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Seen from a helicopter, the two wave power machines launched off the coast of Oporto look like sea snakes. The 'Pelamis' wave energy converters generate electricity from the movement of the waves. It is a clean and renewable energy. They are a world first. In time, there will be 25 Pelamis converters off the coast of Oporto.
“This Pelamis generates the equivalent of what a wind turbine was producing five years ago, i.e. around 750 KW/H”, said Rui Barros of the Enersis company behind the farm. “This machine alone can meet the energy demands of 500 Portuguese homes a year”, he explains.
The wave movement acts on the machine. The forward and back swell activates hydraulic rams and, at the end of the process, generates electricity. This is then transferred to terra firma by a cable. According to Enersis Director Ian Sharpe, “wind technology was probably the main renewable technology to become commercial. But there's a very great resource for wave energy. This is the first commercial demonstration of that”.
When he opoened the wave farm on Sept. 23, Portugal’s Economy Minister Manuel Pinho explained why his country wants to ride the crest of this new wave: “We are currently generating almost 45% of the electricity used in this country from renewable energy sources. The aim is to hit 60% by 2020. This whole shift is creating more industry. New businesses are being set up here. There are already more than 10,000 people working in the sector.”
The state is guaranteeing a set purchase price for the electricity generated from renewable energy. The aim is to encourage partnerships between the public and private sectors. “We've already created a pilot zone in the north of Lisbon which is open to the installation of new technologies. So, if there are more companies and entrepreneurs who want to bring their technology and projects to Portugal, they'll enjoy good conditions here. We're open to these experiences", says Secretary of State for Defence and Marine Affairs Joao Mira Gomes.
In the medium term, Portugal hopes to rival Denmark and Japan in the field of renewable energies.