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May 25, 2005

First Commercial Wave Power Plant Slated for Portugal


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: Ocean Power Delivery

Ocean Power Delivery (OPD) announced on May 19th that a Portuguese consortium has ordered the world's first commercial wave energy plant to be installed five kilometers off of Portugal's northern shore. The initial phase of the project will consist of three Pelamis wave energy converters, each capable of producing 750 kilowatts of power, for a combined capacity of 2.25 megawatts. If the first phase of the project is successful, the consortium may order another 30 Pelamis machines, increasing the capacity of the installation to nearly 25 megawatts. The consortium is led by Enersis SGPS, one of Portugal's leading renewable energy companies. See the OPD press release (PDF 76 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

The Pelamis device consists of four long semi-submerged cylinders connected by hinged joints and moored to the ocean floor. The wave action passing these cylinders causes the joints to bend, an action resisted by hydraulic rams, which pump high-pressure oil through hydraulic motors to generate power. See the OPD Web site.

In related news, the U.K.'s Robert Gordon University has launched a tidal current power device called the Sea Snail in Burra Sound on the northern Scotland island of Orkney. The device uses a hydrofoil to produce power from the current, but also uses the downforce from the hydrofoil to hold the device firmly on the sea floor without mooring devices. See the university's press release and Sea Snail Web page.

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