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'Wave farm' project gets green light

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Sci/Tech

A pioneering commercial wave power plant, producing clean and renewable energy, is to go on line off Portugal in 2006, after a contract was signed this week, project partners announced Friday.

The companies claimed the so-called "wave farm" will be the world's first such commercial operation.

The power generators, like giant, orange sausages floating on water, will use wave motion to produce electricity by pumping high-pressure fluids to motors, Norsk Hydro AS said. The Norwegian energy company is a major backer of the project.

The generators were developed by Ocean Power Delivery, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, which signed an euro8 million (U.S. $6.25 million) contract with a Portuguese consortium to build three Pelamis P-750 wave power generators next year.

The project will order 30 more generators from the consortium -- headed by the Enersis SPGS power company -- by the end of 2006, if the initial phase is successful, Norsk Hydro said.

"We believe wave energy will be the new indigenous, renewable resource in Portugal," Enersis chairman Goncalo Serras Pereira said.

The first, three-generator phase of the wave farm would produce 2.25 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 1,500 Portuguese homes. Norsk Hydro said producing that much energy in a conventional fossil fuel plant would emit 6,000 tons of climate-damaging carbon dioxide.

"This is a significant milestone for our company and for wave energy," said OPD Managing Director Richard Yemm. "We see this order as just the first step in developing the Portuguese market, which is anticipated to be worth up to euro1 billion (U.S. $1.3 billion) over the next 10 years."

The wave generators produce power by using the up and down, and sideways, movements of the ocean swell, moving the flexible, 120-meter (400-feet) long floating cylinders to pump high-pressure fluids to drive hydraulic motors, which will produce electricity in generators.

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