OPT Develops Wave Energy Project in Oregon (USA)

If you’ve ever been surfing, or gone swimming in choppy water, you’ve experienced first-hand the striking power of waves. In fact, further offshore, wave activity becomes even more powerful, making it an excellent resource for generating clean, renewable energy.

That’s exactly what the Department of Energy and its partner Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) are working to achieve through a utility-scale Oregon-based wave energy project that’s already providing a boost to the local economy—to the tune of $6 million invested in Oregon businesses and nearly 100 jobs!

The Energy Department has awarded funding to Ocean Power Technologies to support research, development and manufacturing of the company’s innovative PowerBuoy wave energy generation system. The funding will help to enable the deployment of OPT’s most powerful in-water PowerBuoy product to date, the PB150, off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon later this year. After the initial PowerBuoy device is deployed and tested, OPT plans to construct the first commercial-scale wave park on the West Coast of the U.S., adding up to nine additional PowerBuoys with grid connection infrastructure. The completed project would provide 1.5 MW of wave energy, enough to power 375 Oregon homes.

Building on a nearly $3.5 million previous Energy Department investment, the Department’s Wind & Water Power Program recently awarded a $2.4 million cost-share to support the phase-1 PB150 deployment in Oregon. The project promises to add tremendous value to the wave energy industry, reinforcing utility-scale viability, collecting ground-breaking environmental impact data and exploring avenues for cost reduction. What’s more, Ocean Power Technologies has issued localized manufacturing contracts for the PB150 to several Oregon companies, such as Clackamas-based Oregon Iron Works and American Bridge Manufacturing in Reedsport, providing a healthy boon to the Oregonian economy.

“The Department of Energy has had a big impact on the progress we’ve made with the Reedsport project, helping us to develop and refine the technology in our new generation of utility-scale buoys, the 150 kilowatt PowerBuoy150. Department of Energy support has also contributed significantly to the funding we’ve used to inject over $6 million into the Oregon economy and create or save almost 100 manufacturing and marine services jobs, many in hard-hit areas of that state,” said Robert Lurie, Vice President for North American Business Development, Ocean Power Technologies.

The PowerBuoy captures the kinetic energy of waves allowing a piston-like structure to rise and fall with the waves. This movement drives a generator, producing electricity. The PB150 incorporates a unique capability to tune its operation to the frequency of waves, allowing it to optimize generation by adjusting to wave conditions. It produces a maximum output of up to 150 kW, and can operate in wave heights ranging from less than 5 feet to nearly 23 feet tall. The evolution of OPT’s innovative technology can be traced back to initial design and testing in the late 1990s all the way to September 2010 when OPT partnered with the U.S. Navy to achieve the first ever grid-connection of a wave energy device in the U.S., providing power to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH). Looking ahead, OPT is also working on an Energy Department-supported effort to scale up its 150 kW-capacity PB150 device to a 500kW PB500 system.

By supporting the development of utility-scale wave power, and other renewable energy technologies, the Energy Department is helping to create clean power sources, promote energy security and create American jobs. To find out more about marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies, visit the Energy Department’s Wind and Water Power Program.

By Mike Reed (energy)


Source: energy, June 20, 2011; Image: oceanpowertechnologies