World's First Wave Energy Project Goes Commercial

October 15, 2008

An illustration of a wave energy plant shows a dozen red pencil-shaped devices, each about 130 yards long, floating perpendicular to the ocean waves and spaced out in a large array.

An artist's concept of the Pelamis wave energy plant.
Credit: Pelamis Wave Power

The world's first commercial wave energy facility has begun operations in Portugal, after Babcock & Brown, Energias de Portugal, Efacec, and Pelamis Wave Power inaugurated the facility in late September. Located about 3 miles off the coast, the facility consists of three Pelamis Wave Energy Convertors, which each consist of four large semi-submerged cylinders connected to each other by hinged joints and moored to the ocean floor. As waves pass, the hinges bend, driving hydraulic rams that pump high-pressure oil through hydraulic motors to generate power. Each Pelamis device can generate 750 kilowatts of power, so the current facility can produce 2.25 megawatts. Future plans call for the addition of another 25 devices, bringing the total capacity of the facility to 21 megawatts. See the press release from Pelamis Wave Power.

Tidal energy technologies are also advancing, and in late September, ScottishPower Renewables announced its plans to develop the world's largest tidal stream projects. The company is evaluating three separate coastal sites in Scotland and Ireland, each of which could be outfitted with 5-20 tidal turbines. Each turbine has a capacity of 1 megawatt, so the three sites have a potential to offer a combined capacity of 60 megawatts. The projects will employ the Lànstrøm tidal turbine, an underwater open turbine developed by Hammerfest Strøm AS. The developments should give people plenty to talk about at the International Conference on Ocean Energy (ICOE) 2008, which starts today in France. See the Scottish Power press release and the ICOE 2008 Web site.