The U.S. military is living up to its promise of leading the country in green energy adoption with the Navy’s awarding of a $3 million contract to marine power startup Ocean Power Technologies (s OPTT) (OPT). The contract is for ocean testing of an advanced version of the company’s autonomous PowerBuoy that converts the kinetic energy of oceanic waves into electricity, and is part of the Navy’s Deep Water Active Detection Systems (DWADS) program, which uses sophisticated oceanic data-gathering and communications systems. The PowerBuoy will be used to power those systems.
Just last month, OPT deployed a test PowerBuoy 75 miles off the coast of New Jersey as part of the first phase of DWADS. OPT says the Navy was able to validate the PowerBuoy’s performance, leading the Navy to offer the contract to the Pennington, N.J.-based startup. OPT has a long relationship with the Navy; the company has been testing its PowerBuoys at a base in Oahu, Hawaii, since 2004.
This new contract pushes the startup’s backlog of orders to well over $5 million. In July the company said it had $3.7 million in backlogged orders and delivered the first of 10 buoys to Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola in September. Since then, OPT received a $2 million contract from the Department of Energy to build and deploy a PowerBuoy off the coast of Reedsport, Ore., in the second half of 2009.
Ocean Power’s fellow wave energy startup Finavera hasn’t shared in the good fortune. Last year the publicly traded company saw its wave energy test buoy sink into Davy Jone’s locker a little over a month after it was deployed. Things were looking better when Northern California utility PG&E (s pcg) signed a power purchase agreement for 2 megawatts of ocean power, but then last month the California Public Utilities Commission put the kibosh on the plan, saying the power was too expensive for ratepayers.
OPT and Finavera are both competing in an increasingly crowded sea of marine power startups.