Wave-power is too much for generator

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The Independent Online

Osprey, the world's first commercial wave-powered electricity generator, was sinking in bad weather last night, days after it developed two holes in its steel shell.

The pounds 3.5m machine was listing at an angle of 45 degrees and slowly sinking beneath heavy waves at its mooring 300 metres off the north coast of Scotland. Only the Osprey's funnel was still above the water's surface last night.

Allan Thomson, the managing director of Applied Research and Technology, the company which designed and funded Osprey, said it was unlikely that repairs which had been planned for the machine would now be undertaken.

The generator, which took six months to build, was towed to its mooring site off Dounreay three weeks ago in the wake of a successful launch from Clydebank. However, tests last week found holes in two of its nine ballast tanks.

Its condition was weakened by Force 6 storms lashing the Pentland Firth during the weekend.

Despite being timid in comparison with the 18-metre swells a wave generator could expect during the winter along that part of the coast, the heavy seas still proved too much.

"Obviously this is a disappointment for us, but it certainly isn't the end of the project," said Mr Thomson last night, adding that a replacement machine - Osprey II could be in the water by the spring in the same location.

"It's at times like these that you realise that your insurance premiums were well spent," he said.

Osprey is insured with Lloyd's of London in whose hands its future now lies.

As the Osprey began to break up, a crowd gathered on the shore to watch its demise.

Although HM Pentland Coastguard say it is not a danger to shipping because it is so close to the shore, it is not known whether it will be salvaged or left to the mercy of the waves it was designed to harness.