World's first commercial wave farm deal

May 20, 2005, 09:00 CEST

Hydro's investment in Scots start-up Ocean Power Delivery caught a commercial wave this week by signing an order with Portuguese energy company Enersis to build the worlds first commercial wave farm to harvest electricity from sea swells.

Located some five kilometers off Portugal’s northern coast, near Póvoa de Varzim, the EUR 8 million project will use three OPD-developed Pelamis P-750 wave power generation units, capable of producing some 2.25MW. Planned for completion in 2006, the farm will initially supply some 1,500 Portuguese households with electricity - and displace more than 6,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions that would otherwise be produced by conventional hydrocarbon-fuelled power plants.

A letter of intent has also been issued to order a further 30 Pelamis machines (for a total 20MW) before the end of 2006, subject to satisfactory performance of the initial project phase. If all goes well, many additional sites producing up to a total several hundred MW could be developed along the coast.

"This is a major achievement by OPD who have moved from having a seventh-scale model when we invested three years ago to being the leading company in wave energy today, with Pelamis the only concept recognized by EPRI, the US Electric Power Research Institute," says Richard Erskine, head of Technology Ventures in Hydro.

OPD is also in active discussion with Scottish Power, which has announced its interest in installing a wave farm in the UK.

Pelamis in Portugal

The project is being supplied by Ocean Power Delivery – Portugal S.A., a wholly owned subsidiary of OPD with full rights to manufacture Pelamis machines in Portugal. The prototype for the Portuguese project was launched in February 2004 and currently undergoes testing at the European Marine Energy Center in the Orkney Islands.

"This is a significant milestone for our company and for wave energy," says OPD managing director, Richard Yemm. "We see this order as just the first step in developing the Portuguese market, which is anticipated to be worth up to a billion Euros over the next 10 years."

Renewables wave

The EU currently calls for 22 percent of electricity consumption to come from renewable sources in 2010. Renewables currently meet about six percent of European energy demand.

Enersis counts 17 and nine years experience, respectively, developing and operating mini-hydropower projects and wind farms in Portugal. According to its chairman, Gonçalo Serras Pereira, "we believe wave energy will be the new indigenous renewable resource in Portugal. This move in conjunction with other potential partners may win significant industrial economic benefits for Portuguese companies as the market is developed and wave energy gains a competitive advantage with other renewables."

Funding the future

Hydro’s venture vehicle for the oil and energy industry, Technology Ventures was set up in March 2001, with an initial funding of NOK 350 million (EUR 45 million) to invest in companies developing technologies related to Hydro's oil and energy operations.

Based in Edinburgh, OPD has been developing the Pelamis technology for seven years. It receives financial support from the UK energy ministry, and investors Hydro, Sustainable Asset Management, the Carbon Trust and 3i plc.

Ocean Power Delivery