FERC licenses first U.S. wave power project, 1.5-MW Reedsport

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a 35-year license to a unit of Ocean Power Technologies Inc. for the nation’s first commercial-scale wave power project, the 1.5-MW Reedsport OPT Wave Park off the coast of Reedsport, Ore.

The Reedsport project (No. 12713) consists of 10 PowerBuoy wave energy converters to be installed in a 35-acre area of the Pacific Ocean 2.5 miles off the coast of Douglas County, Ore. The land-based portion of the project will be based in Gardiner, Ore. FERC staff issued an environmental assessment in 2010 recommending the licensing of the project.

Under terms of the license issued Aug. 13, licensee Reedsport OPT Wave Park LLC is to install a single 150-kW PowerBuoy unit to test the mooring system and unit operation and to collect measurements of electromagnetic fields and acoustic emissions. The unit, which would not be connected to the grid, is expected to be installed later this year. After at least one season of monitoring, OPT would implement a second phase of the project, installing another nine PowerBuoys and connecting the project to the grid by undersea and underground transmission lines.

“The 35-year term of the license demonstrates the commercial potential of wave power,” OPT Chief Executive Officer Charles Dunleavy said. “And this will support initiatives to secure financing for the project.”

In establishing key provisions of the license, OPT said, FERC gave strong consideration to a settlement agreement OPT signed with 11 federal and state agencies and three non-governmental organizations. The settlement agreement proposed protection, mitigation, and enhancement measures to be incorporated in the hydropower license.

FERC found, with staff-recommended mitigation, the project would produce power during the first year of operation at a cost of $3.3 million, or $804.67 per megawatt-hour, more than the cost of alternative generation.

The environmental assessment for the project said “…Although the cost of power that would be produced at the project is high, OPT is hopeful that building the project, in addition to generating electricity, would collect enough data to support development of more economic commercial-scale arrays, with installed capacities up to 50 MW.”

OPT is collaborating with Lockheed Martin, which is providing design, manufacturing, system integration, and supply chain management expertise with OPT’s PowerBuoy technology. The Department of Energy awarded OPT a $2.4 million contract to promote development of marine energy.

Oregon contractors participating in manufacture of the PowerBuoy system include Oregon Iron Works, American Bridge Manufacturing, Cascade General, and Sause Bros. Inc.

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