The quiet, but relentless progress in ocean energy technologies is as steady as the waves themselves. While solar, and especially wind power, get all the attention, wave energy generation companies have been making slow but constant advances towards commercialization of a largely untapped renewable energy source with infinite potential. One such example is the New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) which recently signed an agreement with Spain’s Iberdrola S.A. to build their first wave power station off the northern coast of Spain.Pennington, New Jersey – March 23 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The project, which is due to begin in March, 2004, will involve the building of a pilot plant with an initial capacity of 1.25 MW, with the possible expansion to 2.0 MW. Iberdrola will connect the power generated by the planned wave power station into the Spanish national grid. Iberdrola is making a concerted effort to increase their renewable energy capacity. “Iberdrola is firmly committed to renewable energy development,” said Roberto Legaz, Iberdrola’s Director of Renewable Development. “We are investing more than 2.4 billion euros in renewable energy over the period 2002 to 2006, to reach a capacity from these sources of 4,500 MW by the end of 2007. OPT and Iberdrola plan to form a joint venture for the development, construction, operating and financing of the project. In addition, the joint venture will proceed towards developing offshore wave power of up to 100 MW installed capacity. “I believe that wave energy is the next renewable energy technology that will be commercialized,” Legaz said. “It is a natural complement to Iberdrola’s extensive wind energy generation capacity.” Legaz said the modular nature of the OPT PowerBuoy System will allow for a rapid scale up in capacity and can help Iberdrola reach its goal of 4,500 MW of Renewable Power by 2007.” The PowerBuoy is a wave energy converter which is submerged more than a meter below the water’s surface. Inside, a piston-like structure moves as the PowerBuoy bobs with the rise and fall of the waves. This movement drives a generator on the ocean floor, producing electricity, which is sent to the shore by an underwater cable. An OPT “power plant” will consist of an array of identical PowerBuoys that are electrically connected together to provide the desired power capacity. OPT’s “smart” PowerBuoy utilizes computer-based, proprietary technologies. Technological innovations include: patented electronics systems for control and power conversion; patented wave energy conversion and transfer systems; unique generating systems that function effectively at low and variable speeds; and a modular construction process. “Iberdrola has been in the forefront of incorporating the latest of renewable technologies into its electricity generating system,” said George W. Taylor, CEO of OPT. “This agreement represents a significant step forward in the commercialisation of the OPT system, and the Atlantic coast line of Spain is well suited for OPT’s PowerBuoys. A very small area off the coast could eventually generate a significant portion of Spain’s electrical power requirements.” Based in Madrid, Iberdrola is one of the largest renewable energy companies worldwide, is quoted on Madrid’s top Ibex 35 companies, and presently has in excess of 2400 MW of installed renewable power generation in Spain. While this includes hydro capacity, a good portion comes from wind farms scattered throughout Spain as well.