Company pulls plug on Portland’s proposed $230 million wave power project

PLANS to build the world’s largest wave power project in Portland have been scrapped. 

The $230 million bid to harness the ocean’s currents was dumped this week by Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) and its subsidiary Victorian Wave Partners. 

South-west leaders have expressed disappointment at the move, which could have injected millions of dollars in to the local economy. 

The decision also means the company will have to return a $66.5 million grant to the federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

The company has already spent about $5 million. 

Victorian Wave Partners and OPT Australasia director Gilbert George told The Standard yesterday the size of the project was simply too large and the parent company OPT Incorporated (OPTT), based in the United States, had decided to pull the plug following a review. 

The much-lauded plan had promised to deliver up 300 jobs during construction and produce 62.5 megawatts over three stages.

Despite plans first being put forward in 2009 the project was yet to take any physical shape and hadn’t gone beyond office desks in Melbourne. 

“It’s a big shame,” Mr George told The Standard. 

“I think with the low costs of electricity in Victoria and the escalating costs of the project it became too much of a risk for the parent company.” 

Mr George said the company would return the ARENA cash. 

“There were initial payments for milestones reached but those funds will be returned,” he said. 

Developers had already undertaken a seabed study and other studies completed by Deakin University experts. 

They had also been in talks with Portland-based Keppel Prince to build the power buoy units. 

“We had great support from the Portland community and that’s one of the things we regret,” Mr George said. 

Keppel Prince acting general manager Dan McKinna said the firm had recently offered prices to produce the buoys. 

“It definitely would have resulted in more jobs being created, no doubt about it,” Mr McKinna said. 

“It’s extremely disappointing for Portland. At Keppel Prince we were hoping to start work during the first quarter next year.” 

Glenelg Shire mayor John Northcott said the decision was “disappointing” given Portland’s flatlining retail sector, coupled with commercial pressures on the smelter and on wind tower production for Keppel Prince. 

“It’s yet another disappointment,” Cr Northcott said. 

He compared it to other ill-fated proposals like the pulp mill in Casterton and pellet mill in Heywood.

Another smaller wave power trial project in Port Fairy by developers BioPower Systems is still going ahead later this year after minor design setbacks. 

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