FERC staff recommends licensing 1.5-MW Reedsport wave park

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued an environmental assessment recommending the licensing of the 1.5-MW Reedsport OPT Wave Park off the coast of Reedsport, Ore.

Wave energy developer Ocean Power Technologies Inc. hopes to obtain a license in 2011 for Reedsport, called the first commercial-scale wave power project in the United States. OPT filed a settlement agreement with FERC in August, outlining proposed terms for licensing the project.

The Reedsport project 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. Nine additional PowerBuoys are expected to be installed under a second phase of the Reedsport project that would increase capacity to 50 MW and would require a FERC license amendment.

FERC issued an environmental assessment Dec. 3 declaring that licensing the project would not constitute a major federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment. The assessment eliminates the need for a full environmental impact statement.

The environmental assessment said the primary issues associated with licensing the project are potential effects on marine mammals, birds, salmon, navigation, commercial fishing and crabbing, and recreation.

The assessment 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.

“Based on our analysis, we recommend licensing the project as proposed by OPT, with some staff modifications,” FERC staff 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.”

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