By Ucilia Wang
Ocean Power Technologies (OPTT) said it has lined up a deal with three Japanese energy and shipbuilding companies to produce electricity from the sea.
The project would be the first for Ocean Power, which is teaming up with Idemitsu Kosan, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Japan Wind Development.
Harnessing the power from the waves' movement to produce electricity promises to provide a steady and vast source of energy. But significant technical hurdles, such as ensuring that equipment won't deteriorate quickly in salty water and poor weather, have made the path to commercial deployment more a dream than reality for the industry.
One of the higher profiled ocean power developers, Pelamis Wave Power in Scotland, had to pull its equipment out of the coast of Portugal in November 2008 after trying them out for less than a year. The company also recently lost its CEO.
Canadian waver power developer, Finavera Renewables, lost its bid to sell electricity to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in October 2008 after California regulators deemed the project too expensive and the technology unproven. The 2-megawatt project would have been the first ocean power plant off the California coast.
It didn't help that Finavera saw its prototype equipment sink before completing the trial run off the Oregon coast in 2007.
Ocean Power certainly would expect a better outcome with its projects. The company and its corporate backers in Japan plan to first figure out a good location for a demo project and line up some government support, the company said.
If all goes well, Ocean Power would deploy up to three of its PowerBuoys for the trial run. The ultimate goal is to build stations that are 10 megawatts or larger and sell the electricity to utilities.
Ocean Power would generate revenue by selling the equipment for the demo plant to the three Japanese companies. For commercial projects, Ocean Power would then license its technology for the Japanese consortium to manufacture and install, though it also would still provide some of the components.
Ocean Power said it also is developing a 1.39-megawatt station off the coast of Spain, and a larger project – up to 5 megawatts – in the United Kingdom.