Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication to include information from an interview with OPT CEO Charles Dunleavy.
Nearly three years ago, Ocean Power Technologies won a $66.5 million grant from the Australian government to install a 19 megawatt wave power array off the coast of Victoria, Australia. This week, quite suddenly, a lot of people came to the conclusion that the project might actually happen.
The big change? Word from OPT on Wednesday that it will partner with Lockheed Martin to develop the Aussie installation. The announcement sent OPT’s stock soaring. It had nearly doubled at one point during the trading day Wednesday before settling at $3.55, a 72 percent gain from its opening price of $2.08. Some 2.8 million OPT shares were traded, almost 100 times the stock’s average daily volume of 29,795.
Traders clearly saw the tie-up as a signal that the nascent marine power industry might actually begin to generate real growth – and that’s exactly how Lockheed Martin said the move should be read.
“We see great potential in harnessing the vast power of the ocean,” Dan Heller, vice president of new ventures for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Sensors business, said in a statement. “By working with OPT and Australian industry on this project, we will advance wave energy in Australia and globally.”
OPT and Lockheed Martin aren’t making their first acquaintance on this project; they’ve done business with each other dating back to 2004, and last September OPT said Lockheed Martin had joined its effort to place 10 wave power devices, capable of producing a total of 1.5 megawatts of energy, in the Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Ore.
That project has been inching along since reports emerged in early 2010 suggesting that a buoy would be deployed imminently, with the promise of nine more to go in by the end of 2012. That first buoy still hasn’t yet gone in, but the company has contracted with Oregon companies to assist it in implementing the project, and in an interview after the Australia announcement, OPT CEO Charles Dunleavy said the company was aiming to deploy an initial test buoy late this summer.
OPT’s centerpiece technology, it’s wave energy converter, is called the PowerBuoy. Moored to the ocean floor and floating on the water’s surface, it rises and falls with the waves. A power take-off system converts the mechanical stroking that results from this motion to drive a generator, and power goes ashore via an underwater cable.