Pelamis sinks Portugal wave-power project

March 17, 2009 - Cleantech Group best of the web pick

The €9 million Aguçadoura wave-power project in Portugal has been taken off line indefinitely after a series of technical and financial setbacks.

The 2.25-megawatt project used three wave-energy converters developed by Edinburgh, Scotland-based Pelamis Wave Power, formerly known as Ocean Power Delivery.

Pelamis holds a 23 percent stake in the venture. The remainder of the Aguçadoura project is owned by Australian energy developer Babcock & Brown, Energias de Portugal and Portuguese electrical engineering firm Efacec. The three companies comprised the Waves of Portugal venture, which planned to experiment with several marine-power projects.

Portuguese officials called Aguçadoura the world’s first commercial wave-power project in September, when the energy-converters were installed five kilometers (three miles) off Portugal's northern coast (see Pelamis starts Portugal wave-power farm). Pelamis had planned to add 25 converters for a capacity of 21 MW and the ability to power 15,000 homes if the initial project were successful.

But in mid-November, all three were removed from the water because of leaks in the buoyancy tanks that required replacement, according to the International Herald Tribune. Other technical problems followed, and the energy-conversion units are now sitting idle in Leixões harbor near the city of Porto, the paper reports.

Once the technical problems were solved, Pelamis couldn't get the financial backing to relaunch the units. Because of the global economic crunch, backer Babcock & Brown began selling off assets to pay down debt and refused to put more money in the project (see Good week for auto technology, Ethanol and building materials soak up the green and Cleantech funds worth $1.9B lead the week). The other partners also declined to contribute more funding, the IHT reports.

Pelamis spokesman Max Carcas told the IHT the wave-energy converters would return to the ocean "as soon as things are resolved."

EDP has since pursued another deep-water ocean project off the coast of Portugal, this time with Seattle, Wash.-based Principle Power (see EDP, Principle Power partner on deep-water offshore wind). The companies plan to place Principle Power’s floating wind turbine foundation, dubbed WindFloat, on waters 50 meters deep to take advantage of the vast wind energy potential.

The first phase of that project could cost €30 million for a 5-MW turbine in operation by the second half of 2012, the IHT reports.

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International Herald Tribune

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