Aquamarine Power Awash in $17.4M


Last month, we pointed out seven projects paving the way for ocean power. Well, here’s an eighth: This morning, Scottish wave energy company Aquamarine Power said it has raised $17.4 million in new funding, including $12.6 million from power giant ABB, in an effort to commercialize its so-called Oyster technology.

Aquamarine’s Oyster wave power device has a large hinged flap that moves with the waves and drives hydraulic pistons that push high pressure water onto shore to a hydro-electric turbine. The company’s first Oyster wave converter was deployed off the coast of Scotland in 2009 and has been providing power to the country’s grid. Now Aquamarine is working on the next generation of this technology, which it plans to commercialize.

SSE Venture Capital, the VC arm of Scottish clean power company SSE Renewables, also participated in Aquamarine’s recent round, and SSE Renewables has been working with the company to co-develop up to 1 GW of Oyster sites. Aquamarine says the joint venture is building a 2 MW demonstration site planned for 2011, which will be expanded to 10 MW in 2012, and eventually 200 MW.

In comparison to solar and wind power, wave power is in a very nascent stage and there are few technologies that have reached any type of commercial scale. But that isn’t stopping entrepreneurs, investors, and power companies from moving in.

Companies like Lockheed Martin (s lmt), Wavebob and OpenHydro are working on technologies to capture energy from waves, tides, currents and the ocean’s thermal gradients on a scale that could eventually make the sea a major contributor to the nation’s clean energy supply. According to a report released last month by the research firm Emerging Energy Research, “The global ocean energy sector is at a turning point,” with more than 45 wave and tidal prototypes slated for ocean testing in 2010 and 2011, up from only nine tested last year.

Two major hurdles facing the technology are, quite simply, making the devices last the harsh environment of the water and waves, and also creating devices at a low cost. Wave and sea power is one of the most expensive clean power technologies out there. In 2008, the California Utilities Commission rejected a power purchase agreement from utility Pacific Gas & Electric to buy electricity from a project by Finavera Renewables, saying the technology was too unproven and costly.

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