Reedsport wave power project gets federal permit

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 be deploying the first buoy for testing sometime this year off Reedsport.

Charles Dunleavy, CEO of the publicly held company, said they hope 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 2 1/2 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.

The Oregon Coast has become a hotspot for wave power research and development.

Atmocean, Inc., in Santa Fe, N.M., plans to test three buoys this year off Coos Bay. The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Facility at Oregon State University recently towed out to sea near Newport the nation's first publicly available wave power test facility, called Ocean Sentinel. Oregon state is looking for a site to build a grid-connected test facility known as the Pacific Marine Energy Center.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the 35-year permit to Ocean Power last week. A conditional permit issued for a project in Makah Bay, Wash., was returned in 2007, the agency said.

The first buoy is being built by companies in Oregon, including Oregon Ironworks in Clackamas, Vigor Marine in Portland, and American Bridge in Gardiner. Ocean Power hopes to put the buoy in the Willamette River this fall, and tow it to the site off Reedsport, Dunleavy said.

The buoy harnesses the power of the ocean's waves through a float encircling the cylindrical buoy. 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.

The final cost of the project is not determined, Dunleavy said. The company has a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, $420,000 from the Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative, and a state business energy tax credit worth $900,000.

Ocean Power previously built the nation's first wave power project off Hawaii, Dunleavy said. It operated two years for the U.S. Navy, before being decommissioned last January.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press