Ore. wave power project gets federal development permit

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Wave power developers planning a project off the Oregon Coast now have the nation’s only federal permit to develop a commercial wave power park.

Ocean Power Technologies Inc., based in Pennington, N.J., said Monday it will deploy the first buoy for testing sometime this year off Reedsport.

Charles Dunleavy, CEO of the publicly held company, said it hopes to have the country’s first commercial wave power park online within two or three years of securing full financing.

The project will include 10 buoys anchored 21⁄2 miles off the coast and covering about 30 acres. They will produce 1.5 megawatts — enough to power about 1,000 homes. An undersea cable will carry the power to a site slated for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, and connect to the grid at a substation in Gardner.

Belinda Batten, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Facility and a professor of mechanical energy at Oregon State University, said the Ocean Power facility is small by European standards but presents a big step forward in development of alternative energy from the ocean in the U.S.

The Oregon Coast has become a hotspot for wave power research and development. Waves are bigger on the West Coast than the East Coast by virtue of the prevailing westerly winds, and waves get bigger the farther they are from the equator, Batten said.

The cylindrical buoy harnesses the power of the ocean’s waves through a float encircling it. The float goes up and down with the water while the buoy remains relatively stable. That motion is transferred to turning a generator, which produces electricity.

Ocean Power previously built the nation’s first wave power project off Hawaii, Dunleavy said.

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