subsea cable transfers the power to the electrical grid. A buoy farm of 30 acres could yield 10 megawatts of energy, enough to supply 8,000 homes, said Dunleavy.

The structures rise 30 feet above water, and extend 115 feet down. They would not be a problem for commercial trawlers, which are farther offshore, or for ship navigation lanes, said Dunleavy. Recreational boaters, however, may have to watch out.

‘Oyster’ competes with the ‘top end of wind’

In comparison with a system such as the Oyster that brings water ashore to power turbines, creating electricity in the ocean is more efficient, said Dunleavy. “You lose a lot of energy to friction,” he said.

But Aquamarine’s system of having onshore power generation will cut down on maintenance costs, according to McAdam. Operation costs are expected to consume as much as 40% of the budget of operating a marine power plant, according to Pike Research.

Ocean Power is already selling its device for individual commercial use and building larger units of 150 kilowatts off the West Coast of the United States and for the utility company Iberdrola’s unit in Spain.

It is also developing the first wave power station under the Department of Energy’s stimulus program at Reedsport, Ore., according to Dunleavy. The farm, which currently has a 150-kilowatt unit, could grow by nine additional buoys.

And as for price, which is a major concern, Dunleavy said that cost compares with other renewables.

“It is cheaper than solar thermal and photovoltaics, and in the range of biomass,” he said. “It is at the top end of wind.”

The Oyster is also aiming to position itself as an alternative to wind power for utilities. McAdam said that by 2013, his company hopes to be a competitor to offshore wind installations. And by 2015, he hopes to compete with onshore wind.

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FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, February 25, 2010

The Southern California investment company with a federal permit to develop wave energy in waters off Mendocino has entered into a partnership with one of the world’s top companies in the field.

GreenWave Energy Solutions recently entered into a memo of understanding, or MOU, with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) of New Jersey, a move which makes wave energy off the village of Mendocino much more likely than ever.

Earlier this month, Ocean Power Technologies earned a federal license to develop wave energy off Reedsport, Ore., a groundbreaking move in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process.

Ocean Power Technologies had its own FERC wave energy preliminary permit off Cape Mendocino but last year gave up on that site as impractical. OPT, which has since eclipsed many of its hydrokinetics competitors, plans to bring its experience to developing waters off Mendocino, the FERC permit states.

OPT recently deployed one of its Power Buoys off Hawaii, where it is also developing wave energy. OPT has been granted the exclusive right to sell their patented WEC devices to GreenWave for the generation of electrical power off Mendocino.

The existence of GreenWave’s FERC preliminary permit already spells doom for the creation of any new Marine Life Protection Act (MLPAI) Initiative protection of the claimed area.

GreenWave told FERC in its latest progress report that the firm has a target date of April 2012 for filing a license to actually develop electricity off Mendocino.

A preliminary permit gives exclusive study rights to an area to the applicant and also provides automatic preference to a license to actually produce power in the ocean.

“The proposed 100 megawatt GreenWave Mendocino Wave Park is estimated to generate an average of 250 GigaWatt-hours annually. GreenWave has contacted most or all of the stakeholders … and will continue to conduct community outreach and informational efforts to keep all stakeholders apprised of progress and plans related to the environmental studies and development of this proposed wave energy project,” the FERC filing by GreenWave President Wayne Burkamp states.

GreenWave and Ocean Power Technologies plan joint meetings locally beginning in March, the filing states. The two firms plan to file full details of the wave energy project with FERC by March and then discuss those plans in public meetings with locals.

Wave energy has generated substantial local opposition led by local fishermen. The environmental community in Mendocino has also opposed wave energy. Environmentalists in Humboldt County have not been involved in the issue.

PG&E, faced with local opposition, withdrew its Fort Bragg wave energy development application and continued its effort in friendlier Humboldt County, then added a second site in Southern California.

National environmental groups signed off on wave energy in a letter to president Obama. But the Obama administration studied the issue and, like Fort Bragg residents, learned the technology raised serious environmental issues and was too theoretical to help with the nation’s energy needs in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, fishing and civic groups have been seeking to construct a public process that protects the ocean.

A group formed in Fort Bragg, Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH) is the lead plaintiff on a lawsuit against FERC challenging FERC’s issuance of the exclusive development rights to waters off Mendocino to GreenWave. The city of Fort Bragg, County of Mendocino, the Ocean Protection Council, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen and the Recreational Fishing Alliance are also part of the challenge.

The lawsuit, with filings due in federal court this spring and summer, asserts that FERC failed to follow environmental laws or create a comprehensive plan before issuing wave energy permits.

“GreenWave has reviewed the allegations contained in the complaint and believes the allegations are without merit. GreenWave is monitoring this litigation and will provide any support that FERC believes necessary,” GreenWave’s recent filing states.

PG&E said the reason it abandoned its Fort Bragg development site was Noyo Harbor is unsuitable. That hasn’t discouraged GreenWave so far.

Background

The exclusive three-year preliminary permit granted in May 2009 to GreenWave stretches from just north of Albion to off Point Cabrillo, about a half-mile to three miles offshore.

Five men from the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California, including Tony Strickland, a Republican state senator, formed GreenWave Energy Solutions about two years ago.

Strickland, one of the state’s most ardent deregulators and anti-tax advocates, won the state Legislature’s closest race last November by a handful of votes, California’s closest major race. He made his involvement in alternative energy a key part of his campaign.

Green Wave Energy Solutions when formed was composed of Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante and prominent housing developers Dean Kunicki and Gary Gorian.

Calls to GreenWave’s message phone number revealed Strickland and the others are still involved.

GreenWave does not mention Strickland, or any local members of the California Legislature among its communications with the Legislature in its report to FERC.

“GreenWave has participated in numerous meetings with California state government officials regarding various aspects of the permitting process and the political dynamics of development of a wave farm, in this district. GreenWave has met with various legislative personnel including California State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (39th District). Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (75th District), and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Chief Deputy Legislative Assistant, John Moffatt.

“These meetings involved discussions regarding the future of wave energy in California, working to streamline the permitting process in California and questions related to legislation which would assist in wave energy development,” the FERC filing states.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process has concentrated solely on restricting and banning fishing, despite broader general ocean protection goals in the act. An opinion issued by the California Attorney General’s office states that any prior legal claim (such as a preliminary permit for wave energy) precludes the establishment of any type of new marine protected area. However, that fact has not yet been introduced into the discussions of creation of “arrays” or fishing restricted areas, despite large areas off limits in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties due to permits granted to PG&E and GreenWave.

Editor’s Note: Phenomenal reporting by Frank Hartzell, thank you!

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PennWell Publishing, February 22, 2010

Construction has begun off Oregon’s coast on a commercial U.S. wave energy farm, which is being developed by Ocean Power Technologies and is planned to supply power to about 400 homes, according to national media reports.

The system will be installed off the Oregon coast near Reedsport, and it will represent the first phase of an expected 10-PowerBuoy Reedsport wave power station with a generating capacity of about 1.5 MW. The development would be the first commercial-scale wave power farm in the United States.

The first buoy will measure 150 feet tall by 40 feet wide, weigh 200 tons and cost $4 million, according to Phil Pellegrino, spokesman for New Jersey-based developer Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. OPT has chosen Oregon Iron Works to construct its first commercial wave energy PowerBuoy system in North America.

Nine additional PowerBuoys will be constructed and installed under the second phase of the project. The additional buoys are scheduled to be deployed by 2012 at a total cost of about $60 million.

Ocean Power Technologies recently received an A$66.5 million (US$61 million) grant from the Australian government to build a 19-MW wave power project off the coast of Victoria, Australia.

Ocean Power Technologies plans to complete its first PB150 wave energy device in the UK for deployment in Scotland in mid 2010.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOcean Power Technologies Inc. has signed an exclusive agreement with three Japanese companies to develop a demonstration wave energy station in Japan. Idemitsu Kosan Co., Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. and Japan Wind Development Co. comprise this consortium and have invited OPT to become a member of this Tokyo Wave Power Initiative.

This is OPT’s first venue in Japan and complements OPT’s global strategy to form alliances with strategic partners in key markets. OPT now has a range of power generation projects globally, including those in Oregon and Hawaii in the U.S., Scotland and Southwest England in the U.K., Spain, Australia and now Japan.

Under the anticipated agreement to build the demonstration plant, OPT said it will sell the equipment for the power station to the The companies in Initiative. And they will provide manufacturing and maintenance of the power stations and on-going plant operations, while OPT will provide its PowerBuoy technology and appropriate subsystems.

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TOM HESTER SR., New Jersey Newsroom, August 25, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoState and local officials joined with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) Tuesday to recognize the success of one of the Pennington-based company’s PowerBuoys off the coast of Atlantic City.

OPT is a pioneer in wave energy technology that harnesses ocean wave resources to generate clean electricity.

“This is a celebration of our work in the renewable energy sector and an opportunity to thank the state and federal government for supporting OPT since the very beginning,” said Charles Dunleavy, the company’s senior vice president and chief financial officer. “As we continue to achieve success in both the national and international markets, OPT is proud to have invented, developed, and grow our operations right here in New Jersey.”

The federal and state support, including assistance from the Navy, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the state Economic Development Authority (EDA), and the state Commission on Science and Technology.

The PowerBuoy has successfully operated for three years off the coasts of Hawaii, Spain, Scotland and Oregon.

“Governor Jon Corzine’s comprehensive energy master plan calls for 30-percent of New Jersey’s energy to be generated from renewable sources by the year 2020,” said BPU President Jeanne Fox. “Ocean Power’s PowerBuoy can help us achieve that goal while also building New Jersey’s green economy and putting our people back to work. It’s exactly the kind of business success that the Governor envisions for New Jersey.”

OPT was founded 1994. It is a public company and operates out of a 23,000- square-foot facility. Since its inception, the company has focused on its proprietary PowerBuoy® technology, capturing wave energy using large floating buoys anchored to the sea bed and converting the energy into electricity using innovative power take-off systems.

Commencing in 1997, OPT has conducted ocean trials off the coast of New Jersey to demonstrate the concept of converting wave energy and convert it into electricity. Ocean Power currently has 42 employees in New Jersey and plans to continue its growth.

“Governor Corzine’s commitment to investing in clean energy has ensured New Jersey is able to attract and develop companies like Ocean Power Technologies,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Caren S. Franzini. “Ocean Power’s innovative technology and talented staff will only help to drive the company’s growth and the creation of more green jobs in the state.”

Franzini noted that EDA, in conjunction with BPU and the state Department of Environment Protection, recently launched Clean Energy Solutions, a suite of financing and incentive programs to further support the state’s effort to promote green job creation and a more environmentally responsible energy future.

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EMMA WOOLLACOTT, TG Daily, July 15, 2009

rda-wave-hub-graphicThe world’s largest wave farm is to be built off the coast of south-west England under plans announced today. Pledging an investment of £9.5 million ($15.6 million), Business Secretary Lord Mandelson dubbed the region the first “Low Carbon Economic Area”.

The Wave Hub project – a giant, grid-connected socket on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall for wave energy devices to be tested on a huge scale – will be commissioned next summer.

Renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies will take the first “berth” at Wave Hub, and has placed its first equipment order – for 16.5 miles of subsea cable – this week.

The project is being led by the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), and also includes plans to evaluate schemes for generating tidal power from the river Severn estuary. “Bristol already boats world-leading expertise, especially around tidal stream technology,” said Stephen Peacock, Enterprise and Innovation Executive Director at the South West RDA.

This is a rather more controversial project, however, as locals and environmentalist groups fear its effect on wildlife habitats. The South West RDA is pledging to look at three embryonic Severn proposals that have “potentially less impact on the estuary environment than conventional technologies”.

What with government, RDA, European and private sector funding, total investment in the South West’s marine energy programme in the next two years is expected to top £100 million.

Regional Minister for the South West, Jim Knight, said: “We are a region that is rich in natural renewable energy resources such as wind, wave, tidal and solar and this makes us well positioned to capitalise on this great opportunity.”

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PETER ASMUS, Pike Research, June 17, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe earth is the water planet, so it should come as no great surprise that forms of water power have been one of the world’s most popular “renewable” energy sources. Yet the largest water power source of all – the ocean that covers three-quarters of earth – has yet to be tapped in any major way for power generation. There are three primary reasons for this:

  • The first is the nature of the ocean itself, a powerful resource that cannot be privately owned like land that typically serves as the foundation for site control for terrestrial power plants of all kinds;
  • The second is funding. Hydropower was heavily subsidized during the Great Depression, but little public investment has since been steered toward marine renewables with the exception of ocean thermal technologies, which were perceived to be a failure.
  • The third reason why the ocean has not yet been industrialized on behalf of energy production is that the technologies, materials and construction techniques did not exist until now to harness this renewable energy resource in any meaningful and cost effective way.

Literally hundreds of technology designs from more than 100 firms are competing for attention as they push a variety emerging ocean renewable options. Most are smaller upstart firms, but a few larger players – Scottish Power, Lockheed Martin and Pacific Gas & Electric — are engaged and seeking new business opportunities in the marine renewables space. Oil companies Chevron, BP and Shell are also investing in the sector.

In the U.S., the clear frontrunner among device developers is Ocean Power Technologies (OPT). It was the first wave power company to issue successful IPOs through the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market for approximately $40 million and then another on the U.S. Stock Exchange in 2007 for $100 million. OPT has a long list of projects in the pipeline, including the first “commercial” installation in the U.S. in Reedsport, Oregon in 2010, which could lead to the first 50 MW wave farm in the U.S. A nearby site in Coos Bay, Oregon represents another potential 100 MW deployment.

While the total installed capacity of emerging “second generation” marine hydrokinetic resources – a category that includes wave, tidal stream, ocean current, ocean thermal and river hydrokinetic resources – was less than 10 MW at the end of 2008, a recent surge in interest in these new renewable options has generated a buzz, particularly in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Portugal, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, among other countries. It is expected that within the next five to eight years, these emerging technologies will become commercialized to the point that they can begin competing for a share of the burgeoning market for carbon-free and non-polluting renewable resources.

The five technologies covered in a new report by Pike Research are the following:

  • Tidal stream turbines often look suspiciously like wind turbines placed underwater. Tidal projects comprise over 90 percent of today’s marine kinetic capacity totals, but the vast majority of this installed capacity relies upon first generation “barrage” systems still relying upon storage dams.
  • Wave energy technologies more often look more like metal snakes that can span nearly 500 feet, floating on the ocean’s surface horizontally, or generators that stand erect vertically akin to a buoy. Any western coastline in the world has wave energy potential.
  • River hydrokinetic technologies are also quite similar to tidal technologies, relying on the kinetic energy of moving water, which can be enhanced by tidal flows, particularly at the mouth of a river way interacting with a sea and/or ocean.
  • Ocean current technologies are similar to tidal energy technologies, only they can tap into deeper ocean currents that are located offshore. Less developed than either tidal or wave energy, ocean current technologies, nevertheless, are attracting more attention since the resource is 24/7.
  • Ocean thermal energy technologies take a very different approach to generating electricity, capturing energy from the differences in temperature between the ocean surface and lower depths, and can also deliver power 24/7.

While there is a common perception that the U.S. and much of the industrialized world has tapped out its hydropower resources, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) disputes this claim. According to its assessment, the U.S. has the water resources to generate from 85,000 to 95,000 more megawatts (MW) from this non-carbon energy source, with 23,000 MW available by 2025. Included in this water power assessment are new emerging marine kinetic technologies. In fact, according to EPRI, ocean energy and hydrokinetic sources (which includes river hydrokinetic technologies) will nearly match conventional new hydropower at existing sites in new capacity additions in the U.S. between 2010 and 2025.

The UN projects that the total “technically exploitable” potential for waterpower (including marine renewables) is 15 trillion kilowatt-hours, equal to half of the projected global electricity use in the year 2030. Of this vast resource potential, roughly 15% has been developed so far. The UN and World Energy Council projects 250 GW of hydropower will be developed by 2030. If marine renewables capture just 10% of this forecasted hydropower capacity, that figure represents 25 GW, a figure Pike Research believes is a valid possibility and the likely floor on market scope.

The demand for energy worldwide will continue to grow at a dramatic clip between 2009 and 2025, with renewable energy sources overtaking natural gas as the second largest source behind coal by 2015 (IEA, 2008). By 2015, the marine renewable market share of this renewable energy growth will still be all but invisible as far as the IEA statistics are concerned, but development up to that point in time will determine whether these sources will contribute any substantial capacity by 2025. By 2015, Pike Research shows a potential of over 22 GW of all five technologies profiled in this report could come on-line. Two of the largest projects – a 14 GW tidal barrage in the U.K. and a 2.2 GW tidal fence in the Philippines — may never materialize, and/or will not likely be on-line by that date, leaving a net potential of more than 14 GW.

By 2025, at least 25 GW of total marine renewables will be developed globally. If effective carbon regulations in the U.S. are in place by 2010, and marine renewable targets established by various European governments are met, marine renewables and river hydrokinetic technologies could provide as much as 200 GW by 2025: 115 GW wave; 57 GW tidal stream; 20 GW tidal barrage; 4 GW ocean current; 3 GW river hydrokinetic; 1 GW OTEC.

About the author: Peter Asmus is an industry analyst with Pike Research and has been covering the energy sector for 20 years. His recent report on the ocean energy sector for Pike Research is now available, and more information can be found at http://www.pikeresearch.com. His new book, Introduction to Energy in California, is now available from the University of California Press (www.peterasmus.com).

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EnergyCurrent, June 11, 2009

13298_DIA_0_opt picOcean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) has reached two major manufacturing milestones in the development of the company’s PB150 PowerBuoy, a wave energy converter that is to be ready for deployment at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Scotland by the end of 2009.

The mechanical elements of the power take-off system of the PB150 have been completed. OPT has also awarded Isleburn Ltd. the steel fabrication contract for the PowerBuoy structure. Isleburn is an Inverness, Scotland-based fabrication and engineering company for offshore structures.

Once the steel fabrication is complete, the 150-kW PowerBuoy will be fully assembled and ready for deployment by the end of 2009 at EMEC, where OPT has already secured a 2-MW berth.

When the PowerBuoy has been fully demonstrated at EMEC, OPT intends to deploy further PB150 PowerBuoys in projects around the world at locations including Reedsport, Oregon; Victoria, Australia and Cornwall, U.K.

OPT CEO Mark R. Draper said, “These two milestones demonstrate significant progress towards the deployment of OPT’s first PB150. This achievement represents a pivotal stage in the company’s development and that we are on track to achieve our objective of utilizing wave power as an economically-viable source of renewable energy.”

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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.

Impoundment

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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Excerpts from FRANK HARTZELL’s article in the Mendocino Beacon, June 4, 2009

13298_DIA_0_opt picOcean Power Technologies’ subsidiary California Wave Energy Partners in it’s “wave energy project proposed off Cape Mendocino has surrendered its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit, making two major companies that have abandoned the area in the past two weeks.

The moves come at a time when President Obama’s energy policy has cut funding for wave energy in favor of solar and wind energy development.

The withdrawals leave GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC, with a permit off Mendocino, as the only local wave energy project.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced earlier this month they would not seek to develop wave energy off Fort Bragg. However, PG&E has not yet legally abandoned its FERC preliminary permit.

California Wave Energy Partners did just that on May 26, telling FERC their parent company, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) was pulling out of California in favor of developing wave energy more seriously in Oregon.

The project was proposed near Centerville off Humboldt County, south of Eureka on the remote coast of Cape Mendocino.

“OPT subsidiaries are also developing two other projects at Coos Bay and Reedsport,” wrote Herbert Nock of OPT. “During the process of developing these projects, OPT has learned the importance of community involvement in the project definition and permitting process.

“OPT therefore feels it is in the best interests of all parties to focus its efforts (in Oregon) at this time. This will allow the time and resources necessary to responsibly develop these sites for the benefit of the coastal community and the state,” Nock wrote.

The Cape Mendocino project was to be situated in a prime wave energy spot, but with connections to the power grid still to be determined. The project was never the subject of a public meeting in Mendocino County and stayed under the radar compared to several other Humboldt County projects. PG&E still plans to develop its WaveConnect project off Eureka.

Brandi Ehlers, a PG&E spokeswoman, said PG&E plans to relinquish the preliminary permit for the Mendocino Wave Connect project soon.

She said the utility spent $75,000 on the Mendocino County portion of Wave Connect before stopping because Noyo Harbor was ill-equipped to deal with an offshore energy plant.

“PG&E is not currently pursuing applications for new FERC hydrokinetic preliminary permits, but it is important that we continue to explore other possibilities,” Ehlers said in response to a question.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced that his department will host 12 public workshops this month to discuss the newly-issued regulatory program for renewable energy development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

All the meetings are to be held in large cities — in Seattle June 24, Portland on June 25, and San Francisco on June 26.

Salazar restarted the process of building a framework for energy development in the ocean, which had been started in the Bush Administration but never finished.

The new program establishes a process for granting leases, easements, and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy projects as well as methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States. The rules for alternative energy development in the oceans become effective June 29.

Most of the actual ocean energy development figures are for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The Pacific Ocean’s near-shore slopes are too steep and too deep for current wind energy technology. Wave and tidal energy are still in their infancy, not seen as able to help with President Obama’s energy plan.

The Obama administration has proposed a 25% cut in the research and development budget for wave and tidal power, according to an in-depth report in the Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune.

At the same time the White House sought an 82% increase in solar power research funding, a 36% increase in wind power funding and a 14% increase in geothermal funding. But it looked to cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million, the News Tribune reported.

Interior’s Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with regulating renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf [and specifically wind energy projects], is organizing and conducting the workshops, which will begin with a detailed presentation and then open the floor to a question and answer session. All workshops are open to the public and anyone interested in offshore renewable energy production is encouraged to participate.”

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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 4, 2009

coos-bay-intro2Coos Bay, Oregon — The jobs are coming, so Ocean Power Technologies insists.

OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said Monday the company wants to get stimulus funds from the federal government.

“We have a strong interest in presenting a project that would be jobs-ready right now,” Bergstein said.

OPT wants to get a test buoy in the water soon. It recently formed an agreement with Lockheed Martin in which Lockheed would provide construction, systems integration and deployment work, according to a press release.

The announcement last week followed on a similar report from Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas and American Bridge in Reedsport that said they plan to share buoy construction work, if Oregon Iron gets OPT’s contract.

Bergstein said the Lockheed agreement is for higher level technical, systems integration work.

“It would not replace work on the coast,” he said.

OPT has said it hopes to get a buoy in the water this year and to submit plans to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the federal government in March.

The Obama administration recently put together the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, to boost the living standards of the country’s middle class. Its first focus is green jobs, those that use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, conserve energy and natural resources and reconstitute waste. The task force’s first meeting is Feb. 27.

If the community can get behind OPT’s plans, Bergstein said, the company could submit it to the task force.

“We want to demonstrate that wave energy projects are the kinds of things that can bring jobs to coastal communities,” he said. “Nothing could say that better than being part of a stimulus package.”

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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 3, 2009

Coos Bay — The announcement came as a surprise to everyone.

beachpThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday order issuing a preliminary permit for a 200- to 400-buoy wave energy project off of Newport shocked Ocean Power Technologies leaders as well as the public.

“It’s a project, a site that is not on our priority list right now,” OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said. “It was a little bit of a surprise to us in terms of timing.”

What’s different about this project is that FERC’s approval stirs up a hornet’s nest at the time OPT is trying to work with residents on the South Coast for community approval of two sites: a 10-buoy project off of Gardiner and a 200-buoy project off of the North Spit.

It also calls into question FERC’s intentions of adhering to a memorandum of understanding previously negotiated with Oregon to give the state greater siting power over wave energy projects in the territorial sea.

The approval also seems to be designed for FERC to flex authority over territory traditionally overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Both agencies have claimed the area outside of Oregon’s territorial sea, beyond three nautical miles.

Mixed Messages

As the FERC notice of approval hit residents’ e-mail inboxes late Thursday, outrage began to build.

“My concern is this sends the wrong message,” said Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett. “This is high-value crab grounds, about as valuable as you get.”

OPT applied for the permit in November 2006, but let the application slide. The jurisdictional battle meant the application was going nowhere fast. OPT decided to concentrate its work on the Gardiner and Coos Bay sites, both of which are inside the territorial sea.

Bergstein said as soon as he found out about the approval, he immediately called Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson and other Lincoln County folks, particularly those involved with the Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy group.

“Clearly, we have not been prompting FERC,” Bergstein said.

Bovett, who was involved in the commenting on the original OPT application, said Fishermen Involved has been working with wave energy companies to determine the best sites for development that would have the least impact on the fishing industry and local communities. This, though, was different.

“FINE wasn’t involved in the selection of this box,” Bovett said.

State vs. FERC?

Bovett’s first question was: Does the memorandum of understanding not mean anything?

In March 2008, FERC and Oregon signed a memorandum designed to “coordinate the procedures and schedules for review of wave energy projects.”

Bovett just chuckled.  According to the deal, he said, FERC wasn’t going to issue permits willy nilly. 

Some of the discrepancy over the decision to issue a preliminary permit — which allows OPT to only study the area for feasibility — may be because Oregon hasn’t finished updating its territorial sea plan. The Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the state have been working on it, but the marine reserves issue has dominated the council’s time over the past year.

“This will obviously get everybody’s attention,” Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition Chairman Nick Furman said of FERC’s decision.

That’s putting it lightly.

Whereas the Reedsport and Coos Bay sites are considered by some to be ground zero as far as local communities negotiating with wave energy developers, the Newport site could be ground zero for state vs. federal and agency vs. agency jurisdiction and siting battles.

However, Bovett said, OPT holds the key right now.

The New Jersey-based wave energy developer should withdraw from  the site, he said. Otherwise, years of litigation seem likely — and courts ultimately would have the final say over which agency should be in charge of alternative energy.

“OPT can fix this,” Bovett said. “It’s exactly what they should do.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 31, 2009

On January 26, 2009, Lockheed Martin and Ocean Power Technologies agreed to work together to develop a commercial-scale wave energy project off the coasts of Oregon or California.

OPT is providing their expertise in project and site development as they build the plant’s power take-off and control systems with their PowerBuoy for electricity generation.  Lockheed will build, integrate and deploy the plant as well as provide operating and maintenance services. Lockheed and OPT have already worked together on maritime projects for the U.S. government.

Spanish utility Iberdrola is using OPT’s PowerBuoy on the Spainish coast in Santoña for first phase deployment, hoping to become the first commercial-scale wave energy device in the world.  In the Spainish project, Lockheed and Ocean Power are working toward an increased cost-performance of a power-purchasing agreement from which this U.S. wave energy project may benefit.

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Susan Chambers, The World, January 26, 2009

coos-bay-intro1Coos Bay, Oregon – Ocean Power Technologies is feeling pressure as local groups, the state and even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urge the company to shrink its 200-buoy Coos Bay plan.

Oregon Wave Energy Partners I, as Ocean Power Technologies, filed its notice of intent and preliminary application document with FERC in March 2008 for the 200-buoy array off the North Spit.

The Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, Surfrider Foundation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife filed comments suggesting OPT slow down. Instead of going for a full build-out, phase it in after more studies are done, they said.

The 200-buoy plan also runs counter to FERC’s own advice.

In August 2008, FERC told OPT that, “since information about the potential environmental effects of large-scale projects, such as proposed in your (preliminary application document) is limited, we believe that in most situations, smaller pilot projects are better suited for development at this time.”

The coalition also debated the length of the license, should it be granted. Like hydropower licenses, which typically are in force for between 30 and 50 years, so too are hyrokinetic licenses — those that cover wave, tidal and current energy projects.

“… it is premature to license a project of the size and scope planned off of Coos Bay, especially given the 30- to 50-year license terms being sought after,” SOORC said, noting that more studies should be done first.

OPT has said it will be a few years before even the first few buoys are in the water. OPT hasn’t yet placed one buoy in the water at Gardiner but FERC could grant a license for the Coos Bay project before any studies from the Reedsport project are completed.

ODFW, too, said more studies must be done.

“ODFW believes that the proposed project size (200 buoys) is not consistent with state’s support of experimental wave energy projects,” ODFW wrote in its comments. “A full build-out of a commercial sized project at this stage would lack the applied knowledge from studies of previous experimental projects, thus ODFW would not fully understand the potential impacts of the project in order to responsibly and thoroughly comment on a large project.”

The Port of Coos Bay reiterated Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s plan for the territorial sea. Last year, Kulongoski wrote to FERC that large-scale projects “must be preceded by a comprehensive evaluation for this and other uses of these waters to ensure those ocean resources and other ocean values and uses will not be harmed.”

That shows, the port said, that a small demonstration project should be allowed first, with studies over several years on impacts to the environment and coastal communities — before a full license is granted.

OPT’s vice president of Business Development and Marketing, Herb Nock, said the company expected such comments.

“It’s a range of views,” Nock said. “We came back to the public meetings and are investing the time to understand the alternative uses of the sea.”

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DAVID EHRLICH, Earth2Tech/GigaOm, December 23, 2008

environmental_defenseOcean energy could have a big part to play under President-elect Barack Obama’s environmentally friendly administration, but a coalition that’s pushing for more wave and tidal power says change is needed to expand the number of projects in the U.S. Right now, there are only a handful of ocean energy projects in the U.S. and they’re all in the testing phase, according to the coalition.

The group, which is led by the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, said it has met with Obama’s transition team to discuss what it says is a confusing, and sometimes contradictory, array of federal regulations for ocean power. It claims that with federal help, ocean energy has the potential to generate 10% of the country’s demand for electricity, as well as create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Earlier this month, Obama named four key members to his cabinet that will be responsible for energy and climate change, including Steven Chu as energy secretary.

One big conflict the new cabinet may have to deal with is a jurisdictional dispute between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Minerals Management Service, part of the Dept. of the Interior. Both agencies have claims on the waters where ocean energy projects would be installed.

Part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the Minerals Management Service the power to issue leases for renewable energy projects in the outer continental shelf a zone of federally owned seabeds outside of state waters, which the coalition said typically covers an area from 3-200 nautical miles offshore.

But that new law didn’t eliminate any preexisting federal authority in the area, and the FERC has said it has the authority to license wave and tidal projects in U.S. territorial waters covering an area within 12 nautical miles of the shore.

According to the coalition, despite negotiations between the two agencies, they’ve been unable to reach an agreement on the overlapping claims. The group said that the continued uncertainty from that conflict is making it harder to lock down financing for ocean energy projects in the States.

The coalition is made up of local governments, utilities, environmental groups and ocean power companies, including Pennington, N.J.-based Ocean Power Technologies, which recently inked a deal to develop wave power projects off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 15, 2008

opt2Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) recently reported quarterly financials and also recent developments:

– Deployed and tested a PowerBuoy off the coast of Spain under the wave power contract with Iberdrola

– Awarded $2.0 million from the US Department of Energy in support of OPT’s wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon

– Deployed and tested a PowerBuoy for the US Navy at a site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii, on the island of Oahu

– Ocean-tested 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey an autonomous PowerBuoy developed specifically for the US Navy’s ocean data gathering program

– Awarded $3.0 million contract from the US Navy for the second phase of their ocean data gathering program

– US Congress passes bill which provides for wave power to qualify for the US production tax credit

Dr. George Taylor, OPT’s CEO, said, “We have maintained the positive momentum with which we began the 2009 fiscal year, and have made significant progress under a number of contracts during the quarter, most notably with the US Navy and Iberdrola. In September, we deployed a PB40-rated PowerBuoy in Spain under our contract with Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies. OPT also tested one of its autonomous PowerBuoy systems off the coast of New Jersey in October, under contract from the US Navy in connection with the Navy’s Deep Water Active Detection System (“DWADS”) initiative. We ended the second quarter with a PowerBuoy deployment for the US Navy in Hawaii. We have also furthered our relationship with this significant partner and announced a $3.0 million contract for participation in the second phase of the US Navy’s DWADS program.”

“We expect that the US Government’s recent expansion of the production tax credit to now include wave energy will help better position OPT competitively in the alternative energy arena. We are also gratified by signs that the Obama administration in the United States is keen on leveraging renewable energy sources as commercial sources of energy for the country. The $2.0 million award we received this quarter from the Department of Energy, in support of our work in Reedsport, Oregon, is reflective of the US Government’s support for wave energy,” Dr. Taylor concluded.

More about OPT

OPT has seen strong demand for wave energy systems as evidenced by record levels of contract order backlog, currently at $8.0 million. OPT continues to make steady progress on development of the 150 kW-rated PowerBuoy (PB150), which comprises a significant portion of our current backlog. The design of the PB150 structure is on track to be completed by the end of calendar year 2008, and is expected to be ready for complete system testing in 2009. OPT continues to work actively with an independent engineering group to attain certification of the 150 kW PowerBuoy structure design.

OPT’s patent portfolio continues to grow as one new US patent was issued during the second quarter of fiscal year 2009. The Company’s technology base now includes a total of 39 issued US patents.

During the second quarter of fiscal 2009, the Company announced that it expects to benefit from the energy production tax credit provision of the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. Production tax credit provisions which were already in place served only to benefit other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The Act will, for the first time, enable owners of wave power projects in the US to receive federal production tax credits, thereby improving the comparative economics of wave power as a renewable energy source.

OPT is involved in wave energy projects worldwide:

REEDSPORT, OREGON, US – OPT received a $2.0 million award from the US Department of Energy (DoE), in support of OPT’s wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon. The DoE grant will be used to help fund the fabrication, assembly and factory testing of the first PowerBuoy to be installed at the Reedsport site. This system will be a 150 kW-rated PB150 PowerBuoy, major portions of which will be fabricated and integrated in Oregon. OPT is working closely with interested stakeholder groups at local, county and state agency levels while also making steady progress on the overall permitting and licensing process.

SPAIN – OPT deployed and tested its first commercial PowerBuoy under contract with Iberdrola S.A., one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies, and its partners, at a site approximately three miles off the coast of Santona, Spain. The enhanced PB40 PowerBuoy, which incorporates OPT’s patented wave power technology, is the first step of what is expected to be a utility-grade OPT wave power station to be built-out in a later phase of the project.

ORKNEY ISLANDS, UK – OPT is working under a contract with the Scottish Government at the European Marine Energy Centre (“EMEC”) in the Orkney Islands, Scotland to deploy a 150 kW PowerBuoy. OPT is currently working on building the power conversion and power take-off sub-assemblies. The Company is also reviewing prospective suppliers for manufacturing of the PowerBuoy, which is on track to be ready for deployment by the end of calendar year 2009. As part of its agreement with EMEC, OPT has the right to sell power to the grid up to the 2MW berth capacity limit, at favorable marine energy prices.

CORNWALL, UK –The “Wave Hub” project developer, South West of England Regional Development Agency (“SWRDA”), recently appointed an engineering contractor to manage the construction of the “Wave Hub” marine energy test site. SWRDA has forecasted that the Wave Hub connections, cabling and grid connection infrastructure will be completed by the end of the 2010 calendar year. OPT continues to work with SWRDA and is monitoring its progress in developing the project site.

HAWAII, US – OPT deployed its PowerBuoy systems near Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu. The PowerBuoy was launched under OPT’s on-going program with the US Navy at a site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii and will be connected to the Oahu power grid.

US NAVY DEEP OCEAN APPLICATION – OPT tested one of its autonomous PowerBuoy systems 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The PowerBuoy was constructed under contract from the US Navy in connection with the Navy’s DWADS initiative, a unique program for deep ocean data gathering. The Company received a $3.0 million contract award for the second phase of the program, which is for the ocean testing of an advanced version of the autonomous PowerBuoy.

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Guardian.co.uk, December 3, 2008

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoWay back in Napoleonic Paris, a Monsieur Girard had a novel idea about energy: power from the sea. In 1799, Girard obtained a patent for a machine he and his son had designed to mechanically capture the energy in ocean waves. Wave power could be used, they figured, to run pumps and sawmills and the like.

These inventors would disappear into the mists of history, and fossil fuel would instead provide an industrializing world with almost all its energy for the next two centuries. But Girard et fils were onto something, say a growing number of modern-day inventors, engineers, and researchers. The heave of waves and the tug of tides, they say, are about to begin playing a significant role in the world’s energy future.

In the first commercial scale signal of that, last October a trio of articulated, cylinder-shaped electricity generators began undulating in the waves off the coast of Portugal. The devices look like mechanical sea snakes. (In fact, their manufacturer, Scotland’s Pelamis Wave Power Ltd., takes its name from a mythical ancient Greek sea serpent.) Each Pelamis device consists of four independently hinged segments. The segments capture wave energy like the handle of an old fashioned water pump captures the energy of a human arm: as waves rock the segments to and fro, they pump a hydraulic fluid (biodegradable, in case of spills) powerfully through a turbine, spinning it to generate up to 750,000 watts of electricity per unit. Assuming the devices continue to perform well, Portuguese utility Energis expects to soon purchase another 28 more of the generators.

The completed “wave farm” would feed its collective power onto a single high voltage sea-floor cable, adding to the Portuguese grid about 21 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 15,000 homes.

In a world where a single major coal or nuclear plant can produce more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, it’s a modest start. But from New York’s East River to the offshore waters of South Korea, a host of other projects are in earlier stages of testing. Some, like Pelamis, rely on the motion of waves. Others operate like underwater windmills, tapping the power of the tides.

Ocean-powered technologies are in their infancy, still technologically well behind such energy alternatives as wind and solar. Necessarily designed to operate in an inherently harsh environment, the technologies remain largely unproven and — unless subsidized by governments — expensive. (Portugal is heavily subsidizing the Pelamis project, with an eye to becoming a major European exporter of clean green power in the future.) Little is known about the effects that large wave or tide farms might have on marine ecosystems in general.

Despite the uncertainties, however, proponents say the potential advantages are too striking to ignore. Eight hundred times denser than air, moving water packs a huge energy wallop. Like solar and wind, power from moving seas is free and clean. But sea power is more predictable than either wind or solar. Waves begin forming thousands of miles from coastlines and days in advance; tides rise and fall as dependably as the cycles of the moon. That predictability makes it easier to match supply with demand.

Roger Bedard, who leads ocean energy research at the U.S. utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, says there’s plenty of reason for optimism about the future of what he calls “hydrodynamic” power. Within a decade, he says, the U.S. could realistically meet as much as 10% of its electricity needs from hydrodynamic power. As a point of reference, that’s about half of the electricity the U.S. produces with nuclear power today. Although he acknowledges that initial sea-powered generation projects are going to be expensive, Bedard believes that as experience grows and economies of manufacturing scale kick in, hydrodynamic power will follow the same path toward falling costs and improving technologies as other alternatives.

“Look at wind,” he says. “A kilowatt hour from wind cost fifty cents in the 1980s. Now it’s about seven cents.” (That’s about the same as producing electricity with natural gas, and only about three cents more than coal, the cheapest — and dirtiest — U.S. energy choice. Any future tax on carbon emissions could narrow that gap even more, as would additional clean-power subsidies.)

For some nations, wave and tide power could pack an even bigger punch. Estimates suggest, for instance, that the choppy seas surrounding the United Kingdom could deliver as much as 25% of its electricity. British alternative energy analyst Thomas W. Thorpe believes that on a worldwide basis, waves alone could produce as much as 2,000 terawatt hours of electricity, as much as all the planet’s major hydroelectric plants generate today.

Although none are as far along as Pelamis, most competing wave-power technologies rely not on the undulations of mechanical serpents, but instead on the power captured by the vertical bobbing of large buoys in sea swells. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), based in New Jersey, drives the generators in its PowerBuoy with a straightforward mechanical piston. A stationary section of the mostly submerged, 90-foot buoy is anchored to the ocean floor; a second section simply moves up and down with the movement of sea swells, driving pistons that in turn drive an electrical generator. The Archimedes Wave Swing, a buoy-based system developed by Scotland’s AWS Ocean Energy, harnesses the up-and-down energy of waves by pumping air to spin its turbines. Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables uses seawater as its turbine-driving hydraulic fluid.

Although Pelamis beat all of these companies out of the commercialization gate, OPT appears to be right behind, with plans to install North America’s first commercial-scale wave power array of buoys off the coast of Oregon as early as next year. That array — occupying one square-mile of ocean and, like other wave power installations, located far from shipping lanes — would initially produce 2 megawatts of power. OPT also announced last September an agreement to install a 1.4-megawatt array off the coast of Spain. An Australian subsidiary is in a joint venture to develop a 10-megawatt wave farm off the coast of Australia.

Meanwhile, Pelamis Wave Power plans to install more of its mechanical serpents — three megawatts of generating capacity off the coast of northwest Scotland, and another five-megawatt array off Britain’s Cornwall coast.

The Cornwall installation will be one of four wave power facilities plugged into a single, 20-megawatt underwater transformer at a site called “Wave Hub.” Essentially a giant, underwater version of a socket that each developer can plug into, Wave Hub — which will be connected by undersea cable to the land-based grid — was designed as a tryout site for competing technologies. OPT has won another of the four Wave Hub berths for its buoy-based system.

Other innovators are trying to harness the power of ocean or estuarine tides. Notably, in 2007, Virginia’s Verdant Power installed on the floor of New York’s East River six turbines that look, and function, much like stubby, submerged windmills, their blades — which are 16 feet in diameter — turning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute. The East River is actually a salty and powerful tidal straight that connects Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. Although the “underwater windmills” began pumping out electricity immediately, the trial has been a halting one. The strong tides quickly broke apart the turbines’ first- (fiberglass and steel) and second- (aluminum and magnesium) generation blades, dislodging mounting bolts for good measure.

Undeterred, in September Verdant Power began testing new blades made of a stronger aluminum alloy. If it can overcome the equipment-durability problems, the company hopes to install as many as 300 of its turbines in the East River, enough to power 10,000 New York homes.

A scattering of similar prototype “underwater windmill” projects have been installed at tidal sites in Norway, Northern Ireland, and South Korea. (In addition, interest in moving into freshwater sites is growing. Verdant itself hopes to install its turbines on the St. Lawrence River. At least one other company, Free Flow Power of Massachusetts, has obtained Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits to conduct preliminary studies on an array of sites on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.)

The environmental benefits of hydrodynamic power seem obvious: no carbon dioxide or any other emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based generation. No oil spills or nuclear waste. And for those who object to wind farms for aesthetic reasons, low-profile wave farms are invisible from distant land; tidal windmill-style turbines operate submerged until raised for maintenance.

There are, however, environmental risks associated with these technologies.

New York state regulators required Verdant Power to monitor effects of their its turbines on fish and wildlife. So far, sensors show that fish and water birds are having no trouble avoiding the blades, which rotate at a relatively leisurely 32 maximum revolutions per minute. In fact the company’s sensors have shown that fish tend to seek shelter behind rocks around the channel’s banks and stay out of the central channel entirely when tides are strongest.

But a host of other questions about environment effects remain unanswered. Will high-voltage cables stretching across the sea from wave farms somehow harm marine ecosystems? Will arrays of hundreds of buoys or mechanical serpents interfere with ocean fish movement or whale migrations? What effect will soaking up large amounts of wave energy have on shoreline organisms and ecosystems?

“Environmental effects are the greatest questions right now,” EPRI’s Bedard says, “because there just aren’t any big hydrodynamic projects in the world.”

Projects will probably have to be limited in size and number to protect the environment, he says – that’s a big part of the reason he limits his “realistic” U.S. estimate to 10% of current generation capacity. But the only way to get definitive answers on environmental impact might be to run the actual experiment — that is, to begin building the water-powered facilities, and then monitor the environment for effects.

Bedard suggests that the way to get definitive answers will be to build carefully on a model like Verdant’s: “Start very small. Monitor carefully. Build it a little bigger and monitor some more. I’d like to see it developed in an adaptive way.”

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ISABEL ORDONEZ, Dow Jones News Service, October 6, 2008

Surfers aren’t the only ones itching to jump in the water and catch some big waves.

Dozens of companies, from oil giant Chevron Corp. to smaller firms like Ocean Power Technologies Inc., have invested in or are evaluating the potential of technology designed to harness electrical energy from waves, tides and currents.

Ocean Power, of Pennington, N.J., and Verdant Power Inc., of New York, are among the firms that already have built or plan to build wave and tidal power stations in oceans or adjacent waters. Others, such as Chevron, are seeking government approval to study the feasibility of such projects. All are in a race to harness what some scientists contend is among the nation’s largest unexploited sources of renewable energy.

“Chevron is monitoring ocean energy technology and considering how it might be integrated into our operations,” says Kim Copelin, a spokeswoman for the San Ramon, Calif., company, which is seeking a permit from the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission to start researching a possible tidal-power project in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.

These projects represent a rebirth of interest in the ocean and other waters as a source of energy, which intensified during the 1970s oil crises but fizzled in the 1980s when the price of oil dropped. Now, with concerns growing about global climate change, foreign oil dependency and rising commodity prices, companies and governments are taking another look.

Ocean-energy technology is in its infancy, and big hurdles to its widespread use remain. Among them: figuring out how to economically produce power on a large scale without harming marine life, and navigating a permitting process that companies say is lengthy and cumbersome but that some government agencies say is necessary to protect the environment.

Despite the hurdles, supporters believe there is an abundance of energy sitting off the U.S. coast just waiting to be tapped. While the amount of energy currently being produced by ocean-energy projects is minuscule, the Electric Power Research Institute — the research arm of U.S. utility companies — estimates that oceans eventually could supply about 10% of the electricity consumed in the U.S.

“Oceans are an enormous resource that should be seriously considered as part of the U.S. renewable energy portfolio,” says Sean O’Neill, president of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition, a national trade organization. Oceans “have waves, tides, currents, even offshore winds that don’t need to compete for precious land resources to generate plenty of electricity.”

Predictability of Tides

Companies are using a variety of devices to create electricity from moving water.

Ocean Power, for example, uses a network of buoys. The up-and-down movement of the ocean’s waves is converted into hydraulic pressure by pistons and cylinders located inside the buoys. That pressure spins a turbine, which turns a generator. The resulting electricity is sent ashore via an underwater cable. The company has a contract with the U.S. Navy to install and test its devices off the Marine Corps base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. It also is working with a utility company in California and Oregon to build four wave-power stations, pending federal approvals.

verdantVerdant Power, meanwhile, produces power for a supermarket and parking lot using six underwater turbines in New York’s East River. The movement of water from the river’s tides turns blades on the turbines, creating a rotary motion that runs a generator. The company says it has a list of customers waiting for it to get the necessary approval to start generating electricity on a larger scale.

The prime territory in the U.S. to harvest energy from wave power is in the Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Hawaii, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and northern and central California. The optimum spot for tapping into ocean currents, which are steady flows of water going in a prevailing direction, is off the shores of south Florida, while parts of the Alaska coastline, including the upper Cook Inlet around Anchorage, have some of the strongest tides in the world. The edges of Maine, New York, San Francisco and Washington state’s Puget Sound also look to be ideal for tidal energy, researchers say.

Tidal energy is drawing special interest because, though intermittent, it is more predictable than wind, solar or wave energy. While those energy sources rely on the weather, tides depend on the position of the sun, Earth and moon and gravitational forces that can be accurately predicted years in advance, says Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader at the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute.

Regulatory Jockeying

New York, Maine, Alaska and other coastal states are investing in ocean energy projects, as is the U.S. Department of Energy, which spent $7.5 million in fiscal 2008 and could spend as much as $35 million in fiscal 2009 to help advance the viability and cost competitiveness of ocean water driven power systems.

“We need everything we can get to try to address energy supply issues,” says Steven Chalk, deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy at the Department of Energy. “If we have a true supply diversification, we will be less vulnerable to, say, rising oil prices.”

But proponents of ocean energy say private investment is being deterred by what they call an overly lengthy and complicated permitting process. Companies sometimes need more than 20 local, state and federal regulatory permits to start ocean energy research, says Mr. O’Neill of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition. As an example, Verdant Energy says it has spent more than $2 million on environmental research and waited more than five years to get to the final stages of obtaining the permits it needs to install more underwater turbines and produce electricity on a larger scale.

“In a perfect world, the U.S. will have a fast way to deal with new emerging technologies that allow companies to get into the water and start testing how efficient the equipment is and to measure the environmental impacts,” says Mr. O’Neill. “But that is just a dream.”

The projects facing the biggest logjams are those proposed for federal waters on the outer continental shelf, which generally begins three miles beyond the U.S. shoreline. Companies interested in generating energy from that part of the ocean need approval from both the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the U.S. agency that regulates interstate natural gas and electricity transactions — and the U.S. Minerals Management Service, a branch of the Interior Department that oversees offshore energy development.

An effort to end what many companies say is a jurisdictional overlap was unsuccessful, and last month, the Minerals Management Service unveiled a set of proposed permitting rules, including environmental regulations, that it expects to have in place by later this year.

Mark Robinson, director of the office of energy projects at FERC, says his agency believes the Minerals Management Service’s proposed process is too long and costly and “will work to the disadvantage of an industry” that is trying to get on its feet.

The Minerals Management Service says that it is still evaluating comments on its proposed rules but that it has two main responsibilities when it comes to offshore energy production: securing the nation’s energy resources and protecting the environment. “We take both very seriously,” says David Smith, the agency’s deputy chief of public affairs. “We work to try to find that balance.”

In the meantime, the Minerals Management Service is granting interim leases that allow companies to test the energy potential in various spots in the ocean. More than 10 companies have obtained interim leases to begin work along the coasts of Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Florida and California. Still, there are no guarantees that those businesses will be able to obtain approval to work the patches of ocean they are researching.

Moving Too Fast?

Ocean-energy projects are also making surfers and fishermen nervous. Those groups say they want to be consulted on any proposed projects because the impact on ocean recreation, ecology, public safety and fishing remains mostly unknown.

“What we want is that any company who wants to put a project in waters used by commercial fishermen contact the local fishermen group and work with them so they don’t harm the fishing industry,” says Linda Buell of the Fisherman’s Advisory Committee of Tillamook, a large coastal county in Oregon. “Nothing right now is written into the rules.”

Marine scientists, meanwhile, want more research done on the unintended consequences that large ocean-energy structures could have on marine organisms. These structures could possibly conflict with migratory pathways of great whales, says George Boehlert, director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon State University. “But this is largely unknown,” he says.

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 23, 2008

optOcean Power Technologies, Inc., a New Jersey publicly-traded company deployed its first PowerBuoy with Iberdrola S.A, a Spanish renewable energy company, and its partners, at a site approximately three miles off the coast of Santoña, Spain.

As noted by Iberdrola, the deployment of OPT’s PB40 PowerBuoy is the latest milestone toward the building of the world’s first commercial utility-scale wave power generation venture to supply approximately 1.39 MW of electricity into Spain’s electricity grid. The PB40, incorporating OPT’s patented wave power technology, is the first of what is expected to be a 10-PowerBuoy wave power station to be built out in a later phase of the project, and generating enough electricity to supply up to 2,500 homes annually.

Mark R. Draper, Chief Operating Officer of OPT, said: “This deployment is of great significance to OPT and the wave power industry, demonstrating the commercial potential of our leading technology after a decade of in-ocean experience. We now look forward to the first supplies of electricity to the grid and the expansion of the wave power station.”

The project began with OPT’s development of the Santoña site, followed by OPT’s receipt of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract under which it would build and install the first PB40 PowerBuoy system, subsea power transmission cable and underwater substation and grid connection. In a subsequent agreement, OPT was also contracted for operations and maintenance (O&M) of the wave power station for up to 10 years. A special purpose company with Iberdrola as its major shareholder and OPT as a 10% shareholder has also been established for the purchase of the wave power station and the O&M services from OPT.

PowerBuoys provide a minimal visual profile due to most of their structure being submerged. They have a design life of 30 years with standard maintenance recommended every three to four years. The grid connection system for the PowerBuoys has been certified by an independent engineering firm.

The PB40 steelwork was fabricated by a local supplier in Santander, Spain, and the power take-off and control system was built at OPT’s facility in New Jersey, USA. The final integration and testing of the complete PowerBuoy was also conducted in Spain. The PowerBuoy is seven meters in diameter at the sea surface, 20 meters in length and weighs approximately 60 tonnes.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, September 23, 2008

For years, technological visionaries have painted a seductive vision of using ocean tides and waves to produce power. They foresee large installations off the coast and in tidal estuaries that could provide as much as 10% of the nation’s electricity.

But the technical difficulties of making such systems work are proving formidable. Last year, a wave-power machine sank off the Oregon coast. Blades have broken off experimental tidal turbines in New York’s turbulent East River. Problems with offshore moorings have slowed the deployment of snakelike generating machines in the ocean off Portugal.

Years of such problems have discouraged ocean-power visionaries, but have not stopped them. Lately, spurred by rising costs for electricity and for the coal and other fossil fuels used to produce it, they are making a new push to overcome the barriers blocking this type of renewable energy.

The Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power plans to turn on a small wave-energy farm — the world’s first — off the coast of Portugal by year’s end, after fixing the broken moorings. Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company that recently salvaged its sunken, $2.5 million Oregon wave-power machine, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to produce power off the California coast by 2012. And in the East River, just off Manhattan, two newly placed turbines with tougher blades and rotors are feeding electricity into a grocery store and parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s frustrating sometimes as an ocean energy company to say, yeah, your device sank,” said Jason Bak, chief executive of Finavera. “But that is technology development.”

Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world.

The East River — despite its name, it is really a tidal strait with powerful currents — is the site of the most advanced test project in the United States.

Verdant Power, the company that operates it, was forced to spend several years and millions of dollars mired in a slow permit process, even before its turbine blades broke off in the currents. The company believes it is getting a handle on the problems. Verdant is trying to perfect its turbines and then install 30 of them in the East River, starting no later than spring 2010, and to develop other sites in Canada and on the West Coast.

Plenty of other start-ups also plan commercial ocean-power plants, at offshore sites such as Portugal, Oregon and Wales, but none have been built.

Ocean-power technology splits into two broad categories, tidal and wave power. Wave power, of the sort Finavera is pursuing, entails using the up and down motions of the waves to generate electricity. Tidal power — Verdant’s province — involves harnessing the action of the tides with underwater turbines, which twirl like wind machines.

(Decades-old tidal technologies in France and Canada use barrage systems that trap water at high tide; they are far larger and more obtrusive than the new, below-waterline technologies.)

A third type of power, called ocean thermal, aims to exploit temperature differences between the surface and deep ocean, mainly applicable in the tropics.

Ocean power has more potential than wind power because water is about 850 times denser than air, and therefore packs far more energy. The ocean’s waves, tides and currents are also more predictable than the wind.

The drawback is that seawater can batter and corrode machinery, and costly undersea cables may be needed to bring the power to shore. And the machines are expensive to build: Pelamis has had to raise the equivalent of $77 million.

Many solar start-ups, by contrast, need as little as $5 million to build a prototype, said Martin Lagod, co-founder of Firelake Capital Management, a Silicon Valley investment firm. Mr. Lagod looked at investing in ocean power a few years ago and decided against it because of the long time horizons and large capital requirements.

General Electric, which builds wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment for virtually every other type of energy, has stayed clear of ocean energy. “At this time, these sources do not appear to be competitive with more scalable alternatives like wind and solar,” said Daniel Nelson, a G.E. spokesman, in an e-mail message. (An arm of G.E. has made a small investment in Pelamis.)

Worldwide, venture capital going to ocean-power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million last year, according to the Cleantech Group, a research firm. However, that is a tiny fraction of the money pouring into solar energy and biofuels.

This month the Energy Department doled out its first major Congressionally-funded grants since 1992 to ocean-power companies, including Verdant and Lockheed Martin, which is studying ocean thermal approaches.

Assuming that commercial ocean-power farms are eventually built, the power is likely to be costly, especially in the near term. A recent study commissioned by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission put the cost of harnessing the Golden Gate’s tides at 85 cents to $1.40 a kilowatt-hour, or roughly 10 times the cost of wind power. San Francisco plans to forge ahead regardless.

Other hurdles abound, including sticky environmental and aesthetic questions. In Oregon, crabbers worry that the wave farm proposed by Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey company, would interfere with their prime crabbing grounds.

“It’s right where every year we deploy 115,000 to 120,000 crab pots off the coast for an eight-month period to harvest crab,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The commission wants to support renewable energy, but “we’re kind of struggling with that,” Mr. Furman said

George Taylor, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, said he did not expect “there will be a problem with the crabs.”

In Washington State, where a utility is studying the possibility of installing tidal power at the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, scuba divers are worried, even as they recognize the need for clean power.

Said Mike Racine, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance: “We don’t want to be dodging turbine blades, right?”

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Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is looking to generate power from Scottish waters as well. Nasdaq-listed OPT reported July 28 that it had signed a berth agreement with the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland. OPT can, under the berth agreement, deploy and operate its unit as well as hook up to EMEC’s dedicated 2-MW subsea cable connected to the Scottish grid and will sell power to the grid up to the unit’s 2-MW capacity limit, using the EMEC berth for other deployments.

Across the Atlantic, wave energy development in the United States, another country looking to assume market leadership, suffered a temporary setback in late June 2008 when Finavera Renewables scuttled plans for a wave energy project off the Oregon coast to focus on developing the technology needed for other projects.

Finavera let preliminary permits granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expire by not filing required reports. FERC cancelled Finavera’s preliminary permit on June 26 for the proposed 100-MW Coos Country project, saying the company had failed to file six-month progress reports on studies that the company was required to perform for the project to move forward. The preliminary permit allowed for further site assessment and so-called micro siting to determine the best location for the proposed wave park, and allowed studies on such topics as oceanographic conditions, marine mammal resources, shoreline conditions, and public safety. “We had to focus some of our resources on a couple [of] other high priority projects,” said Myke Clark, vice president of corporate development for Finavera.

These include a planned 2-MW wave energy initiative at Makah Bay, California, which has already secured a long-term power purchase contract in December 2007 with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric – the first commercial PPA for a wave project in North America. In developing the new technology, engineers are tackling such challenges as the intermittency of waves and how to produce electricity from new types of equipment cheaply enough to make it profitable, he said. “We’re definitely in an intensive phase right now in terms of this technology,” Clark said, adding that the company is cancelling the project because “we need to focus a bit more on the technology development.”

The marine energy industry in America faces policy as well as technology obstacles.

As FERC promotes development of hydrokinetic energy and companies seize opportunities, the agency has issued preliminary permits that allow environmental assessments and other studies to be performed – only to have its regulatory authority questioned by other federal agencies.

The US Department of the Interior in April 2008 asserted that FERC lacked the authority to issue leases for hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf and called on FERC to rehear its decisions to issue two preliminary permits for wave electricity projects being considered off the coast of California.

FERC issued a license to Finavera in December 2007 for a 1-MW wave energy project in Clallam County, Washington, but several parties sought rehearing of the decision, claiming FERC violated the Clean Water Act by issuing a license before the state ecology department had issued a water quality certificate and other state permits and authorizations. In a March 20 order FERC said the rehearing requests are moot since the state issued the necessary permits to Finavera in February 2008. FERC said that its initial order was a conditional license that did not authorize construction or installation of facilities and “expressly stated that no such authority would be granted until Finavera obtained all necessary authorizations.”

The US wave energy industry received a boost in late July 2008, though, when the US Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that regulates offshore energy development, said it intends to issue leases for thirteen alternative energy research projects in the federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf, including wave-energy projects off the California coast.

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EnvironmentalResearchWeb.org, Jul 22, 2008

Of all the renewable technologies, wave and tidal energy is currently the most expensive way of producing energy. But a project in the UK hopes to help this technology move along the learning curve and bring down costs.

When installed in 2010, Wave Hub will be the world’s first large-scale wave farm. Just off the coast of Cornwall in south-west England, Wave Hub will consist of four berths, each with a maximum capacity of 5 MW. These four berths will be connected to onshore electrical equipment via a 25 km long sub-sea cable. The water at the deployment site is approximately 50 metres deep and the project will cover an area of sea measuring 4 km by 2 km.

Wave Hub is designed to be a place where companies and researchers can develop and test their marine energy devices as a final stage towards commercialisation. Each wave device developer will be granted a lease of between five and 10 years in an area of approximately two square kilometres. The total number of devices to be deployed at Wave Hub is not expected to exceed 30.

“Getting planning consent for marine energy devices can be a lengthy and challenging process which often slows down their development,” says Nick Harrington, general manager for the Wave Hub project at the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA). “Wave Hub provides companies with a consented sea area in which to test their devices. It also provides a grid connection, monitoring and testing support, a power purchase agreement, access to suppliers and a research base, and opportunities to collaborate with other companies.”

In order to get planning consent for Wave Hub, the SWRDA carried out a detailed environmental impact assessment. This involved an analysis of the potential impacts of the project on different parts of the environment. This includes the effects of laying the cable (most of which will be offshore) and the impacts of the likely arrays of wave energy devices on marine ecology, fisheries, recreational users and navigation.

“The environmental impact of the Wave Hub will be much lower than other proposed schemes such as the Severn Tidal Barrage,” says Harrington. “The devices float on the water and will have very little impact on waves reaching the shore. There will be very little terrestrial land-take, with only one cable coming ashore, terminating near the site of a disused power station.”

Harrington believes the construction of Wave Hub could be very quick, taking about eight weeks to complete, but admits there are still some major challenges ahead before Wave Hub is finally installed. “We are conscious that the economic environment is quite challenging. The rising cost of oil has led to a boom in oil and gas exploration, which has increased substantially the cost of hiring vessels needed to install Wave Hub. Volatile markets have also seen significant increases in the cost of copper, which has increased the cost of the cable that will be laid between Wave Hub and the mainland.”

The first four berths have already been allocated to Oceanlinx, Ocean Power Technologies, Fred Olsen and WestWave, a consortium of E.On and Ocean Prospect.

“Wave and tidal energy is currently in the same position on the learning curve that wind energy was a few years ago,” says Harrington. “Doing anything at sea is costly and difficult but Wave Hub will help companies bring those costs down and help make wave energy a viable renewable energy solution for the future. The UK has one of the largest wave energy resources in Europe. Allowing for technical, practical and environmental limitations, according to The Carbon Trust, wave energy could generate up to one sixth of the UK’s electricity consumption. By 2020 the wave energy market in the UK could by worth £0.2 billion.”

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The Economist, June 5, 2008

You only have to look at waves pounding a beach, inexorably wearing cliffs into rubble and pounding stones into sand, to appreciate the power of the ocean. As soaring oil prices and concern over climate change give added urgency to the search for new, renewable sources of energy, the sea is an obvious place to look. In theory the world’s electricity needs could be met with just a tiny fraction of the energy sloshing around in the oceans.

Alas, harnessing it has proved to be unexpectedly difficult. In recent years wind farms have sprouted on plains and hilltops, and solar panels have been sprinkled across rooftops and deserts. But where the technology of wind and solar power is established and steadily improving, that of wave power is still in its infancy. The world had to wait until October 2007 for the first commercial wave farm, consisting of three snakelike tubes undulating with the Atlantic swell off the coast of Portugal.

In December Pacific Gas & Electric, an American utility, signed an agreement to buy electricity from a wave farm that is to be built off the coast of California and is due to open in 2012. Across the world many other wave-power schemes are on the drawing board. The story of wave power, however, has been one of trials and tests followed by disappointment and delays. Of the many devices developed to capture wave energy, none has ever been deployed on a large scale. Given wave power’s potential, why has it been so hard to get the technology to work—and may things now be about to change?

The first patents for wave-power devices were issued in the 18th century. But nothing much happened until the mid-1970s, when the oil crisis inspired Stephen Salter, an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, to develop a wave generator known as Salter’s Duck. His design contained curved, floating canisters, each the size of a house, that would be strung together and then tethered to the ocean floor. As the canisters, known as Ducks, were tossed about by the waves, each one would rock back and forth. Hydraulics would convert the rocking motion to rotational motion, which would in turn drive a generator. A single Duck was calculated to be capable of generating 6 megawatts (MW) of electricity—enough to power around 4,000 homes. The plan was to install them in groups of several dozen.

Initial estimates put the cost of generating electricity in this way at nearly $1 per kilowatt hour (kWh), far more than nuclear power, the most expensive electricity at the time. But as Dr Salter and his team improved their design, they managed to bring the cost-per-kWh down to the cost of nuclear power. Even so, the research programme was shut down by the British government in 1982. The reasons for this were not made public, but it is widely believed to have happened after lobbying by the nuclear industry. In testimony to a House of Lords committee in 1988, Dr Salter said that an accurate evaluation of the potential of new energy sources would be possible only when “the control of renewable energy projects is completely removed from nuclear influences.”

Salter’s Duck never took to the seas, but it sparked interest in the idea of wave power and eventually helped to inspire other designs. One example is the Pelamis device, designed by some of Dr Salter’s former students, who now work at Pelamis Wave Power, a firm based in Scotland. Three such devices, each capable of generating up to 750kW, have been deployed off the coast of Portugal, and dozens more are due to be installed by 2009. There are also plans for installations off Orkney in Scotland and Cornwall in England.

As waves travel along the 140-metre length of the snakelike Pelamis, its hinged joints bend both up and down, and from side to side. This causes hydraulic rams at the joints to pump hydraulic fluid through turbines, turning generators to produce electricity. Pelamis generators present only a small cross-section to incoming waves, and absorb less and less energy as the waves get bigger. This might seem odd, but most of the time the devices will not be operating in stormy seas—and when a storm does occur, their survival is more important than their power output.

Oh Buoy

The Aquabuoy, designed by Finavera Renewables of Vancouver, takes a different approach. (This is the device that Pacific Gas & Electric hopes to deploy off the California coast.) Each Aquabuoy is a tube, 25-metres long, that floats vertically in the water and is tethered to the sea floor. Its up-and-down bobbing motion is used to pressurise water stored in the tube below the surface. Once the pressure reaches a certain level, the water is released, spinning a turbine and generating electricity.

The design is deliberately simple, with few moving parts. In theory, at least, there is very little to go wrong. But a prototype device failed last year when it sprang a leak and its bilge-pump malfunctioned, causing it to sink just as it was due to be collected at the end of a trial. Finavera has not released the results of the trial, which was intended to measure the Aquabuoy’s power output, among other things. The company has said, however, that Aquabuoy will be profitable only if each device can generate at least 250kW, and that it has yet to reach this threshold.

Similar bobbing buoys are also being worked on by AWS Ocean Energy, based in Scotland, and Ocean Power Technologies, based in Pennington, New Jersey, among others. The AWS design is unusual because the buoys are entirely submerged; the Ocean Power device, called the PowerBuoy, is being tested off the coast of Spain by Iberdrola, a Spanish utility.

The Oyster, a wave-power device from Aquamarine Power, another Scottish firm, works in an entirely different way. It is an oscillating metal flap, 12 metres tall and 18 metres wide, installed close to shore. As the waves roll over it, the flap flexes backwards and forwards. This motion drives pistons that pump seawater at high pressure through a pipe to a hydroelectric generator. The generator is onshore, and can be connected to lots of Oyster devices, each of which is expected to generate up to 600kW. The idea is to make the parts that go in the sea simple and robust, and to keep the complicated and delicate bits out of the water. Testing of a prototype off the Orkney coast is due to start this summer.

The logical conclusion of this is to put everything onshore—and that is the idea behind the Limpet. It is the work of Wavegen, a Scottish firm which is a subsidiary of Voith Siemens Hydro, a German hydropower firm. A prototype has been in action on the island of Islay, off the Scottish coast, since 2000. The Limpet is a chamber that sits on the shoreline. The bottom of the chamber is open to the sea, and on top is a turbine that always spins in the same direction, regardless of the direction of the airflow through it.

As waves slam into the shore, water is pushed into the chamber and this in turn displaces the air, driving it through the turbine. As the water recedes, air is sucked back into the chamber, driving the same turbine again. The Limpet on Islay has three chambers which generate an average of 100kW between them, but larger devices could potentially generate three times this amount, according to Wavegen. Limpets may be built into harbour breakwaters in Scotland and Spain.

Dozens of wave-energy technologies are being developed around the world: ideas, in other words, are not what has held the field back. So what has? Tom Thorpe of Oxford Oceanics, a consultancy, blames several overlapping causes. For a start, wave energy has lagged behind wind and solar, because the technology is much younger and still faces some big technical obstacles. “This is a completely new energy technology, whereas wind and photovoltaics have been around for a long time—so they have been developed, rather than invented,” says Mr Thorpe.

The British government’s decision to shut its wave-energy research programme, which had been the world’s biggest during the 1970s, set the field back nearly two decades. Since Britain is particularly well placed to exploit wave energy (which is why so many wave-energy companies come from there), its decision not to pursue the technology affected wave-energy research everywhere, says Mr Thorpe. “If we couldn’t do it, who could?” he says.

Once interest in wave power revived earlier this decade, practical problems arose. A recurring problem, ironically enough, is that new devices underestimate the power of the sea, and are unable to withstand its assault. Installing wave-energy devices is also expensive; special vessels are needed to tow equipment out to sea, and it can be difficult to get hold of them. “Vessels that could potentially do the job are all booked up by companies collecting offshore oil,” says Trevor Whittaker, an engineer at Queen’s University in Belfast who has been part of both the Limpet and Oyster projects. “Wave-generator installation is forced to compete with the high prices the oil industry can pay.”

Another practical problem is the lack of infrastructure to connect wave-energy generators to the power grid. The cost of establishing this infrastructure makes small-scale wave-energy generation and testing unfeasible; but large-scale projects are hugely expensive. One way around this is to build a “Wave Hub”, like the one due to be installed off the coast of Cornwall in 2010 that will provide infrastructure to connect up wave-energy arrays for testing.

Expect Flotations

But at last there are signs of change. Big utilities are taking the technology seriously, and are teaming up with wave-energy companies. Venture-capitalists are piling in too, as they look for new opportunities. Several wave-energy companies are thought to be planning stockmarket flotations in the coming months. Indeed, such is investors’ enthusiasm that Mr Thorpe worries that things might have gone too far. A big failure could tarnish the whole field, just as its prospects look more promising than ever.

Whether one wave-energy device will dominate, or different devices will suit different conditions, remains to be seen. But wave energy’s fortunes have changed. “We have to be prepared for some spectacular failures,” says Mr Thorpe, “but equally some spectacular successes.”

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CRAIG RUBENS, earth2tech/GigaOM, May 19, 2008

Iberdrola Renewables, one of the largest owners and operators of renewable energy facilities in the world, announced yesterday its plans to invest $8 billion in American renewable energy by 2010. A large part of the money will go to expanding Iberdrola’s wind energy capacity, but the company also said it intends to invest elsewhere in American clean energy.

The company says it already operates 2,400 megawatts of wind turbines in the United States with plans to boost that to 3,600 megawatts by the end of the year. The company says it aims to control a 15% share of the American wind industry by 2010, and is already the world leader in installed wind capacity with over 7 gigawatts of installed capacity. Iberdrola jumped ahead of the former leader, Florida-based FPL Energy, last year with the help of an extra 1.45 gigawatts it acquired when it bought ScottishPower’s wind assets.

Iberdrola’s big move into U.S. wind is part of a growing trend of foreign firms buying into the U.S. wind boom. According to Clean Edge, Iberdrola’s North American headquarters in Randor, Penn., has plans for 22,000 megawatts of new wind power in the U.S.

With Iberdrola’s new investment, perhaps America can achieve the potential for wind to power 20% of the U.S. by 2030, an ambitious scenario proposed by the Department of Energy’s recent report.

But beyond wind, what are Iberdrola’s other clean energy intentions? The company is no stranger to solar thermal installations, with projects in Spain and Egypt, and it could become yet another big power player moving into the American southwest. The company has also started to dabble in wave energy with PowerBuoys from Ocean Power Technologies. Meanwhile, Iberdrola’s acquisition of ScottishPower gave it more hydroelectric assets, further diversifying its portfolio.

While Iberdrola says it will invest the bulk of the money in wind, it’s clear the company could make a big play in a variety of other sectors as well. Iberdrola Chairman Ignacio Sanchez Galan said he sees the United States as Iberdrola’s most exciting market. And we’re sure many of the cleantech startups will be eagerly looking to form partnerships.

Thank you earth2tech for this article!

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The World, Worldwide Ocean Energy News, April 12, 2008

Sport and commercial fishermen, members from related marine industries and Ocean Power Technologies representative Steve Kopf met again Wednesday — and made tentative progress on rebuilding trust.

A robust agenda that included discussing the difference between a traditional licensing process and an integrated licensing process — two different ways a wave energy company can apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a full license — resulted in a three-hour meeting at Oregon International Port of Coos Bay offices.

Kopf proposed working with the recently formed Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition on a road map to discuss issues relating to the 200-buoy proposed wave energy park off the North Spit.

In January, Kopf told fishermen in Charleston the company was proposing a 20-buoy installation. By March, that changed to 200. The switch shocked the fishing industry and put already tenuous relationships between the two entities in jeopardy. At the same time, it galvanized the fleet into forming SOORC.

SOORC participants touched on recent developments in the wave energy industry that included the Australian company, Energetech, withdrawing its permit request from FERC for a wave energy park off of Florence.

The “gold rush” is ending, Kopf said.

Various companies have applied for permits to study sites, largely in the hopes of locking up ocean territory from other companies. It’s also called “site banking.”

Kopf said companies can apply for a permit in an afternoon. To apply for a full license, such as what OPT is doing for its Reedsport project, takes millions of dollars and a lot of time. Some companies may not find it worth the expense.

“I kind of predicted that,” Kopf said.

“Will you file for that space?” Charleston troller Jeff Reeves asked.

Kopf sidestepped the question — and repeated questions from Port Deputy Director Mike Gaul, opting instead to suggest OPT send a formal, written response to SOORC.

Finavera, who received a preliminary permit to study a site off of Bandon, is under an April 26 deadline to submit its preliminary application document to FERC. Kopf said it doesn’t look promising that will happen, either.

The company still is working on its license for a project in Makah Bay.

Kopf noted that OPT already is working through settlement discussions with state and federal agencies for its Reedsport project.

Settlement discussions don’t necessarily mean that groups or agencies have approved a specific project. It simply means both entities have agreed to what further data will be collected and how the entities will cooperate.

For energy companies, it’s a risk-reduction measure, Kopf said, noting that so far, OPT is the company that has made the most progress, reaching settlement agreements with some groups and state agencies.

“We’re the lead project on this in the U.S., probably the world,” Kopf said.

Kopf said OPT plans to file a full draft license application to FERC next week, followed by a final, full application for the Reedsport project in May.

Both SOORC and OPT agreed to continue to work collaboratively in the coming months and that further discussion on the traditional licensing process vs. the integrated process will take place when the groups meet again in May.

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The World, March 22, 2008

COOS BAY — Fishermen, port officials and other interests want potential wave energy companies to consider the “source.”

“Source” is the acronym pronunciation for the Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition — SOORC — a group of about a dozen folks who gathered for the first time Friday to talk about wave energy.

That was one goal.

The other was to hear what Ocean Power Technologies representative Steve Kopf had to say.

It’s been a little more than two weeks since South Coast interests found out OPT, under the name of Oregon Wave Energy Partners I LLC, filed a preliminary application document with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 200-buoy wave energy facility off the North Spit — up from the 20 Kopf reported the company was planning in January.

Kopf’s words were like a mantra: “I’m sorry,” he said.

He said the same thing at a Wednesday meeting at the Port of Umpqua in Reedsport and reiterated the change was made on short notice at OPT’s headquarters in New Jersey.

It was made in three days’ time, he said. He was finally able to get the go-ahead to call folks out here, including Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission Executive Director Nick Furman, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay Deputy Director Mike Gaul and Coos County Commissioner John Griffith, on the day the application was filed with FERC.

“I knew when I made those calls, we’d have this meeting,” Kopf said, “and it wasn’t going to be pretty. … I know what you’re saying: I broke the trust.”

Gaul agreed.

“I have a highly disappointed port commission,” he said.

The process, in effect, has reverted back to where it was months ago, Gaul said.

“Here’s Day One again. It has to start with open, honest discussion from now on,” he said.

Kopf and the rest of the group discussed several more details of the project and brainstormed some ideas that should be talked about at future meetings. The meeting covered some issues that had been covered before but that, in the minds of many on SOORC, particularly fishermen, needed to be covered again.

“This is the political reality,” Sen. Joanne Verger, D-Coos Bay, said to Kopf, underscoring her seriousness by tapping a finger on the table. “Understand that the fishing industry has been here long before wave energy. It has tradition, support. There’s a lot of sensitivity to this industry from Brookings to Astoria.”

Part of the OPT preliminary application calls for use of the traditional licensing process, as opposed to an integrated licensing process, the FERC default, or an alternative licensing process (see sidebar). Interested parties have 30 days in which to respond to FERC.

That was one of the main topics for which SOORC hoped Kopf could help.

We need more time, Gaul said.

SOORC needs to consider carefully the ramifications of supporting any of the three processes and would Kopf support SOORC’s request to FERC for a 90-day extension?

Kopf agreed.

Several times, he was surprised at the level of thoughtfulness and concern evidenced by some of the fishermen’s comments.

“It’s good to have that,” Kopf said after the meeting at the Port of Coos Bay. “I thought it was productive. I’m looking forward to working with a professionally organized and thoughtful group.”

The fishermen and local community officials agreed that SOORC needs to do some things to become a nonprofit organization, but that will happen.

In the meantime, there still is wave energy work to do.

“One thing you did, you got us together,” salmon troller Paul Heikkila said.

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Susan Chambers, The World Link, March 21, 2008

REEDSPORT — Fishermen and port officials talked of trust Wednesday night at the Port of Umpqua commission meeting.

The meeting was an impromptu first battleground over what fishermen see as a violation of trust and wave energy company Ocean Power Technologies see as a business decision.

OPT filed a preliminary application document for a 200-buoy wave energy park off the North Spit on March 7 — 180 buoys more than promised when OPT representative Steve Kopf met with the Charleston fishing fleet in January.

The 200-buoy concept is not new. It’s what OPT proposed when it filed its permit request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2006. FERC granted the permit in early 2007.

“The bottom line is that as we started putting the PAD together, the CEO said fishermen are not worried so much about the small projects; they’re worried about the big things,” Kopf said on March 7. “So instead, (OPT) decided to face this head on.”

In February, Port of Umpqua commissioners considered sending a letter to federal lawmakers and agencies in support of OPT receiving federal energy funds to develop new technology. Commissioners postponed approval until they could talk with Kopf again to determine the status of ongoing talks with local commercial Dungeness crab fishermen.

The change in the number of buoys for North Spit wave facility — and the consternation it caused among the fleet — made discussions about the letter difficult. Kopf ultimately asked to have consideration of the letter postponed.

Kopf said Wednesday the number of buoys at the Reedsport wave park would remain the same, 10, enough for a test site to ensure the buoys work as planned and energy can be transmitted to the grid as planned. It also would give the company a chance to study the effects of the buoys on the environment and surrounding wildlife.

Still, the overriding concerns Wednesday were of trust and ongoing discussions that have not been resolved, namely the use of prime crabbing grounds for what fishermen say is unproven technology.

Unlike the 1/4- to 1/2-square-mile footprint at Reedsport, the North Spit site would encompass a roughly 300-yards-wide by 5-mile-long footprint, parallel to the beach. OPT also planned to try to place the buoys deeper, nearer 40 fathoms, than the depth in which it plans to place buoys at the Reedsport facility.

“That’s something we heard at the Reedsport meetings,” Kopf said.

The 200-buoy facility also would be broken into four sections — another result of what OPT representatives heard during Reedsport discussions — so as to benefit fishermen and OPT maintenance crews.

The North Spit park likely would not be developed for several years, Kopf said.

That didn’t sit well with fishermen.

“It shocked me that it happened so quickly,” Charleston fisherman Jeff Reeves said.

Winchester Bay crabber Stuart Schuttpelz put it even more bluntly: “This community doesn’t need to be lied to,” he said.

Kopf acknowledged their comments with aplomb.

“We definitely violated the trust with this group when we made that last-minute change,” Kopf said. “But from our perspective, we need to figure out technically, economically, if this works.”

Kopf also noted that the federal funding — part of a fiscal year 2009 budget request — would go to offset the costs of doing environmental studies. And sure, he said, funneling that money through independent Oregon universities or other businesses for the benefit of the wave energy industry overall is a viable option.

Mike Gaul, speaking on behalf of the Oregon Public Ports Association, suggested the neutral third-party option earlier in the evening, noting that he was uncomfortable with supporting federal funds going to a private company. Gaul, who’s the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay’s deputy director, also spoke Thursday night before the Coos Bay port commission. He told port commissioners he felt Kopf misled them by filing an application for a full-scale project.

“To date, OPT has not shown they are willing to work with the fishermen and Port of Coos Bay,” he said.

Kopf planned to meet with local officials today (Friday) in Coos Bay to continue to discuss the issue of moving ahead with 200 buoys — a project that could be granted a 50-year FERC license — instead of 20.

But fishermen and port officials warned more work must be done — still.

The 273-page PAD has some of the same errors in it that OPT made when it filed a preliminary application for the Reedsport site — errors Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesman Hugh Link pointed out in earlier discussions with OPT.

“The Tri-state Commercial Crab Committee closely regulates harvest. The committee conducts annual reviews of crab populations and limits permits, timing and take in order to maintain the important Dungeness crab resource for both commercial and recreational take,” the application reads in one part.

But in reality, each state, Washington, Oregon and California, manages and regulates its own fleet and crab resource.

Kopf said there still is work to be done and planned to continue OPT’s commitment to working with fishermen.

“We’re committed to continuing the dialogue,” he said.

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Susan Chambers The World April 10, 2007

A wave breaks off the southern Oregon Coast as wind blows some of the surf backward. That wave attraction is attracting power producers. To date, seven projects are proposed for the Oregon Coast, to tether power-generating buoys to the ocean floor to ride ocean swells. World File Photo

 

CHARLESTON – Commercial fishermen are accustomed to dealing with waves, but not the wave of tidal energy project proposals.

Several crabbers, salmon trollers and beach trawlers met Monday at the Charleston Marina RV Park recreation center to learn about what many viewed as the next threat to their livelihood.

“It kind of feels like a gold rush,” Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association Executive Director Onno Husing, said.

Husing was one of the organizers of the meeting, designed as an informal get-together to learn about two potential wave-energy parks proposed for ocean areas off Coos County, one in the Reedsport area and others.

To date, seven projects are proposed for the Oregon Coast. Each would consist of buoys tethered to the ocean floor that ride ocean swells. Internally, each buoy would have elements that would harness a portion of the swells’ energy, convert it to electricity and transmit it to shore. Some proposals call for up to 200 buoys in a single area, up to about 5 square miles. All must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Rumors abound about other projects proposed but that haven’t been officially filed with FERC.

The bottom line, Husing started to say, phrasing it more as a question, is that one or two areas may be OK.

No, Charleston salmon troller Paul Merz said, interrupting Husing. Those ocean areas already have an existing use, from border to border, he added.

“They should be coming to us,” Merz continued, noting that the companies or organizations moving ahead with the wave energy parks should be talking to existing users of the ocean: commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, commercial shippers.

Commercial Dungeness crabbers could see the most change in their fishing patterns. The placement of the buoy arrays matches prime crab ground: depths of between 20 and 40 fathoms on expanses of sandy ocean bottom.

Salmon trollers also traverse the areas while seeking Chinook and beach trawlers find sources of some flatfish.

Salmon and crab fisherman Tim Smith, who fishes the Irish Miss out of Winchester Bay, picked up on the gold rush idea.

“They’re claim jumping,” Smith said. “They’re taking that (area) away.”

Projects already under way

Wave energy companies most often go through a two-step process to get approval from FERC , but not always. They can skip applying for a preliminary permit and simply apply for a license – as Finavera Renewables did when it applied for a project in Washington.

FERC already has approved three preliminary permits, giving three entities approval to test sites for the feasibility of operating more than one or two buoys at a site (see sidebar). Only one license is pending approval.

Ocean Power Technologies, with U.S. offices in New Jersey, plans to have the first buoy in the water off Reedsport this summer.

Some of the companies applying for permits to operate wave energy parks in the U.S. are foreign-owned, with offices in North America. Several companies already have demonstrated the value of tidal energy technology in Europe. Finavera Renewables, for example, is an Irish firm but has offices in Canada and the U.S. It has applied for a permit to study the feasibility of a park near Bandon.

Fishermen weren’t happy about the overseas component of wave energy. If the companies get subsidized to build here, where do the profits go, several asked – do they stay in the United States or go overseas?

Furthermore, they said, the issue of fishing grounds is the main issue, and the state and federal involvement in accepting energy parks that could displace the fleet.

For instance, “crabbers,” Smith said. “(They’re) going to push us aside for foreign money?”

Charleston fisherman Daryl Bogardus questioned the economic importance of the parks, too.

“I don’t think the wave-generation buoys would generate as much (money) as crab fishing,” Bogardus said.

Most fishermen agreed that somehow, some way, they should be compensated for the loss of fishing grounds and that indeed, the fleet needs to be an integral part of the process.

Already, crabbers in the Reedsport and Winchester Bay areas have been included in ongoing talks with Ocean Power Technologies about the park impacts there.

Husing proposed establishing a statewide committee with representatives from the fishing fleet in each port to stay up-to-date on wave energy developments.

It also needs to be pro-active, he said, by obtaining legal advice, finding experts on FERC processes, doing socioeconomic studies, working with the state’s Congressional delegation and working with other state and federal agencies.

“As a group, as an industry, we need to assert ourselves that there already is a use here,” Merz agreed.

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BusinessWire on October 30, 2007

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc (OPT) is pleased to announce that OPT and Converteam Ltd have signed a Cooperation Agreement for the development of High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) Linear Generators for use in OPT’s PowerBuoy(R) wave energy converters. Under the agreement OPT and Converteam will jointly develop the technology on an exclusive basis for at least five years, including investigating commercial opportunities and potential customers for the HTS linear generator PowerBuoys.

OPT is a leading wave energy technology developer with major PowerBuoy projects in Spain, the UK and the US with customers and partners including Iberdrola, TOTAL and the US Navy. In parallel with commercial deployments of current PowerBuoy products, OPT is continually developing enhancements, such as linear generators, that can deliver a lower cost of energy supplied.

Converteam is also a major supplier to the US Navy, renewables, marine and industrial markets, specialising in the development, design and supply of electrical motors and generators, power converters and cryogenic systems. It has established a leading position in the wind power market and intends to build a similar position in the wave energy market. The proposed power take-off for the OPT PowerBuoy will employ Converteam’s innovative and proprietary linear generator system with high temperature superconductors to provide the magnetic field.

The vision of the two companies is the direct conversion of the linear up and down motion of waves into electricity using OPT’s PowerBuoy and Converteam’s HTS linear generator. This system is expected to have the advantage of improved efficiency, reliability and maintainability over traditional power take-off or linear permanent magnet based systems. Life Cost Analysis predicts that the use of high temperature superconductors provides the necessary magnetic field at much lower cost and weight than conventional linear permanent magnet generators. The flexibility and scalability of the PowerBuoy makes it the ideal product for the introduction of linear power take-off solutions. Integrating Converteam’s linear HTS technology into OPT’s conventional PowerBuoy structure will provide a wave energy converter with increased energy capture.

Dr. George W. Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of OPT, said: “In addition to our on-going commercialization of the existing PowerBuoy system, OPT continues to investigate promising technologies. We are delighted to formalise our relationship with Converteam to develop a new ‘state of the art’ power take-off system. A linear HTS generator installed in our PowerBuoys has the potential to deliver significant reductions in the cost of wave generated electricity. OPT is very excited about the prospects for the HTS technology.”

Converteam Ltd’s Technology Director, Derek Grieve said: “HTS offers a linear generator of unprecedented power density and efficiency enabling significantly more energy to be converted to electrical power. Converteam already has ongoing HTS projects in hydro, marine and wind. These are all migrating to second generation HTS wire which has a much higher flux density, lower cost and operates at higher temperatures than first generation wires allowing the use of a cheap coolant medium. HTS is a truly disruptive technology the advantages of which will radically change wave energy capture. Converteam is looking forward to working with OPT on this exciting and challenging new project.”

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BRIAN VANITY, insurgent49, September 1, 2006

As any mariner knows, the oceans are packed full of energy. The energy contained in the seas can destroy ships but, if harnessed correctly, can also be used to generate electricity.

There are several types of energy, which can be extracted from the Alaska’s ocean waters, the two most promising being tidal, and wave energy. Tidal energy is derived from the cyclic rise and fall of the ocean’s tides, while wave energy is harnessed from rapid rise and fall motion of the ocean waves, which are mostly created by the wind. Ocean current energy is extracted from deep-level currents, which are caused by the thermal circulation of the earth’s weather system.

Tidal, wave, and ocean current energy are directly related to conventional hydroelectric power, in that they are all variations of the mechanical energy of moving water. Offshore wind energy is also considered ocean energy, and several offshore wind farms have been built in Europe’s North Sea. In Alaska today, the only wind energy proposals in the state involve on-shore projects.

Tidal Energy

Tidal power uses the energy of the moving ocean tides, which are driven by the gravitational pull of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. The power output is variable, but predictable years in advance.

The natural ebb and flow of the tides potentially offers a huge future energy source for Alaska. In contrast to other variable renewable energy sources such as wind power, the tides are predictable.

Although tidal energy was first used in European grain mills hundreds of years ago, only a handful of tidal power plants exist in the world today, so operational experience is limited. These existing tidal plants are barrage-style, which involve the capital-intensive construction of large tidal dams across an estuary or inlet. Such large structures that block tidal flows usually have significant environmental impacts, similar to those of large dams on rivers.

The largest existing tidal power plant, a 240-megawatt MW facility on the La Rance estuary in northern France, has caused negative environmental effects since being completed in 1966. The only other large-scale tidal power plant in operation today is the 20 MW Annapolis Royal facility, located along the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

Tidal current energy, also called ‘in-stream’ or ‘hydrokinetic’ tidal energy, is a different form of tidal power generation that does not require barrages or dams. In constricted ocean channels or inlets, the changing tidal water level can create strong tidal currents. Low-impact tidal current turbines, which and resemble underwater versions of wind turbines, are still under development. Research, development, and capital costs are high since the technology is mostly in the experimental stage, and have borrowed from many advanced in wind energy technology.

Several tidal energy sites are under investigation across the USA. In Washington, the city of Tacoma is investigating the tidal energy potential of the Tacoma Narrows of Puget Sound. The company Verdant Power (www.verdantpower.com) is installing six 36-kW tidal turbines in the East River of New York City, with the installation of the first two turbines to be completed by the end of this year. The six tidal turbines will power a shopping center and parking garage on Roosevelt Island, which is located between the boroughs of Queens and Manhattan.

In Europe, an array of tidal turbines is also being built in northern Norway (www.e-tidevannsenergi.com), with 540 kW of generation capacity to be installed by the end of 2006. Lunar Energy (www.lunarenergy.co.uk), HydroVenturi (www.hydroventuri.com) and Marine Current Turbines (www.marineturbines.com) are three promising tidal current turbine upstart firms from the UK, where the government is very supportive of ocean energy research.

Both wave and tidal energy devices will soon begin tests at the new European Marine Energy Centre (www.emec.org.uk), which is located in the Orkneys Islands north of Scotland. The Scottish government has pledged that the country generate 18% of its power from renewable resources by 2010, and this new marine energy testing center will be the largest such facility in the world.

Alaska has many sites with strong tides along its lengthy coast, including both large tidal ranges between high and low tides, and strong tidal currents. Parts of the Alaska coastline have some of the strongest tides in the world, including the upper Cook Inlet around Anchorage. Bristol Bay, Cordova, Seldovia, Angoon and other locations in Southeast Alaska also have strong tidal currents.

The tidal power potential of Alaska has been studied since the 1950s, although no tidal energy systems yet exist in Alaska. Over the past several decades, a number of tidal energy studies have been conducted on Cook Inlet. All of these proposed the construction of large concrete barrages (seawater dams) and the use of conventional bulb-type, “low-head” hydropower turbines. Various ‘barrage schemes’ for upper Cook Inlet were studied up until the early 1980s.

Tidal Electric of Alaska’s tidal energy feasibility study for Cordova proposed a large, concrete-enclosed ‘tidal tank’, a modification on the traditional tidal barrage, and would have still used conventional bulb-type turbines. A 1998 feasibility study conducted in Cordova estimated a $14 million initial cost for a 5000-kW system, or $2800 per kW of installed capacity. Electricity generated from the nearby 6000-kW Power Creek hydroelectric project, which was completed in 2001, was found be more economical. The Cordova tidal energy studies between 1998 and 2000 were the most recent investigations conducted, though did not lead to any development.

Hydrokinetic or in-stream current energy has only recently been under investigation for use in Alaska. The Underwater Electric Kite Corporation (www.uekus.com) has proposed an in-stream turbine installation for the town of Eagle on the Yukon River, with 270 kW to be installed. This project was first proposed in 2003, though still has not received funding. Next door in British Columbia, the provincial electric utility BC Hydro commissioned a 2002 study on tidal current energy, which concluded that the theoretical tidal current power potential of the BC coast is just over 2200 MW.

Knik Arm has the potential of being a good site for a tidal current power plant, with strong currents four times each day. Also, Elmendorf Air Force Base, on the east side of the arm, has significant electrical infrastructure and demand for power. The site also has a close proximity to the Port of Anchorage, which would serve as a base of operations for both construction and maintenance.

The currents and depth are good for the site, but there is are several other concerns that could derail a project, most importantly concern over marine mammals in Knik Arm. Upper Cook Inlet’s Beluga whale count was low this year, worrying marine biologists. A recent report by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recommended that ‘Alaskan stakeholders’ commission a studies on sub-surface ice behavior, future trends in seabed movement, conduct a site-specific regulatory and environmental assessment, and more detailed tidal current velocity measurements. Deploying an array of tidal current turbines at the Cairn Point site in Knik Arm could produce an average of 17 MW or power from the tidal currents, enough to power over 10,000 average Anchorage homes.

The Alaska tidal energy rush has already started. One upstart tidal energy developer, the Miami-based Ocean Renewable Power Company (www.oceanrenewablepower.com), has recently applied for preliminary permits with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) at seven Alaska locations. However, they already have a bad reputation within the close-knit tidal energy industry.

If approved, a preliminary FERC permit gives a developer three years exclusive access to a site. In the case of these two firms, it is likely that they only intend to “bank” the sites and auction them off for its own private gain when tidal technology matures a few years down the line. Many in the industry are accusing the Oceana and Ocean Power Renewable companies of blocking access to prime sites by applying for permits with no intention of developing them.

Sean O’Neill, president of a new trade group called the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition recently told Bloomberg News that “Speculation, and the fact it could hold up a site for anywhere from three to six years, that certainly is not good for the industry… Any company that is banking sites should be tarred and feathered.” So in all likelihood, lawsuits over Alaskan tidal energy sites are quite possible for the near future. For more information, read the Bloomberg News article on the web: (www.renewableenergyaccess.com/rea/news/story?id=45668&src=rss).

Wave Energy

Though often co-mingled, wave power is a diffierent technology than tidal power generation. However, like tidal energy technology, wave power generation is not yet a widely employed technology, with only a few experimental sites in existence. Worldwide, wave power could yield much more energy than tidal power.

The Earth’s total tidal dissipation (friction, measured by the slowing of the planet’s rotation) is 2.5 terawatts, or about the same amount of power that would be gennerated by 2,500 typical nuclear power plants. The energy potential of waves is certainly greater, and wave power can be exploited in many more locations than tidal energy.

Large wave energy potential is estimated for Alaska’s, thousands of miles of coastline, which is more than the length of coast for the other 49 states combined. Some of the most powerful waves in the world are found in Alaska, and the southern Pacific coastal arc of Alaska (stretching from Ketchikan to Attu) has a theoretical wave energy potential estimated to be 1,250 TWh per year, or 300 times more electricity consumed by Alaskans today.

There are a wide variety of wave energy conversion technologies being tested, ranging from “bobbing corks” to giant metal “sea snakes”. The Pelamis Wave Energy Converter is being developed by an upstart wave energy technology company from Edinburgh, Scotland (www.oceanpd.com/default.html ).

Ocean Power Delivery (OPD), developer of the Pelamis device, has secured over $23.6 million of new investment from a consortium of new and existing investors. In May 2005, OPD signed an order with a Portuguese consortium to deliver the initial phase of the world’s first commercial wave-farm. OPD recently delivered the first three production machines to Portugal, where they will be installed following final assembly and commissioning by the end of 2006. The three units are planned to have a total generating capacity of 2.25 MW, or about enough to power a town of 1000 people.

Another upstart wave energy company, the AquaEnergy Group (www.aquaenergygroup.com ), is working on a four-“bouy” installation with one MW of capacity, to be located three miles offshore of Makah Bay, Washington. The wave energy upstart Ocean Power Technologies (www.oceanpowertechnologies.com ) has already deployed its PowerBouy in Hawaii and New Jersey, and is planning an installation in northern Spain. Other wave power generation projects are under development off the coasts of Italy, Spain, South Africa and Oregon.

The Future for Ocean Energy in Alaska

Knik Arm is the most promising commerical tidal energy site in the state, due to its close proximity to Anchorage. Also, offshore wind or tidal turbines mounted on abandoned oil and gas platforms in Cook Inlet, though new underwater electric transmission cables would be needed. To find more promising sites, a statewide study of Alaska’s tidal and wave energy potential is needed. In the future, utility-scale tidal power could also help the urban Alaska energy situation, which is faced with looming increases in natural gas prices. Tidal energy research and development in Alaska could establish the state as a world leader in ocean power technology.

Given the length of its coastline and the strength of the seas, both wave and tidal energy are well worth exploring for Alaska’s future energy needs

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