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MendoCoastCurrent, October 2, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoAW-Energy, a Finnish renewable energy company developer of WaveRoller, a patented wave energy technology, has signed a $4.4M (3 million euros) contract with the European Union to demonstrate its technology.

The contract between AW-Energy and the EU is the first one under the “CALL FP7 – Demonstration of the innovative full size systems.” Several leading wave energy companies competed in the CALL. The contract includes a 3 million euro or $4.4M US grant agreement, providing financial backing for the demonstration project.

The project goal is to manufacture and deploy the first grid-connected WaveRoller unit in Portuguese waters. The exact installation site is located near the town of Peniche, which is famous for its strong waves and known as “Capital of the waves.” The nominal capacity of the WaveRoller is 300 kW and the project will be testing for one year.

The ‘Dream Team’ consortium is led by AW-Energy and includes companies from Finland, Portugal, Germany and Belgium. Large industrial participants include Bosch-Rexroth and ABB, together with renewable energy operator Eneolica and wave energy specialist Wave Energy Center, supporting with their experience to ensure successful implementation of the project.

“The experience of our dream team consortium is a significant asset to the project, and we are thrilled about this real pan-European co-operation. AW-Energy has been working hard the last three years with two sea installed prototypes, tank testing and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations. Now we have the site, grid connection permission, installation license and the technology ready for the demonstration phase,” says John Liljelund, CEO at AW-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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PATRICK BLUM, International Herald Tribune, March 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

So what went wrong?

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

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

Then, the financial crisis kicked in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MaritimeJournal.com, February 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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Science Daily, December 20, 2008

0812161141021MIT researchers are working with Portuguese colleagues to design a pilot-scale device that will capture significantly more of the energy in ocean waves than existing systems, and use it to power an electricity-generating turbine.

Wave energy is a large, widespread renewable resource that is environmentally benign and readily scalable. In some locations — the northwestern coasts of the United States, the western coast of Scotland, and the southern tips of South America, Africa and Australia, for example — a wave absorbing device could theoretically generate 100 to 200 megawatts of electricity per kilometer of coastline. But designing a wave capture system that can deal with the harsh, corrosive seawater environment, handle hourly, daily and seasonal variations in wave intensity, and continue to operate safely in stormy weather is difficult. 

Chiang Mei, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been a believer in wave energy since the late 1970s. After the recent oil price spike, there has been renewed interest in harnessing the energy in ocean waves.

To help engineers design such devices, Professor Mei and his colleagues developed numerical simulations that can predict wave forces on a given device and the motion of the device that will result. The simulations guide design decisions that will maximize energy capture and provide data to experts looking for efficient ways to convert the captured mechanical energy to electrical energy.

One country with a good deal of expertise in wave energy research and development is Portugal. For the past three years, Mei has been working with Professors Antonio Falcao, Antonio Sarmento, and Luis Gato of Insitituto Superior Tecnico, Technical University of Lisbon, as they plan a pilot-scale version of a facility called an oscillating water column, or OWC. Situated on or near the shore, an OWC consists of a chamber with a subsurface opening. As waves come in and out, the water level inside the chamber goes up and down. The moving surface of the water forces air trapped above it to flow into and out of an opening that leads to an electricity-generating turbine. The turbine is a design by A.A.Wells in which the blades always rotate in the same direction, despite the changing direction of the air stream as the waves come in and out.

The Portuguese plan is to integrate the OWC plant into the head of a new breakwater at the mouth of the Douro River in Porto, a large city in northern Portugal. Ultimately, the installation will include three OWCs that together will generate 750 kilowatts — roughly enough to power 750 homes. As a bonus, the plant’s absorption of wave energy at the breakwater head will calm the waters in the area and reduce local erosion.

The challenge is to design a device that resonates and thus operates efficiently at a broad spectrum of wave frequencies — and an unexpected finding from the MIT analysis provides a means of achieving that effect. The key is the compressibility of the air inside the OWC chamber. That compressibility cannot be changed, but its impact on the elevation of the water can be — simply by changing the size of the OWC chamber. The simulations showed that using a large chamber causes resonance to occur at a wider range of wavelengths, so more of the energy in a given wave can be captured. “We found that we could optimize the efficiency of the OWC by making use of the compressibility of air — something that is not intuitively obvious,” Mei says. “It’s very exciting.”

He is currently working with other graduate students on wave power absorbers on coastlines of different geometries and on how to extract wave power from an array of many absorbers.

Mei continues to be enthusiastic about wave energy, but he is not unrealistic in his expectations. Although costs have been falling in recent years, wave energy is unlikely to be commercially viable for a long time — perhaps several decades. Nevertheless, Mei is adamant that more attention should be given to this renewable source of energy, and he would like to see a team of MIT experts in different fields — from energy capture and conversion to transmission and distribution — working collaboratively toward making large-scale wave energy a reality.

“Given the future of conventional energy sources, we need lots of research on all kinds of alternative energy,” he says. “Right now, wind energy and solar energy are in the spotlight because they’ve been developed for a longer time. With wave energy, the potential is large, but the engineering science is relatively young. We need to do more research.”

This article is adapted from a longer version that appeared in the autumn 2008 issue of Energy Futures, the newsletter of the MIT Energy Initiative.

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Giles Tremlett, The Guardian UK, December 2, 2008

portugalwind1Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm plugged itself into the grid today to provide enough electricity for up to a million people in northern Portugal.

A total of 120 windmills are dotted across the highlands of the Upper Minho region of Portugal as one of western Europe’s poorer nations continues to forge its reputation as a renewables champion.

“Europe’s largest onshore wind farm is now fully operational,” a spokeswoman for France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles, which co-owns the farm, announced this morning.

The two megawatt turbines on each windmill deliver electricity to a single connection point with the electricity grid and should supply around 1% of Portugal’s total energy needs.

A second, smaller wind farm is already functioning nearby, giving a combined output of 650 gigawatt hours per year. “That is above 1% of national consumption,” said Nuno Ribeiro da Silva, head of the VentoMinho company that runs the farm.

That would provide enough energy for 300,000 homes, or most of the northern city of Viana do Castelo and its surrounding districts, he told the Publico newspaper.

Portugal’s mixture of government enthusiasm, subsidies and special tariffs has turned it into one of the focal points of renewables development in Europe over the past five years.

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm is being built near the southern town of Moura. The Moura solar farm, which will include a research centre, should be twice the size of any other in the world when it is fully up and running in two years time.

Portugal also recently inaugurated the world’s first commercial wave power plant in the Atlantic Ocean off Aguçadoura, using technology developed in Scotland.

The country is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels and has set a target of obtaining 31% of energy needs from renewables by the year 2020. That is more than twice the UK target. It also uses its subsidies policy to insist that manufacturers of turbines and solar panels set up production plants.

“By 2010 we will have 5,000MW of wind energy installed, meaning we will have increased it tenfold in just five years,” economy minister Manuel Pinho said. “This is another step towards putting our country in the vanguard of what is being done with renewable energy.”

Portugal, which claims to be one of the world’s top five renewable energy countries, provides subsidies of up to 40% for new projects.

The world’s largest onshore wind farms are in the United States, with the Horse Hollow farm in Texas providing more than 700MW.

These will soon be dwarfed by proposed offshore wind farms of up to 5,000MW each.

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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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SIMON GOMPERTZ, BBC News, September 24, 2008

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

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

The Practicalities

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens Next?

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

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

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

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

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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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EnergyBusinessReview.com, August 12, 2008

Spanish utility Iberdrola Renewables S.A. has been awarded the license to market natural gas in Portugal’s liberalized energy market by the country’s Directorate General of Energy and Geology, with support from the Portuguese Ministry of Economy and Innovation.

Pursuant to the terms of this authorization, Iberdrola will be able to import, export and market natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as buy and sell natural gas wholesale and sell it to the Portuguese retail clients.

Iberdrola hopes to become one of the operators of reference in Portugal’s gas market with the chance to take advantage of the market’s incipient liberalization, which began in July 2007.

The Spanish utility, which is already present in the areas of generation and marketing of electricity and renewable energies in Portugal, is also taking a further step in order to strengthen its presence in the country’s energy market. Iberdrola is also promoting the construction of an 850MW combined cycle power plant in the locality of Figueira da Foz and hopes to obtain the definitive award to carry out work for the 1,134MW Alto Tamega hydroelectric complex.

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Platt/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JOHN VIDAL, The Guardian, June 6, 2008

From a distance the bizarre structures sprouting from the high Alentejo plain in eastern Portugal resemble a field of mechanical sunflowers. Each of the 2,520 giant solar panels is the size of a house and they are as technically sophisticated as a car. Their reflective heads tilt to the sky at a permanent 45 degrees as they track the sun through 240 degrees every day.

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm, generating electricity straight from sunlight, is taking shape near Moura, a small town in a thinly populated and impoverished region which boasts the most sunshine per square metre a year in Europe.

When fully commissioned later this year, the £250m farm set on abandoned state-owned land will be twice the size of any other similar project in the world, covering an area nearly twice the size of London’s Hyde park. It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.

Portugal, without its own oil, coal or gas and with no expertise in nuclear power, is pitching to lead Europe’s clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewables. Its intention, the economics minister, Manuel Pinho, said, is to wean itself off oil and within a decade set up a low carbon economy in response to high oil prices and climate change.

“We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas,” said Pinho. “What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.”

He expects Portugal to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This means lifting its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain’s target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Having passed its target for 2010 it could soon top the EU renewables league.

In less than three years, Portugal has trebled its hydropower capacity, quadrupled its wind power, and is investing in flagship wave and photovoltaic plants. Encouraged by long-term guarantees of prices by the state, and not delayed by planning laws or government indecision, it has proved a success. Firms are expected to invest £10bn in renewables by 2012 and up to £100bn by 2020.

However, Portugal says it wants to develop a renewables industry to rival Denmark or Japan. When the government invited companies for tenders to supply wind, solar and wave power, it demanded they work with manufacturing companies to establish clusters of industries.

This is a great success, say regional governments. In northern Portugal, where the world’s biggest wind farm, with more than 130 turbines, is now being strung across the mountainous Spanish border, a German firm employs more than 1,200 people building 600 40-metre-long fibreglass wind turbine blades a year.

The turbines are earmarked for Portuguese farms first, but orders are being taken from Britain and other countries. Half the workforce are women who once worked in the declining textile industry.

It is Portuguese plans for wave power that are prompting the most interest in Europe. The world’s first commercial wave farm is being assembled near Porto. Three “sea snakes”, developed by the Edinburgh-based company Pelamis, will shortly be towed out to sea and will start pumping modest amounts of electricity into the grid later this year.

It is the start of a potentially giant global industry with Portuguese firm Enersis planning to invest more than £1bn in a series of farms that together would power 450,000 homes.

Pinho dismisses nuclear power. “When you have a programme like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the UK is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important.

“Countries that do not invest in renewables will pay a high price in future. The cost of inaction is very high indeed. The perception that renewable energy is very expensive is changing every day as the oil price goes up.”

He added: “Energy and environment are the biggest challenge of our generation. We need to develop a low-carbon model for the world economy. The present situation is dangerous.”

EU Renewable League

Top

  • Sweden 2005 39.8%, target by 2020 49%
  • Latvia 34.9%, target 42%
  • Finland 28.5%, target 38%
  • Austria 23.3%, target 34%
  • Portugal 20.5%, target 31%

Bottom

  • Cyprus 2.9%, target by 2020 13%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Ireland 3.1%, target 16%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Belgium 2.2%, target 13%
  • UK 1.3%, target 15%

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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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ANDREW LEONARD, How the World Works at Salon.com, June 6, 2008

Portugal lacks oil and gas resources, has no nuclear power expertise, but has abundant wind, wave and solar energy. Making a commitment to turn from expensive, polluting fossil fuel to abundant renewable power, Portugal’s leaders foresaw tightening energy markets and made huge investments to develop renewable power.

Says Manuel Pinho, Portugal’s Economics Minister about Portugal’s renewable energy program, “When you have a program like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the U.K. is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important.”

Portugal’s goal is to produce 30% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Here’s a handy listing of how selected European countries are currently faring on their environmental goals provided by The Guardian.

The Top Performers:

  • Sweden 2005 39.8%, target by 2020 48%
  • Latvia 34.9%, target 42%
  • Finland 28.5%, target 38%
  • Austria 23.3%, target 34%
  • Portugal 20.5%, target 31%

The Bottom Dwellers:

  • Cyprus 2.9%, target by 2020 13%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Ireland 3.1%, target 16%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Belgium 2.2%, target 13%
  • UK 1.3%, target 15%

For comparison purposes, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics for the year 2006, the U.S. gets about 7 percent of its power from renewable energy generation.

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GLOBE-NET NEWS, May 29, 2008

Forever moving – our restless oceans have enough energy to power the world. As long as the Earth turns and the moon keeps its appointed cycle, the oceans will absorb and dissipate vast amounts of kinetic energy – a renewable energy resource of enormous potential. But harnessing this resource has proven more difficult than first thought. In this the latest installment of the GLOBE-Net Series on Renewable Energy – we look at how the power of the oceans might eventually find its place among other forms of renewable energy.

Ocean Energy – What is it?

According to the United Nations, 44% of the world’s population lives within 150 km of an ocean coast. In Canada and Australia the number is much higher at 80%. In the United States 53% of the population lives in close proximity to an ocean.

Thus it is only natural that many countries look to the oceans as a source of energy to be harnessed. How they seek to exploit this resource varies according to factors of geography and available technologies.

The two main forms of energy associated with our oceans are tidal power and wave power – born of the same source, but different in how they turn energy into electricity.

Tidal Power

Tidal power coverts the energy of tides into electricity utilizing the rise and fall of the ocean tides. The stronger the tide, either in water level height or tidal current velocities, the greater the potential for tidal electricity generation.

Tidal generators act in much the same way as do wind turbines, however the higher density of water (832 times that of air) means that a single generator can provide significant power at velocities much lower than those associated`with the wind power generators.

Tidal power can be classified into two main types; Tidal Stream Systems and Barrages.

Barrages are similar to hydro-electric dams but are placed in an estuary bay or river mouth, where they act as barriers that create artificial tidal lagoons. When water levels outside the lagoon changes relative to water levels inside, turbines in the barrages are able to produce electrical power. There are only three such structures in the world: the Rance River in France, Canada’s Bay of Fundy, and Kislaya Guba, Russia.

Tidal stream systems make use of the kinetic energy of moving water to power turbines. This technology simply relies on individual turbines which are placed in the water column; moored to be suspended, floating or anchored to the ocean floor. As the tide flows in or out, electrical energy is produced as water moves through the turbine.

Tidal power boasts several advantages over other types of renewable energy technology, because tides are more predictable and reliable than wind energy or sunny days for solar power. Tidal energy has an efficiency ratio of approximately 80% in terms of converting the potential energy of the water into electricity. Tidal stream system turbines are only a third the diameter of wind rotors of the same power output.

As with wind power, location is important factor in terms of being able to harness the earth’s natural energy. Tidal stream systems must be located in areas with fast currents where natural flows are concentrated between natural obstructions, for example at the entrances to bays and rivers, around rocky points or headlands, or between islands and other land masses.

Wave Power

Ocean surface waves are also a considerable source of energy potential, but energy that is not as restricted in terms of location as tidal energy systems. Typically wave energy is captured using buoys which generate mechanical energy as they oscillate vertically from wave motion.

Terminator devices extend perpendicular to the direction of wave travel and capture or reflect the power of the wave. Water enters through a subsurface opening into a chamber with air trapped above it and wave action causes the captured water column to move up and down like a piston to force the air though an opening connected to a turbine.

A point absorber is a floating structure with components that move relative to each other due to wave action (e.g., a floating buoy inside a fixed cylinder). The relative motion is used to drive electromechanical or hydraulic energy converters.

Attenuators are long multi-segment floating structures oriented parallel to the direction of the waves. The differing heights of waves along the length of the device causes flexing where the segments connect, and this flexing is connected to hydraulic pumps or other converters.

Overtopping devices have reservoirs that are filled by incoming waves to levels above the average surrounding ocean. The water is then released, and gravity causes it to fall back toward the ocean surface. The energy of the falling water is used to turn hydro turbines.

Wave power varies considerably in different parts of the world, and wave energy can’t be harnessed effectively everywhere. According to the Ocean Renewable Energy Group, a Vancouver based organisation that promotes the development of ocean energy in Canada, regions considered to have “good” wave energy resources are generally those found within 40 to 60 degrees of latitude, where the strongest winds are found. Wave-power rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Australia, and the northwestern coasts of the United States.

Projects Underway

Ocean energy company Clean Current Power Systems estimates a potential global market for 67,000 Megawatts (MW) of tidal and wave action equipment worth $200 billion. At 20 cents/kW hour, the market for tidal electricity could be $27 billion annually. According to Finavera, world-wide wave energy could provide up to 2,000 TWh/year, 10% of world electricity consumption.

It comes as no surprise then, that interest in ocean energy has been building momentum in the past few years as these nations scramble to meet renewable energy targets.

For instance, in November 2007, British company Lunar Energy announced that it would be building the world’s first deep-sea tidal-energy farm off the coast of Pembrokshire in Wales. Eight underwater turbines, each 25 metres long and 15 metres high will provide electricity for 5,000 homes. Construction is due to start in the summer of 2008 and the proposed tidal energy turbines, described as “a wind farm under the sea”, should be operational by 2010.

Plans for a ten-mile barrage across the River Severn, which could generate 5% of the UK’s electricity needs, are currently under development. According to the UK Sustainable Development Commission, a barrage across the Severn would produce clean and sustainable electricity for 120 years. This would have a capacity of 8,640MW and an estimated output of 17 terawatt hours a year.

Scotland boasts roughly 25% of the entire European Union’s tidal power potential and 10% of its wave energy potential and could produce more than 1,300 megawatts by 2020, enough to power a city the size of Seattle. In 2007, Scotland announced $26 million worth of funding packages to develop marine power in the nation. So far $8 million has been procured to develop 3 MW of tidal power.

UK based Marine Current Turbines is developing a tidal stream system off the coast of Ireland. The 1.2-megawatt turbine will be tested for 12 weeks before feeding power into the Northern Ireland grid where it will operate for up to 20 hours per day, producing enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

Both Scotland and England are planning wave energy projects. Scotland will be developing a 3MW array and England will be developing a 20 MW Wave Hub off the north coast of Cornwall, England. The Cornwall project will power up to 7,500 homes.

Canada has the world’s longest coastline and has always been serious about harnessing ocean energy. In early 2008 the Government of Nova Scotia gave the green light to three tidal energy testing projects in the Bay of Fundy to help establish a permanent tidal energy farm (see GLOBE-Net Article Nova Scotia to fund tidal power research). Irving Oil is also studying 11 potential sites in the Bay of Fundy to develop tidal energy farms.

The Government of British Columbia estimates there are more than 6,000 megawatts of potential wave energy that have been identified so far in the province and projects are already underway to develop wave energy systems. In 2006 Vancouver based Clean Current Power Systems began developing a pilot tidal power project near Victoria to demonstrate the potential for tidal power.

PG&E and Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables is developing America’s first commercial wave power plant off the coast of Northern California. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2012, generating a maximum of 2 megawatts of electricity.

In March, 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy announced would be offering up to $7.5 million in grants for hydro-kinetic energy such as wave and tidal power. The department is seeking partnerships with companies and universities to develop the technologies and plans to award up to 17 grants.

Portugal is planning the world’s first commercial wave farm, the Aguçadora Wave Park near Póvoa de Varzim. If successful, a further 70 million euro is likely to be invested before 2009 on a further 28 machines to generate 72.5 MW.

The Challenges

Despite the enormous potential of ocean energy, there remain many pitfalls (if such a word can be used in a watery context) that have proven difficult to overcome, and which explains why ocean energy remains the least developed of all forms renewable energy. Problems still exist regarding cost, maintenance, environmental concerns and our still imperfect understanding of how power from the oceans will impact on the world’s energy infrastructure.

For example, turbines are susceptible to bio-fouling; the growth of aquatic life on or in the turbine. This can severely inhibit the efficiency of energy production and is both costly and difficult to remove. Turbines are also prone to damage from ocean debris.

In the Bay of Fundy, project developers are particularly concerned with ice floes the size of small apartments, and cobblestones the size of watermelons constantly being tossed across the Bay’s terrain by the power of the Bay’s water flows.

Turbines may also be hazardous to marine life and the impacts on marine life are still largely unknown, but concern is warranted.

Barrage systems are affected by problems of high initial infrastructure costs associated with construction and the resulting environmental problems. For example, independent research on the economics of building the proposed Severn Barrage in the UK revealed that, taking environmental costs into account, the structure could cost as much as $12 billion to create – $4 billion more than previously estimated.

Barrage impacts include a decrease in the average salinity and turbidity within a barrage, significantly altering associated ecosystems.

Wave power systems present their own set of challenges. Most electric generators operate at higher speeds, and most turbines require a constant, steady flow. Unfortunately wave energy is slow and ocean waves oscillate at varying frequencies.

The rough realities of the marine environment have also proven difficult to deal with, especially for companies seeking to remain cost-effective. Constructing wave devices that can survive storm damage and saltwater corrosion add to development costs.

The Future

Modern advances in ocean energy technology may eventually see large amounts of power generated from the ocean, especially tidal currents using the tidal stream designs. The technology is still in its infant stage and most projects that exist or are that are in project development stages are mainly pilot projects. But the promise remains.

“It’s not as well-established as solar, thermal, wind and biomass, but it [ocean power] shows a lot of promise,” said Philip Jennings, professor of energy studies at Western Australia’s Murdoch University.

“As the technology develops and becomes more affordable, which it will over time, we can continue to expand pretty much anywhere where there is an ocean,” said Chief Executive Officer Phil Metcalf of Pelamis Wave Power.

The market potential for tidal power still remains unclear [says who?]. Sector analysts believe Initial Public Offerings (IPO) for wave and tidal power projects will be much harder to price than for comparable wind power projects, because wave firms cannot give exact estimates on the scale of benefits and few have technologies that are up and running.

Regardless, both ocean wave and tidal power have attracted growing interest from investors and power utilities looking for the next long-term play in renewable energy.

“Water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface,” said Andy Karsner, assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DOE. “Using environmentally responsible technologies, we have a tremendous opportunity to harness energy produced from ocean waves, tides or ocean currents, free-flowing water in rivers and other water resources to…provide clean and reliable power.”

According to Jennings ocean power could not match fossil fuels for electricity production but could be competitive with other forms of renewable energy.

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JORGE CHAPA, inhabitat.com, October 2007

Portugal's wave farm ready to launch, wave power, Portuguese Wave Farm, Portugal Pelamis Farm, wave electricity, green wave power, sustainable wave power, renewable energy source, portugal, pelamis machines, pelamis wave power, wave farmWhat would you do if you ran out of land for wind farms to meet your ambitious renewable energy targets? Well, if you are Portugal, you get creative and build the world’s first wave farm off your coast. The intrepid country is poised to open what will be the world’s first commercial wavefarm, off the coast of northern Portugal at Agucadoura, where the expected total output of the plant will be enough to power around 2,000 homes.Portugal's wave farm ready to launch, wave power, Portuguese Wave Farm, Portugal Pelamis Farm, wave electricity, green wave power, sustainable wave power, renewable energy source, portugal, pelamis machines, pelamis wave power, wave farmThe wave farm uses three Pelamis P-750 machines with a capacity of approximately 2.0 megawatts. The Pelamis machines, created by Ocean Power Delivery, are essentially a series of semi-submerged tubes which are linked to each other by hinged joints. It is these joints which are the trick behind the system. The joints act as a pumping system, by pushing high pressure oil through a series of hydraulic motors, which in turn drive the electrical generators to produce electricity. Needless to say the machines are moored to the ocean bed. To give you an idea of the size of each module, the 750kw prototype, is 120m long and 3.5m in diameter. Each of these modules is composed of three individual 250kw tube.Three of these machines compose the first phase of the wave farm, which was commissioned by the Portuguese renewable energy company Enersis. They will provide a total of 2.25 megawatts. If successfull the wave farm will be expanded to 30 of such modules. Intriguingly enough, the company mentions that they are not concerned about profitability, which the project wouldn’t reach until there at least enough modules for 500MW. What they want to is prove that there is a market for this type of technology. “What we are assembling here is the first wave farm in the world,” says Antonio Sa da Costa of Enersis. 

The wave farm is expected to be operational within the end of the year.

+ Pelamis Wave Power
+ Portugal gambles on ’sea snakes’ providing an energy boost @ the Guardian

Portugal's wave farm ready to launch, wave power, Portuguese Wave Farm, Portugal Pelamis Farm, wave electricity, green wave power, sustainable wave power, renewable energy source, portugal, pelamis machines, pelamis wave power, wave farm

Portugal's wave farm ready to launch, wave power, Portuguese Wave Farm, Portugal Pelamis Farm, wave electricity, green wave power, sustainable wave power, renewable energy source, portugal, pelamis machines, pelamis wave power, wave farm

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The News & Observer, January 17, 2008, Copyright Business Wire 2008

The Sea Could Supply 20% of UK Energy Demand & ~10% of World Consumption

LONDON – Wave energy sources are not only available in plenty, but are also consistent, predictable and have the highest energy density among all renewable energy sources. The best resource is found between 40-60 degrees of latitude where the available resource is 30 to 70 kW/m, with peaks of 100 kW/m. The potential worldwide wave energy contribution to the electricity market is estimated to be of the order of 2,000 TWh/year, about 10% of the world electricity consumption.

The marine energy sector is set to grow faster. However, as it happened for the wind energy, government support, financial investment and technological advancement are needed to see the marine energy sector reach commercialisation.

“Wave energy technology,” explains Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Gouri Nambudripad, “is being developed in a number of countries such as Canada, China, Chile, India, Japan, Russia and the US. However, Europe is leading the way in innovative technologies, pilot projects as well as pushing the existing technologies towards commercialisation including countries such as UK, Ireland, Portugal, Norway and Spain. In tidal energy, Canada, Argentina, Western Australia and Korea possess the resources, but here again Europe is a frontrunner, with the UK and France seemingly promising.”

“The UK – having some of the best wave resource in the world – is targeting 40% of its energy from renewables by 2050 of which 20% is to be sourced from wave and tidal energy,” continues Gouri Nambudripad. “The UK is estimated to possess the capacity to generate approximately 87TWh of wave power annually equivalent to 20-25% of current UK demand. Moreover, the UK has committed GBP 25m since 1999 towards the wave and tidal programme.”

Wave energy devices can be divided into three main categories: shore-line, near-shore and offshore devices. Shore-line devices are devices on the shore. Near-shore devices are ones that are within 12-25 miles off the shore. Finally, offshore devices are those placed in waters of more than 50 metres in depth and/or more than 25 miles from the shore.

“About 1000 patents for wave energy converters are currently in the market and broadly fall under the above-mentioned categories. With so many technologies around there is no clear consensus on which technology will prevail over the others or which ones will be successful,” concludes Frost & Sullivan Analyst Nambudripad.

There are two main research centres in Europe focusing on the development and commercialisation of ocean energy technologies. The first is the European Marine Energy Centre located in Orkney, Scotland. It provides developers with sites to test their prototypes. Government and other public sector organisations have invested around GBP 15 million in the creation of the centre and its two marine laboratories. The other is the Wave Energy Centre in Portugal. It provides strategic and technical support to companies, R&D institutions and public organizations. It also looks for international cooperation helping foreign companies test their devices in Portuguese waters.

The marine energy industry has a long way to go, but ongoing research and government support should lead to improvements making these technologies more economically attractive in the future. Combined with intensifying company activity in this field, Europe is poised to be the place to watch in the marine energy arena of the future.

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