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Posts Tagged ‘Wind Turbines’

JOHN UPTON, San Francisco Examiner, August 22, 2010

The view to the west from Ocean Beach could one day be cluttered with scores of spinning windmills, generating power.

San Francisco under Mayor Gavin Newsom has long explored the possibility of tapping alternative energy sources, including tidal, wave, solar, geothermal and wind power.

San Francisco is reviewing the environmental impacts of a planned project that would place underwater devices off Ocean Beach to harness wave power, which is a nascent form of renewable energy. The review and its approvals are expected to wrap up within a year.

City leaders are starting to think that construction of the wave power project could help them assess the viability of a more visually striking proposal: a wind farm.

Ocean Beach was found by UC Berkeley professor Ronald Yeung to have good potential for a powerful wave energy farm. Waves that roll into the beach are created by Arctic tempests.

The finding was confirmed last year by city contractors, who determined a facility could provide up to 30 megawatts of electricity — enough power for 30,000 homes.

Environmental review work under way involves studying sediment movement and tracking whale migration patterns to determine the best places on the sea floor to attach futuristic wave power devices.

Recent changes in federal regulations could limit San Francisco to working within three miles of the shoreline because offshore renewable energy projects now require expensive leases instead of less-expensive permits, although the process is clouded by uncertainty.

The federal Mineral Management Services agency has responsibility for regulating offshore renewable energy resources, including wave and power farms, but the agency is being overhauled in the wake of the Gulf oil spill disaster.

The recent regulatory changes could see offshore energy rights snapped up by deep-pocketed oil or utility companies under anticipated bidding processes.

On San Francisco’s clearest days, visitors to Ocean Beach can sometimes see the Farallon Islands, which are 27 miles west of San Francisco — nearly 10 times further out to sea than the three-mile offshore border.

After safe and potentially powerful locations have been identified, wave energy technology will be selected from a growing suite of options including devices that float near the surface, those that hover in midwater and undulating seabed equipment inspired by kelp.

The next step would involve applying for permits and installing the equipment.

Somewhere along the way, costs will be determined and funds will need to be raised by officials or set aside by lawmakers.

Once the wave-catching equipment is in place, it could be used to help determine wind velocities and other factors that make the difference between viable and unviable wind farm sites.

“What we really need to do is put some wind anemometers out there,” Newsom’s sustainability adviser Johanna Partin said. “There are a couple of buoys off the coast with wind meters on them, but they are spread out and few and far between. As we move forward with our wave plans, we’re hoping there are ways to tie in some wind testing. If we’re putting stuff out there anyway then maybe we can tack on wind anemometers.”

Partin characterized plans for a wind farm off Ocean Beach as highly speculative but realistic.

Wind power facilities are growing in numbers in California and around the world.

But wind farms are often opposed by communities because of fears about noise, vibrations, ugliness and strobe-light effects that can be caused when blades spin and reflect rays from the sun.

A controversial and heavily opposed 130-turbine project that could produce 468 megawatts of power in Nantucket Sound received federal approvals in May.

West Coast facilities, however, are expected to be more expensive and complicated to construct.

“The challenge for us on the West Coast is that the water is so much deeper than it is on the East Coast,” Partin said.

Treasure Island is planned site for turbine test

A low-lying island in the middle of the windswept Bay will be used as a wind-power testing ground.

The former Navy base Treasure Island is about to be used in an international project to test cutting-edge wind turbines. It was transferred last week to to San Francisco to be developed by private companies in a $100 million-plus deal.

The testing grounds, planned in a southwest pocket of the island, could be visible from the Ferry Building.

The first turbines to be tested are known as “vertical axis” turbines, meaning they lack old-fashioned windmill blades, which can be noisy and deadly for birds.

The devices to be tested were developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in cooperation with Russian companies. Five were manufactured in Russia and delivered to California earlier this year.

The wind-technology relationship, which was funded with $2 million in federal funds, grew out of an anti-nuclear-proliferation program started in 1993.

“The vertical machines should be good in gusty low-wind conditions, which are those which you expect in an urban environment,” lead LBNL researcher Glen Dahlbacka said recently.

The machines were designed to minimize noise and are easily built.

“They’re relatively easy to work up in a fiberglass shop,” Dahlbacka said.

Eventually, each device could be coupled with solar panels to provide enough power for a modest home, Dahlbacka said.

The team is not expected to be the only group to test wind turbines on the island.

San Francisco plans to provide space for green-tech and clean-tech companies to test their wind-power devices on the island to help achieve product certification under federal standards adopted in January.

The program could help San Francisco attract environmental technology companies.

“It’s an opportunity to attract and retain clean-tech companies,” Department of the Environment official Danielle Murray said. “We’ve just started putting feelers out to the industry.”

The proposed testing grounds might have to shift around as the island is developed with thousands of homes and other buildings in the coming years.

“We need to work with them with regards to where these things go and how they would interact with the development project,” Wilson Meany Sullivan developer Kheay Loke said.

— John Upton

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JESSICA MARSHALL, Discovery.com News, November 30, 2009

The patterns that schooling fish form to save energy while swimming have inspired a new wind farm design that researchers say will increase the amount of power produced per acre by at least tenfold.

“For the fish, they are trying to minimize the energy that they consume to swim from Point A to Point B,” said John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who led the study. “In our case, we’re looking at the opposite problem: How to we maximize the amount of energy that we collect?”

“Because both of these problems involve optimizing energy, it turns out that the model that’s useful for one is also useful for the other problem.”

Both designs rely on individuals capturing energy from their neighbors to operate more efficiently.”If there was just one fish swimming, it kicks off energy into the water, and it just gets wasted,” Dabiri said, “but if there’s another fish behind, it can actually use that kinetic energy and help it propel itself forward.”

The wind turbines can do the same thing. Dabiri’s wind farm design uses wind turbines that are oriented to rotate around the support pole like a carousel, instead of twirling like a pinwheel the way typical wind turbines do.

Like the fish, these spinning turbines generate a swirling wake. The energy in this flow can be gathered by neighboring turbines if they are placed close enough together and in the right position. By capturing this wake, two turbines close together can generate more power than each acting alone.

This contrasts with common, pinwheel-style wind turbines where the wake from one interferes with its neighbors, reducing the neighbors’ efficiency. The vortexes occur in the wrong orientation for the neighboring turbines to capture them.

For this reason, such turbines must be spaced at least three diameters to either side and 10 diameters up — or downwind of another, which requires a lot of land.

Although individual carousel-style turbines are less efficient than their pinwheel-style counterparts, the close spacing that enhances their performance means that the amount of power output per acre is much greater for the carousel-style turbines.

Dabiri and graduate student Robert Whittlesey calculated that their best design would generate 100 times more power per acre than a conventional wind farm.

The model required some simplifications, however, so it remains to be seen whether tests of an actual wind farm produce such large gains. That will be the team’s next step. “Even if we’re off by a factor of 10, that’s still a game changer for the technology,” Dabiri noted.

In the end, schooling fish may not have the perfect arrangement. The pair found that the best arrangement of wind turbines did not match the spacing used by schooling fish.

“If we just mimic the fish wake, we can do pretty well,” Dabiri said. “But, as engineers, maybe we’re smarter than fish. It turns out that for this application there is even better performance to be had.”

This may be because fish have other needs to balance in their schooling behavior besides maximizing swimming efficiency. They seek food, avoid predators and reproduce, for example.

“I think that this is a very interesting possibility,” said Alexander Smits of Princeton University, who attended a presentation of the findings at a meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics in Minneapolis last week.

But a field test will show the idea’s real potential, he noted: “You have to go try these things. You can do a calculation like that and it might not work out. But it seemed like there was a very large reduction in the land usage, and even if you got one half of that, that would be pretty good.”

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, July 22, 2009

north-carolina-bans-wind-turbinesSome North Carolina politicians consider this type of thing an aesthetic blight — and want to ban it from the state’s peaks and ridgelines.

A furious battle over the aesthetics of wind energy has erupted in North Carolina, where lawmakers are weighing a bill that would bar giant turbines from the state’s scenic western ridgelines.

The big machines would “destroy our crown jewel,” said Martin Nesbitt, a state senator who supports the ban, according to a report in The Winston-Salem Journal.

As it currently stands, the bill would ban turbines more than 100 feet tall from the mountaintops. Residential-scale turbines (typically 50 to 120 feet high) could still go up, but the industrial-scale turbines that can produce 500 times as much power or more would be effectively ruled out. The legislation appeared likely to pass the state Senate last week, but got sent back to committee.

Such a ban would be virtually unprecedented, according to Brandon Blevins, the wind program coordinator for the the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and it would make roughly two-thirds of North Carolina’s land-based wind potential unavailable.

(The state is also starting to look offshore.)

“I know of no other state that has so uniformly banned wind,” he said. State lawmakers, Mr. Blevins noted, voted not long ago to enact a renewable portfolio standard requiring North Carolina to get 12.5% of its electricity from renewable energy and efficiency measures by 2021. “Now they’re stripping away some of the most cost-effective options for their utilities” to achieve those targets, he said.

Christine Real de Azua, a spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, said that while some counties around the country have enacted height bans, the association is unaware of similar bans “covering large areas.”

“The main objection seems to be appearance, and the reality is that many people find wind turbines elegant and a symbol of a clean energy future, and that wind turbines often become a tourist attraction,” she said in an e-mail message.

The North Carolina bill has roots in a 1983 law that barred most structures taller than 40 feet along the state’s ridgelines — though exceptions were made for communications towers and windmills, Mr. Blevins said.

An early version of the current bill, supported by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, would have kept big turbines away from the Appalachian Trail and other landmarks, but granted local governments the authority to allow them in other areas.

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CATHY PROCTOR, Denver Business Journal, July 31, 2009

SmartGrid-graphicWind farms and solar power plants may offer free fuel costs and no carbon-dioxide emissions, but don’t assume there’s universal support from environmentalists, according to industry observers.

“The world is changing,” said Andrew Spielman, a partner at the Denver office of Hogan & Hartson LLC who works on renewable energy projects.

Spielman was part of a panel discussing issues in the renewable energy sector at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s annual natural gas strategy conference. “There are more complexities with renewable projects,” he said, “and it’s no longer an assumption that the environmental community will approve and support renewable projects.”

Among the larger considerations of renewable energy:

  • Big wind farms and solar power plants take up a lot of land. Whether it’s for towering wind turbines or acres of solar panels, additional land is needed for construction areas and support services such as workers and storage yards.
  • Rural roads accustomed to a few cars and tractor traffic often need upgrades to handle heavy construction trucks and semis laden with towers, nacelles and turbine blades.
  • Often, the remote new wind farms and solar power plants need a new transmission line — with its own set of construction impacts — to get the renewable power to cities and towns, the panelists said.

For example, the Peetz Table Wind Farm in northeastern Colorado, owned by a subsidiary of big energy company FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL) of Juno Beach, Fla., generates 400 megawatts of power from 267 wind turbines that sprawl across 80 square miles.

The wind farm, which started operating in 2007, also required the construction of a 78-mile transmission line to connect it to the grid and get power to the wind farm’s sole client, Xcel Energy Inc.

It’s called “energy sprawl,” akin to the idea of “urban sprawl,” said Tim Sullivan, panelist and acting state director for the Colorado Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“All energy has a footprint, and renewable energy has to be a concern for anyone concerned about land-based habitat,” he said. “We need to treat renewables and oil and gas equally on their footprints.”

That doesn’t mean, Sullivan said, that every square inch of ground in Colorado should be off-limits to energy development. “We don’t have to protect every inch of ground,” he said.

“We can make trade-offs.”

One area of land good for wind energy might be “traded” for another piece that’s good for wetlands or grasslands where birds flourish, he said.

People who live near wind farms also are growing more aware of their impacts, Spielman said.

There’s the height issue. A wind turbine can soar 400 feet from the base to the top of the blade, he said. That’s about the height of the Tabor Center’s office building.

Also, there are new “flicker” problems — stemming from light flashing off the rotating blades as they go around about once a second. Turbines also make a repetitive, low-key “vrroomp” noise as they rotate, he said.

State regulators are becoming more aware of the impacts from renewable and alternative energy projects, said Kate Fay, energy manager at the Colorado Department of Health & Environment.

“All energy projects have impacts,” she said. “There is no free ride. The impacts from renewables may be small now, but there’s not that many of them out there.”

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DANIEL TERDIMAN, CNET, July 23, 2009

Caspar Wind FarmWyoming — Walking across the former site of the Dave Johnston Mine here, about half an hour outside Casper, you’d never know that over the course of 42 years, 104 million tons of coal was taken out of the ground.

But now, instead of having a heavy carbon footprint–and coal certainly does–these rolling hills have an entirely green footprint. Today, the site is home to a 158-turbine wind farm that produces 237 Megawatts of power, enough electricity for 66,800 households for a year.

And what’s particularly notable about the site is that while the wind farm is among the newest and most state-of-the-art in the country today, it is also likely the first full-scale wind power project to be installed on the site of a former coal mine.

From 1958 until 2000, the Dave Johnston Mine stretched for nine mines through this otherwise barren landscape. But in the late 1990s, after the mine’s operator, Rocky Mountain Power, determined that it was no longer economical to run it, a full-scale reclamation project began.

As part of my road trip in 2009, I visited the wind farm to get a first-hand look at how such a scar on the earth can be successfully converted to a graceful and clean power project.

According to Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp that provides power to Utah, Wyoming and Idaho residents, “Full-scale final reclamation efforts to restore the nearly nine-mile long stretch of land affected by mining began in 1999 and were completed in 2005. Mountains of dirt were moved, miles of land reseeded with native vegetation and major contouring performed in order to return the landscape to its pre-mining appearance. More than 85 million yards of earth were moved to accomplish this feat.”

A big part of the reclamation project was providing long-term grazing land and habitat for a variety of wildlife. To that end, sagebrush and many other forms of vegetation were planted throughout the property as a source of habitat and food for animals such as pronghorned antelope and deer. Further, the team behind the reclamation concentrated on habitat for birds, including building five nesting platforms for eagles and cover for other, smaller bird species.

And more than 120 “rabbitats,” rock shelters for rabbits and other small animals, were built around the property.

All told, the Glenrock Wind Farm is home to antelope, deer, mountain lions, foxes, bobcats, rabbits and golden eagles.

While it’s easy to link the reclamation of the former coal mine and the new, giant, wind farm, Rocky Mountain Power didn’t originally set out with the intention of converting its property from greenhouse gas-intensive power to green power. Rather, the company realized after the decision was made to shut down the coal mine that the property was ideally suited to building a big wind farm.

And that’s because the company already owned the property, had a significant system of transmission lines already installed nearby and understood that these rolling hills had the wind strength to support a multi-hundred million dollar wind project.

But Rocky Mountain Power has by no means abandoned coal. In fact, it still has a coal processing plant adjacent to the former Dave Johnston Mine, which is one reason the transmission lines are still there. Still, the company, and other power generators, have certainly begun to see the value–and the economics–of wind farms like these. Indeed, the day after I visited the Glenrock Wind Farm, the front page of the Casper, Wyo. newspaper had an above-the-fold front-page headline trumpeting another giant wind farm that will soon be developed in the same area.

21 Species of Vegetation

My hosts for the visit to the wind farm were Chet Skilbred, Rocky Mountain Power’s vegetation scientist at the property and Doug Mollet, the director of wind operations at Glenrock Wind Farm. Skilbred explained that as part of the reclamation project, he and his team were required to replace all the indigenous plants that had been there prior to the coal mine. So, a big part of the project was the planting of 21 different species of vegetation, including warm season grasses, cool season grasses, shrubs and many more.

But, with 158 soaring wind turbines dominating the lanscape today, Skilbred told me a joke about the process: “I had no idea my see mixture included wind turbines.”

In order to get back the remaining $2.6 million of an original $56 million bond that was put up when the coal mine was opened, Rocky Mountain Power must monitor the land through 2017 for things like ground water and surface water hydrology, wildlife and vegetation. But I have to hand it to them: If they hadn’t told me there had been a coal mine here, I never would have known.

Instead, I would have been simply overwhelmed by the majesty and breadth of the wind farm (see video below, but turn your volume down because of the wind noise). Big enough to be visible from many miles away, the 158 turbines are breathtaking up close. That’s in part because, when the tips of the 125-foot-long blades are pointing upwards, the turbines are 340 feet tall.

That, of course, casts a large and long shadow, and one thing that has happened is that many of the animals on the property–and no matter where we went, we would see some of the 1400 head of antelope or 600 head of deer bounding about–use those shadows to escape the intense Wyoming sun.

In a sense, because there is so much new habitat for animals, as well as the fact that there is no hunting allowed on the property, the wind farm area is tantamount to a nature preserve, Skilbred said.

Indeed, while there had been wildlife on the property before, life is better for them now, Skilbred said: They are no longer getting stuck in the mud inside the mine.

180 Feet Deep

When in operation, the coal mine was at least 180 feet deep, and nine miles long. So in order to complete the reclamation project, Rocky Mountain Power had to dig up the mine, reconstitute the soil and replant all the vegetation.

But to Skilbred, the project has been a big success. “You couldn’t ask for a better ending for a coal mine,” he said, “to go from a carbon footprint to a green footprint.”

For Rocky Mountain Power, wind is just one power source, and the company sees a mixture in its future: wind, natural gas, coal and, likely, nuclear.

But here, driving around amidst these giant turbines, it’s hard to think of anything but wind power. And what’s amazing is that the turbines are so big, you feel like you’re always right in front of one. In fact, however, they are a minimum of a half-mile apart, east-to-west, and 600 feet, north-to-south. Put them too close together, and the vortexes coming off the blades affects the wind flow of other turbines.

The actual placement of the 158 turbines, done in what is sort of like a staggered, Z-shaped configuration, was done by turbine specialists who examined the property and developed placement models based on the terrain, the topography and the prevailing wind conditions.

You might think that a company spending several hundred million dollars on such a project would expect full-time production. But that’s not realistic. Mollet said that over the course of a year, the best the company can expect is 40% average production. But of course, that’s an average. Between November and March, that number is much higher, and between late August and September, it’s much lower.

The turbines, while a simple concept, are controlled by advanced electronics. And among the tasks those systems have is shutting down the turbines if the winds go above 60 miles an hour–otherwise, they can be destroyed–as well as figuring out where the wind is coming from and automatically rotating the head so that the blades are always working with the best wind. The heads can spin around three full times in search of the strongest wind, in fact, before the system runs out of wire and must reset itself.

Tracking the wind is a major innovation for modern turbines. In the past, the heads were stationary, and so wind farms had limited production when the wind shifted. But now, Rocky Mountain Power and other companies with such projects can maximize the power production.

$2 Million a ‘Stick’

Mollet said that the cost of the turbines averaged about $2 million “a stick,” and that they are intended to last for 20-to-30 years. However, Rocky Mountain Power thinks of them more as 100-year assets, given that they can replace aging systems within the turbines, or even the blades themselves.

Keeping them working properly means constantly monitoring how they’re behaving in the wind. So the wind farm utilizes two types of equipment, annemometers and wind vanes to measure wind velocity and direction in order to ensure that the pitch of the blades is optimal and won’t result in them rotating too fast.

This is all new technology, something previous generations of wind farms couldn’t take advantage of. But today, wind power is a growing resource and companies like Rocky Mountain Power are demanding new technology. They’re also demanding more people who know how to run and maintain these systems, despite there currently being a shortage.

That’s why, for example, the company is working with local colleges in the Casper area to create new, two-year associate degree programs in wind turbine technology.

“We’re going to build 1,000 turbines in the next ten years,” Mollet said. “We need to grow some people.”

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H. JOSEF HEBERT, The Associated Press, March 16, 2009

While the Obama administration has touted offshore renewable energy development, a turf fight between two federal agencies has stymied the government’s ability to issue rules needed to approve wind energy projects off America’s coasts.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday the infighting has got to stop.

“It will be resolved,” Salazar said in response to questions about the dispute. “We will not let any of the jurisdictional turf battles of the past get in the way of our moving forward with the renewable energy agenda.”

The dispute, which dates to late 2007, pits the Interior Department against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over which entity should approve projects that use coastal waves and currents to produce power.

Offshore wind development has been entangled in the dispute because Interior’s Mineral Management Service does not want to separate wind projects from the tidal wave, or hydrokinetic power, programs – which FERC in turn has refused to surrender, according to several officials who have followed the dispute.

Interior and FERC are said to be close to agreement on a “memorandum of understanding” that would delineate each organization’s involvement in the offshore renewable energy approval process.

Salazar has been vocal in his call for more aggressive development of renewable energy projects off the country’s coasts, especially off the northern and central Atlantic. He said the governors of New Jersey and Delaware have asked what is holding up the regulations and said projects off their coasts are ready to go.

Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of FERC, played down the interagency dispute and – like Salazar – said he was confident the problem will soon be worked out.

“It’s less of a dispute than people say it is,” insisted Wellinghoff in a brief interview, adding that he doubted it has stopped any wind projects.

“It has nothing to do with wind. It only has to do with our jurisdiction over hydrokinetic systems, whether they are on the Outer Continental Shelf or not,” said Wellinghoff. He said he saw no reason why the Mineral Management Service would insist on viewing the tidal wave and wind issues together.

Salazar over the past week met with Wellinghoff to try to work out a memorandum of understanding that could be issued as early as this week. Both men are expected to be asked about the disagreement at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday.

“If we don’t resolve the jurisdictional issues between FERC and the Department of Interior, we are not going to be able to move forward in the development of our offshore renewable energy resources,” said Salazar.

Mike Olsen, an attorney who represents Deep Water Wind, a company that wants to build a 96-turbine wind farm off the New Jersey coast, calls the dispute a classic government turf battle.

“It’s two agencies both feeling each has specific authority and jurisdiction. Neither one wants to yield its authority or jurisdiction to the other,” said Olsen, who as a deputy assistant Interior secretary in the Bush administration observed the dispute first hand.

Interior waged “a full court press” to get the rules on offshore renewable energy development finalize last year, Olsen said, but the effort was thwarted by the lack of an agreement with FERC.

“From our perspective the rule was ready to go in November,” said Olsen. But despite involvement of the Bush White House, no memorandum of understanding on the jurisdiction issue could be hammered out between Interior and FERC.

With a new administration on the horizon “the battle was put on hold,” he said.

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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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