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Pelamis Offshore Wave Energy in Portugal


Alternative Energy
October 28, 2006


A Portuguese energy company called Enersis is funding a commercial wave energy
project in Northern Portugal. Construction will begin at the end of October
2006. The project will use Pelamis wave generator technology (manufactured by
Ocean Power Delivery) to harness energy from the ocean. After two decades of
research and testing at the Lisbon Technical Institute, the first stage of this
ocean energy project is intended to produce 2.25 megawatts and power homes
through the nation’s state-run electrical grid system. Ocean Power Delivery is
considered to be the world’s leading ocean energy company.

“This project, begun in 2003, is now in the world vanguard,” said Rui Barros,
Enersis director of new projects. “Of all the varieties of renewable energy,
perhaps harnessing the waves is the only one where Portugal might have a real
future,” he said. With its geographical position and extensive coastline giving
access to the larger and more powerful Atlantic waves, official estimates from
Portugal’s State Secretariat for Industry and Innovation have predicted wave
power could account for up to 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product
by 2050. Renewable energy experts have determined wave farms in Portugal could
yield as much as three times as much energy as that produced by a wind turbine
park for the same investment cost.

A report published by the Portuguese Wave Energy Center has confirmed the
long-term economic benefits of wave energy for the country and calls on the
government to put in place a strategy to attract foreign investment into
Portuguese wave power ventures. “The utilization of wave energy may have a
significant socio-economic impact on Portugal, namely regarding renewables,
creation of job opportunities, opportunity of exportation of equipment and
services, innovation and development of technology, as well as companies
dedicated to the exploitation of other oceanic resources,” the report says.
Relatively new in development, modern research into wave power had its
beginnings in response to the 1973 oil crisis. Professor Stephen Salter of the
University of Edinburgh pioneered research into wave energy with his prototype
machine “Salter’s Duck.” Though the duck remains a laboratory prototype, the
machine remains the standard for wave energy. The experimental device converted
around 90 percent of the wave power by bobbing up and down on the surface of the
water - like a duck. Despite its early promise though, setbacks and a general
lack of government support saw the project shelved.

However, with the Portuguese system set to be the world’s first commercial wave
energy venture, the exploitation of wave power has found itself back on the
renewable energy agenda.

Following the Enersis announcement, other countries naturally suited to the
development of wave power have expressed their interest in introducing the
technology. Following his recent visit to Aguadoura, Scottish Executive
Enterprise Minister Nicol Stephen announced that a portion of the 8 million
pounds already set aside for renewable marine energy in Scotland would now be
directed towards installing the Pelamis wave devices at the European Marine
Energy Center in Orkney.

“I am committed to supporting Scotland’s huge wave and tidal energy resource.
Scotland has a real opportunity to be a world leader in this field,” said the
minister shortly after his visit to view the wave energy project in northern
Portugal. “The opportunity now exists to create a multi-million pound industry
based in Scotland, employing thousands of highly skilled people,” he said.

However, environmental group Friends of the Earth, while supporting the
minister’s announcement, sounded a warning that any delays in introducing the
wave power technology could lead to an exodus of Scottish expertise.
“Wave and tidal power could supply a fifth of U.K. energy needs and Scotland is
ideally placed to generate significant amounts of this pollution-free energy,”
said Friends of the Earth chief executive Duncan McLaren. “However, there is a
danger that unless we see full-scale devices in our waters soon that the
world-leading expertise Scotland has built up will rapidly depart these shores,” he said.

As part of the government supported alternative energy plan, another 28 wave
power devices will be installed in Portugal within a year, reaching a target of
22.5 megawatts of electricity produced using wave energy. The project is
supported by state run power company Energias de Portugal.

 

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