A new Oregon company will announce Thursday plans to commercialize and manufacture floating power plant technology that generates electricity from waves and wind.
Floating Power Inc. is a joint venture between Lake Oswego-based boutique merchant bank BridgeWorks Capital and Floating Power Plant Inc., a Danish company that spent the last 12 years developing and testing the power-generating platform called “Poseidon.”
“I think we have the opportunity to have a significant impact as wave joins solar, wind and biomass as a key part of the solution for renewable energy globally,” said Mark Waller, president of BridgeWorks Capital.
The immediate economic impact of the company’s formation, at the outset, is minimal.
Waller said the company will employ about a half-dozen people initially and is on the hunt for office space in the Portland area.
But Waller said his intent is to make Oregon a manufacturing base for the Poseidon platforms, the latest of which — buoyed off the Danish coast — measures 121 feet by 82 feet and weighs 350 tons.
That could be a potential boon for one or more regional manufacturers.
“We could create a significant number of jobs as we negotiate deployments of the technology,” Waller said. “It’s likely we would work with one or more of the marine yards that have capacity to build barges or other large devices.”
The new company becomes the latest addition to an Oregon wave energy industry that Eugene-based research firm ECONorthwest projects could eventually generate $2.4 billion in annual economic impact.
Floating Power joins Corvallis-based Columbia Power Technologies LLC, New Jersey’s Ocean Power Technologies Inc., Scotland’s Aquamarine Power, Dallas-based Neptune Wave Power and M3 Wave Energy Systems LLC of Salem among others that have chosen Oregon to test or manufacture wave energy devices.
“We’re obviously excited,” said Jason Busch, executive director of the Oregon Wave Energy Trust. “This is exactly what we’ve strived to do.”
The Poseidon generates hydraulic power from waves that interact with floats, as well as electricity from wind turbines mounted atop the platform. The electricity it generates is transported to the grid via underwater cables. Waller said the technology thus far is capable of producing enough electricity to power 15,000 homes from a single platform.
But part of its value, he said, is that it’s scalable based on the customer’s needs.
“They will not be one-size-fits-all,” he said. “Think about this as a modular solution that can be expanded or contracted or placed with multiple units in an area.”
Waller is a veteran renewable energy investor with a proven track record.
Just two weeks ago, PrimeStar Solar Inc., a Colorado-based maker of thin-film solar panel technology co-founded by BridgeWorks Capital, was sold to General Electric for undisclosed terms. G.E. has said it plans to open the nation’s largest solar energy manufacturing plant.
Waller, who led the initial investments in PrimeStar with a consortium of Oregon investors, was chairman of PrimeStar and drove the exit with G.E.
“Mark has a tremendous track record in successfully starting up solar business from cradle to mature industry,” said Erik Schulz, the Danish company’s acting CEO who takes over as board chairman on Monday. “We have only one single asset: our invention. To place our invention in the hands of somebody outside our Danish company just requires trust, and we trust Mark.”
Under the joint venture agreement, Oregon-based Floating Power Inc. will hold the exclusive rights to commercialize Poseidon installations throughout the Americas and at U.S. government installations worldwide.
The partnership is Waller’s first foray into wave energy, but something he said presented a unique opportunity.
Unlike previous ventures that required significant capital for research and development, Floating Power’s Danish parent has already invested $12 million over the past dozen years to develop the technology.
A test platform has been in the water off the coast of Denmark since 2008, Waller said, giving the Poseidon “more time in the water than any device in the world.”
But Danish waters aren’t as powerful as those off the coast of Oregon, and Waller said at a minimum it will take six to 12 months to learn how to adapt the technology to the Pacific Ocean.
Rick Williams, the company’s chief science and technology officer on contract from McLean, Va.-based Science Applications International Corp., said now that the company is formed it will conduct an in-depth technology review with its Danish partners to form a timeline for Pacific deployment.
The company will likely have an initial test module working in conjunction with Oregon State University-based Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, Williams said.
It will also seek proposals from communities willing to host a demonstration project. Floating Power Plant’s Schulz said the goal is to have a “pre-approved, ready-to-plug-in test site.”
“It’s going to be quite a journey,” Williams said.
Much like the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, Schulz thinks highly of Oregon’s potential as a global center for the technology.
“I believe Oregon has the global ambition of being for waves what Denmark is for wind,” he said.