The plans for Reedsport Wave Park were discontinued in April when Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) abandoned a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to deploy a PowerBuoy off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon due to inability to secure funding for the project when faced with increased costs. It was the only FERC license issued to a wave energy project in the United States, despite the promising wave climate off the entire west coast.
The preliminary construction costs of the project were estimated at $50 million, with future cost and maintenance estimated to be $1 million annually. OPT had already invested $10 million on the project which was supplemented by $430,000 from Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET). With such high costs for even a small scale demonstration project such as this, it is difficult for developers to compete with existing costs of energy. Making the investment in these demonstration projects can have significant payout in the form of technology development from monitoring at the site; this information is crucial to the success of MHK technologies.
The initial phase of the Reedsport OPT Wave Park planned to deploy 10 buoys, each the size of a school bus with installed capacity of 1.5 MW. Future plans could have expanded the project to 50 MW. Annually, the pilot project would have generated 4,140 MWh and powered approximately 1000 homes. In addition to the clean renewable energy generated, there would have been the additional economic benefit of 180 temporary jobs from construction and periodic maintenance, as well as 8 full-time jobs for operation of the farm.
This, unfortunately, is not the only offshore renewable energy project that has been terminated lately due to financing issues. In March, a proposal to install a $188 million dollar wind farm off the coast of Atlantic City was rejected by the state Board of Public Utilities, stating that the plan relied too heavily on unsecured federal grants, and that they didn’t want taxpayers to pay the remainder if funding fell through. Still, 77% of Atlantic City residents favor the project, and the developer of the wind farm, Fisherman’s Energy, plans to file a court appeal to reverse the rejection. With growing public support of offshore renewable energy programs, developers may begin to secure necessary funding. Further technology development may also reduce costs, making the feasibility of not only demonstration projects but grid connected arrays a viable choice for electricity in the not too distant future.