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December 16th, 2009 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know

     
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All the Copenhagen coverage reminded me: Didn’t someone try to build a wave-power plant off the Oregon coast recently, only to have the whole multi-jillion-dollar structure sink like a rock? Will this green-power fiasco be remembered as our generation’s “exploding whale”?

—Cathleen A., Portland

Your generation’s exploding whale, maybe. My generation’s exploding whale is, and will always be, Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy.

That said, the thrust of your accusation is true: Finavera Renewables’ “AquaBuOY 2.0” did indeed sink (probably under the weight of too many capital letters) off the Oregon coast in 2007. Envisioned as the thin leading edge of a wave-power farm that was supposed to be providing power commercially by 2010, the $2 million device instead wound up providing jobs for salvage divers in 2008.

Connoisseurs of corporate spin still get misty recalling a Finavera VP’s comment at the time, “For the purpose of the project, it was highly successful.”

I’ll remember that one the next time I burn down my house trying to make fondue. In a recent interview with Ireland’s Sunday Tribune, Finavera CEO Jason Bak was more frank: “Our device essentially blew up and sank.”

Oregonian readers may be wondering if this buoy-sinking outfit is the same one that just last week announced plans to build a new power-buoy array off Reedsport, since The O’s piece on this project makes no mention of AquaBuOY’s watery grave.

The answer is no: Finavera is now focusing on wind power (we’ll be watching the skies for runaway turbines). The new project is helmed by New Jersey-based Ocean Power Technologies.

Both companies, however, chose Clackamas-based Oregon Iron Works to fabricate their buoys. Since these are those green jobs we’ve been hearing so much about, let’s hope OPT’s plans hold more water than Finavera’s.

 
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