Wave Power Poised to Go Commercial Off Coast of Spain

Ocean Power Technologies, a leader in the fledgling wave-power industry, is set to launch a pilot project off the north shore of Spain. Ten power-generating buoys will be placed in the Bay of Biscay, where they will float just below the surface and transform wave energy into mechanical force, which drives a generator that transmits power to shore via underground cables. While this project will yield a relatively tiny 1.25 megawatts, the company plans to have a 100-MW wave farm in place by 2006, which would be the world’s first commercial-scale wave-driven power station. Though the system won’t produce power during strong storms or complete calm, the buoys will be up and running 80 to 90 percent of the time (compared to 20 to 30 for some solar systems), and they take up less space per kilowatt-hour than wind farms or conventional generators — so boasts Ocean Power CEO and founder George Taylor. Says Robin Batchelor, head of Merrill Lynch’s New Energy Technology Fund, “The technology is very immature, but there is some good progress being made.”