The first wave power plant has opened during the week off the coast of Portugal. With a maximum capacity of 2.25 MW of electricity and using the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter system (PWEC) the project heralds the advent of another source of renewable energy. It now remains to be seen whether the electricity that is produced is cost effective and consistent.
Designed by Pelamis Wave Power Limited, the converters sit off the coast of Agucadoura, around 3 miles out. They are said to be capable of providing power around the clock. There are three of the converters in the system and each converter is capable of producing 750kW.
Once the first phase of the project is confirmed work will get under way on the second phase which will involve expanding the plant with 25 more reactors. This will bring the maximum capacity up to 21 MW or enough energy to power 15,000 homes.
The project is a joint venture between a Babcock and Brown Ltd., a global specialist asset manager, Energias de Portugal (EDP), Portuguese energy group EFACEC, and Pelamis Wave Power Limited.
The cost of getting the first phase to the position that it is now has been $13.1M USD with much of that cost going into the undersea cables which link the generators to a substation on shore.
It has been estimated by the plant owners that once the second phase of the project is put into place, a saving of 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide will be made.
Ian Fells of the Newcastle University warns of one possible pitfall, saying “It’s extraordinarily difficult to design a machine that will cope with the extreme violence of waves. Some wave machines are under the surface all the time — but they are not as well developed as yet. Pelamis lies in the surface and it remains to be seen how successful it will be. It’s extraordinarily difficult to design a machine that will cope with the extreme violence of waves. Some wave machines are under the surface all the time — but they are not as well developed as yet. Pelamis lies in the surface and it remains to be seen how successful it will be.”