Wave-energy company opts out of Oregon
Apr. 29, 2014
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A company that was planning a wave energy installation off the Oregon coast that could have powered 1,000 homes has said it will instead undertake the project in Australia.
Ocean Power Technologies is suspending the Oregon project because it lacked money to comply with unexpected regulatory requirements, the company said last month in a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The Pennington, N.J., company also said it's surrendering a preliminary permit it received from the government.
Ocean Power had planned to have 10 buoys about 3 miles off Reedsport, Ore., and would use the motion of waves to generate enough electricity for about 1,000 homes.
Now it's focusing on the coast of Australia, where the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has provided a $66.5 million grant to help the company build and deploy a planned wave power station.
Ocean Power officials did not answer phones calls or respond to an email seeking comment.
The firm's share price tumbled 5 percent Tuesday to $2.50.
The Oregon coast has long been a favorite for wave power research. Waves are bigger on the West Coast than the East Coast by virtue of the prevailing westerly winds, and waves grow as they get farther from the equator. But such power has yet to become commercially viable.
Reenst Lesemann, CEO of Columbia Power Technologies, a wave energy firm based in a Corvallis, Ore., said the challenge has been creating a system that's affordable, reliable and environmentally acceptable.
"What has been so difficult for the industry is to solve those three things at the same time," Lesemann said. "That's obviously what we think we've done with our design, and we're trying to prove that now."
Ocean Power's filing with the SEC shows it was unhappy with a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requirement that certain regulations be followed during the first phase of what was to ultimately be a three-part project.
"We had understood that because the first buoy would not be grid-connected until a full array of 10 PowerBuoys was deployed, the first buoy would not be subject to the requirements of the license," the company wrote.
The company said the additional reports and studies would delay deployment, increase costs and force the company to raise additional money.
"They had their permits and that's a big hurdle for people," said Belinda Batten, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and a professor of mechanical engineering at Oregon State University.
"The second big hurdle is money, and judging from the sound of it — Australia's giving them a boatload of money — it could simply be a money deal."