Northwest Renewable News

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2 Oregon companies could combine to build wave energy buoys January 27, 2009

Two major companies, one in Clackamas, one in Reedsport, have made an agreement that could buoy the local work force.

Oregon Iron Works and American Bridge Manufacturing’s Reedsport office have agreed to work together to build wave energy buoys for Ocean Power Technologies, should OPT grant that contract to Oregon Iron Works. That would mean more local jobs in the long run.

“We’re definitely fired up about this,” American Bridge Sales manager John Osborne said.

Plans are tentative, as the whole wave energy industry develops along a slow, technologically intensive, tentative process as well.

OPT is in talks with Oregon Iron Works, but no contract has been signed.

“As we have not received a contract yet from OPT, we have not finalized the production plan, but currently we anticipate American Bridge will be doing over half the fabrication work as well as final assembly,” David Gibson, Oregon Iron Works’ Renewable Energy Program Manager, said in an e-mail.

OPT is a leader in the wave energy industry, with plans for a 10-buoy array in Reedsport and a 200-buoy array off Coos Bay’s North Spit. It recently installed a single buoy of the shores of Oahu, Hawaii.

Right now, everyone — OPT, Oregon Iron Works and American Bridge — is concentrating on trying to get just one buoy in the water. Once that happens and preliminary studies are done, it could smooth the way for more buoys.

And more jobs for the South Coast.

“The OPT project involves large fabrication with very heavy pieces and as final installation will occur on the coast, we decided finding some good coastal subcontractors would be a benefit as we compete for the OPT buoy work,” Gibson sad.

The company was aware of American Bridge’s fabrication facility and signed an agreement for the Reedsport project. American Bridge is to be the subcontractor for a portion of the OPT work if the contract goes through.

It’s a match many South Coast residents have suggested in the past, particularly those who are familiar with American Bridge’s capabilities. Some jobs include fabrication, assembly, maintenance, deployment and monitoring.

At the very least, in the short term, building wave energy buoys would protect existing jobs.

“Where it really comes in and we would pick up additional jobs would be production of more of these,” he said. “It could be quite a significant number of people.”

OPT’s Vice President of Business Development and Marketing, Herb Nock, said the agreement between the two manufacturing companies helps fulfill a promise OPT has made to South Coast residents.

“Our goal is to do as much work on the coast as we can,” Nock said.

OPT’s vice president of Manufacturing Operations, Bill Powers, has scheduled a visit to the South Coast next week to establish an overall supply chain in advance of buoy construction.

Still, for folks hoping for an overnight turnaround in the number of jobs available, the wait will be a little longer — months, if not a couple years.

Nock said OPT plans to file its full license application for the Gardiner project before the end of March. Once that’s done, the company will move forward with the Coos Bay project.

Oregon Iron Works has been interested in renewable energy for some time. It built a buoy for Finavera Renewables, a prototype designed by Finavera that performed well in the waters off of Newport in 2007. The buoy eventually sank, but Finavera still is evaluating the prototype’s successes and failures.

OPT originally envisioned having a buoy in the water in 2008. Its buoy in Hawaii still is working well, but it is not hooked into the shoreside power grid yet.

Gibson has a lot of respect for the company, though.

“They are plowing the ground for the first time,” he said. “It’s a painful process.”


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