Every day, waves barrel toward the American coastline full of potential energy. In the future, that previously wasted energy may provide thousands of residents with clean, affordable electricity. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently granted Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) permission to build the first commercial wave power plant in the United States.

The 35-year license allows the New Jersey-based OPT to proceed with plans for a 1.5-megawatt power project about 2.5 miles off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon. The wave power plant will utilize OPT’s PowerBuoy system, which integrates patented technologies in hydrodynamics, electronics, energy conversion and computer control systems to extract the natural energy in ocean waves. The company has already successfully deployed this technology in the waters off of Scotland, Hawaii and New Jersey.

“The issuance of this license by FERC is an important milestone for the U.S. wave energy industry as well as for OPT,” stated the company’s CEO, Charles F. Dunleavy. ”It represents the culmination of thorough due diligence and consideration of input from a broad array of groups interested in our Reedsport project. The 35-year term of the license demonstrates the commercial potential of wave power, and this will support initiatives to secure financing for the project.”

The grid-connected project will eventually feature 10 of OPT’s wave power buoys, will generate enough power for about 1,000 homes, according to Ocean Power Technologies. Construction of the initial PowerBuoy is nearing completion and it is expected to be ready for deployment later this year.

According to a 2010 settlement agreement signed with 11 federal and Oregon state agencies and three non-governmental stakeholders, the OPT wave power project will be constructed in a manner that protects aquatic resources, water quality, recreation, public safety, crabbing and fishing, terrestrial resources and cultural resources.