One of the largest planned wave energy projects in the world — the ARENA project in Australia — recently bit the dust. The 19 MW project — which was slated for development off the coast of Portland in Victoria, Australia — was once advertised as being the biggest wave energy project in development in the world, so the failure of the project represents a relatively significant blow to the industry, especially when you consider the fact that the reason for the project’s demise is that it wasn’t “commercially viable”.
Image Credit: Waves via Flickr CC
The company behind the project — US-based Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) — recently fired its CEO, Charles Dunleavy, so it may be that there’s more to it than that. The project would have cost around $232 million to develop, with $66.5 million of that set to come from the Australian government, as per a previously made pledge.
The project has always had its doubters, though, so it’s failure isn’t a surprise to everyone, as RenewEconomy notes:
The decision by the Martin Ferguson’s Department of Energy in 2009 to pick the OPT project as a candidate for funding in 2009 raised eyebrows at the time, particularly because Australian based technologies were overlooked.
Even back in 2009, I wrote in the now defunct Greenchip column in The Australian newspaper that OPT had been accused of being unable to deliver on its own projects.
“OPT was criticised by Collins Stewart, its sponsoring broker on London’s Alternative Investment Market, last year because of delays and cost over-runs at a wave project in Spain. Collins Stewart broker Raymoned Greaves told The Times last July that OPT had a ‘total inability to deliver’ on projects. ‘The continued delays baffle us,’ he was quoted as saying.”
Humorously (in a way…), the ARENA project was being developed at the same site where an earlier version of OPT’s PowerBuoy technology was “scrapped after part of the machine snapped off while being towed into place by an ocean tug in 2002.” That project was funded by the Australian federal government and the local Victorian government.
Not really a good track record to date.
It’s currently unclear whether the money pledged by the Australian authorities will be made available to other wave energy projects or simply reabsorbed by the government. Only $5.6 million was delivered before the project failure, and that will be repaid according to reports.
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