The Leading Edge

Ocean Power Technologies wins grant for PowerBuoy development

Wave energy hydropower developer Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) has won a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the development of the next generation of OPT's PowerBuoy ocean energy hydropower device.

The DOE grant will help fund the scale-up of the power output per PowerBuoy from the current level of 150 kW to 500 kW, wire services reported.

The PowerBuoy unit floats freely with the rising and falling of offshore waves. The resulting motion is converted with a power take-off to drive a generator. The generated power is transmitted ashore via an underwater power cable.

This is the second award to OPT by DOE. In October 2008, OPT received $2 million to provide funding for the construction of a PB150 PowerBuoy to be deployed in connection with the company's project at Reedsport, Ore. The Reedsport project is a commercial U.S. wave energy farm off the Oregon coast. OPT has chosen Oregon Iron Works to construct its first commercial wave energy PowerBuoy system in North America. Nine additional PowerBuoys will be constructed and installed under the second phase of the Reedsport project.

Issued to OPT under a competitive process, this latest award was made in support of innovative renewable water power technologies.

Hydrokinetic development center planned for Louisiana

Plans are under way for establishing a center for development of hydrokinetic turbines that could be used to generate hydroelectric power from the Mississippi and other rivers. The center will be developed with the help of a $3 million federal stimulus grant.

Tulane University is guiding the RiverSphere project in Louisiana, which university officials said could advance the science of hydrokinetic power. The 22,000-square-foot center, planned for an existing building at the Port of New Orleans, will include laboratories, a barge for river testing of turbines, and administrative space. RiverSphere will promote development, testing, demonstration, and commercialization of renewable resources, including hydrokinetic power, local media reported.

Tulane University personnel said a handful of companies and property owners have expressed interest in using RiverSphere to test and deploy turbines. The center hopes to have a testing barge in place within a year, with the center becoming fully operational in about two years, reports indicate.

Marine energy center performing research in New England

The New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth is performing a variety of research work related to ocean energy.

The focus of this center, which was established in 2007, is to foster the development of ocean-based renewable energy (wave, tidal, current, and wind) in New England, says John Miller, director of the center.

The center is funding work by members of its research consortium, which include the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. MREC is seeking matching funds from government and industry to leverage existing funds to accelerate the commercial applications of the university research.

In addition, the center is supporting researchers at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology to conduct current studies and bathymetric surveys in the waters between Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The goal of this research is to determine a location for a pilot-scale hydrokinetic energy generator.

In 2010, MREC funds will be expended to locate other sites that would be suitable for testing tidal, wave, and offshore wind devices. The results of this research will provide a basis to establish a National Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone off the coast of Massachusetts, Miller says. The objective of the MREC is "to obtain permits for and install monitoring instruments for specific tracts to make them available to ocean energy researchers and developers so they can do at-sea tests," he says.

The center's work is being funded through several channels, including a $951,500 award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Ocean test berth to be installed off Oregon coast

An Ocean Test Berth is to be installed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.

In February 2010, Oregon State University (OSU) and the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center awarded a contract to SAIC to provide systems engineering and design for the berth. This berth will be a floating modular solution that will provide wave energy conversion device developers with a resource to perform ocean testing of subscale and full-scale devices.

In its first phase, the berth will be a mobile device that will not be connected to the electrical grid. This berth will consist of a power analysis/data acquisition device and an adjustable load bank. The power analysis/data acquisition device measures the wave energy converter's output voltage and current waveforms with respect to time. The adjustable load bank is a set of resistors designed to dissipate the power generated by the wave energy converter.

SAIC's contract includes preliminary design and system design activities for the vessel hull, load bank, and mooring system, as well as the power analysis and data acquisition system.

OSU and the center plan to complete design and deployment of the test berth over a two-year period, with the first mobile berth scheduled for completion in late 2011. The berth will be deployed off the coast of Newport, Ore. The mobile berth will allow the collection of performance data at specific sites along the Pacific coast.

The SAIC contract was awarded under the U.S. Department of Energy waterpower program, with supporting funding from the state of Oregon.

The second phase involves a grid-connected ocean test berth that will allow ocean testing at a fixed location with a connection to the electrical grid via a subsea cable. This berth will allow wave energy converters to be certified to international standards and provide power to the local grid. The grid-connected device will consist of up to five berths to allow concurrent testing and demonstration of different technologies.

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