REEDSPORT — A wave energy company that plans to build a 30-acre ocean energy power station off Reedsport has received a green light from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Last week, FERC granted Ocean Power Technologies the first license for a wave power station in the United States. If completed, OPT's 10-buoy park will be the first commercial wave energy operation in the country, according to OPT.
Receiving the 35-year FERC permit marks a big step forward, but it does not guarantee the wave energy park will be built. The company first must test its technology at the park's proposed site, about 2.5 miles off Reedsport.
'Right now, we're moving forward with Phase 1," said Gregory Lennon, OPT's senior director for business development.
Test starts in October
In October, OPT plans to launch a test buoy. It will check whether enough power can be generated to support a wave park. According to the FERC permit, the company has two years to test its first buoy. If the test succeeds, OPT must deploy the remaining nine buoys within five years.
However, all that is contingent on the company's receiving additional permits to connect the power station to the electrical grid in Douglas County.
OPT also needs funds to build the park.
So far, half of the $9 million project has been funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Most of that money has gone for research and building prototypes, Lennon said.
The company hopes the actual park will be financed and, eventually, owned by a utility company or some kind of private equity fund. But OPT first must prove its technology is profitable.
'They want to see performance history," Lennon said.
'Ideally, they want to see some certainty of production capability."
The proposed ocean station should generate 1.5 megawatts of power, enough electricity for 1,000 homes.
OPT has tested a similar buoy off the coast of Scotland, Lennon said. It has been developing the Reedsport project for about five years. In that time it negotiated a settlement with 11 federal and state agencies and three non-governmental organizations outlining an adaptive management plan for the power station.
The agreement was important because Oregon had no procedure for considering ocean power technology. The state is developing those guidelines to include in its territorial sea plan.
Still, the project is met with skepticism from local fishermen, as the proposed energy park will be located in prime crab habitat, said Nick Furman, director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.
'It is an area with a soft sandy bottom," Furman said. 'That is crab habitat and important real estate."
Furman said local fishermen have come to terms with the proposed park's location, and view the project as a test site.
'Until we get some buoys in, all opinion is sort of conjecture," Furman said.
'But anything over 10 buoys is going to be met with a significant negative reaction from the crab fleet."
Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.