Wave energy faces another delay

Wave energy faces another delay

0710_ATS06
PHOTO COURTESY SCOTTYCARTER.COM

Setbacks and drowned expectations, most notably the sinking of a test buoy off Newport in 2007, have stalled Oregon’s quest to be the leader in wave energy from the beginning. Now there’s another: The first energy buoy will not be installed off Reedsport in August as planned.

“[It] may be pushed back to early next year,” says Reedsport mayor Keith Tymchuck.

Len Bernstein, the spokesman for Oregon Power Technologies, the New Jersey-based company contracting with Oregon Iron Works to build the buoy, used “complicated” six times during a 20-minute interview to explain the delay.

Jason Busch, the executive director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, was slightly more specific. “The delay is a function of a variety of reasons,” he says. Busch and other wave energy stakeholders cited an unexpectedly prolonged regulatory process to get the license to install the buoy from the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC). Stakeholders must sign a settlement agreement, which determines what actions Ocean Power Technologies will take to respect competing interests. Many of the actions involve conducting environmental impact analyses.

Ocean Power Technologies asked FERC on May 21 for an extension to sign the settlement agreement, which had a due date of June 1. FERC rejected the extension on May 27, and instead tacked on 30 days to the period of time for comment from the general public. FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller says its “not unusual” for such extensions to be granted. Oregon Iron Works says it is on track to complete manufacturing the buoy in August as scheduled.

Busch says there’s a chance the buoy will be installed this fall. But if the weather hinders installation, the project will be delayed until spring 2011. “The plan is to get it in the water as soon as possible,” he says. “Everybody wants this thing in the water.”

AMANDA WALDROUPE