Iberdrola Floats Oceanic PowerBuoy

Spanish utility Iberdrola has started to tap the power of the motion of the ocean with the deployment of its first PowerBuoy from wave energy developer Ocean Power Technologies.

Currently bobbing up and down off the coast of Santoña, Spain, the PowerBuoy is the first of 10 planned buoys which Iberdrola plans to eventually have producing 1.39 megawatts for the grid. The company claims it will be the world’s first commercial utility-scale wave power generation venture. The project also had development help from French energy giant Total S.A; regional development agency SODERCAN; and the IDEA, the Spanish energy agency.

New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies is working all over the world with its PowerBuoys. Since testing a 1 megawatt installation for the U.S. Navy in Hawaii beginning in 2004, the wave-energy firm signed a joint development agreement with Australian energy provider Griffin Energy to build and operate a 10- to 100-megawatt wave-power station off the coast of Western Australia.

Hydrokinetic energy has been making waves in the clean energy sector. A number of startups are working to scale the technology for utility use, while city and federal governments are eager to add more renewables to the grid. New York City has been experimenting with tidal turbines in the East River, where Verdant Power recently sank in another 16-foot rotor. The location is ideal, with currents so strong the first rotors broke under the strain.

Startups will have to figure out how to make robust energy generators that can withstand the constant brutality of waves and currents — but if all that destructive energy can be captured and harnessed, it would be a huge new energy resource.