Despite setback, buoy plan still afloat

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By Thomas Moriarty

October 26, 2013

A wave energy company says it still plans to build the country’s first commercial wave energy park off Reedsport — once it Ocean Power Technologiesfigures out why its equipment went AWOL in the Pacific Ocean this winter.

Kevin Watkins, the West Coast representative for Ocean Power Technologies, said the company is still trying to understand the circumstances behind the February disappearance of its test buoy’s subsurface float and marker buoy.

“We don’t have all the information,” he said.

Watkins’ comments come a week after contractors removed the float and its attached tendon line from what was intended to be the site of the company’s first test buoy.

OPT’s designs call for a wave energy generator tethered to a subsurface float and three giant, 500-ton anchors on the sea floor.

In August 2012, the company received a 35-year license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the park. OPT planned to install 10 of the buoys approximately 2 miles off Reedsport.

The company installed the first anchor and subsurface float for a test buoy that fall, but bad weather forced workers to postpone installation of the other two anchors.

In February, OPT lost track of the float altogether.

CEO Chuck Dunleavy told The World that the buoy wasn’t at its designed depth, and the company wasn’t certain of its disposition.

The company ended up launching a remotely-operated submersible to locate the installation.

The state subsequently ordered the company to remove the anchoring system until it had worked out the project’s legal and technical issues.

Chris Castelli, a senior policy analyst for the Oregon Department of State Lands, said OPT failed to comply with the agency’s Sept. 30 deadline to remove the float. “We actually did issue them a letter of default on Oct. 1,” he said.

But Castelli said the company has otherwise complied with the rest of the agency’s requirements, including an Oct. 15 deadline for a work plan to remove the remaining anchor.

“At this snapshot in time, they’re all good,” he said.

According to a work plan filed by Sea Engineering Inc., the company plans to use divers from Global Diving & Salvage to drain the outer cells of the anchors.

The anchor would then be winched to the surface.

The company said it plans to remove the anchor no later than Oct. 15, 2014.