LOCE Wind and Wave Energy Weblog

The web's first ocean and offshore wind energy weblog. Continuously renewed, like the ocean itself.

Monday, April 18, 2005

FERC Eases Up On Licensing for East River Hydrokinetic Project

FERC has now issued a ruling on the declaration of intent filed by Verdant Power that we reported on here. Verdant had asked FERC to allow it to deploy a six turbine prototype of its project at its East River site for testing without first obtaining a license. The good news is that FERC granted Verdant's request , though FERC made clear that Verdant still must comply with other applicable federal and state requirements.

As I said, it's great that FERC granted Verdant this needed relief. And other wave energy developers can use the Verdant order as precedent for seeking relief from licensing in the future. But FERC rejected the request that I had filed (in my capacity as an expert on ocean energy and FERC law and not on behalf of any client) to implement a program for exempting all types of demo wave and tidal projects from FERC regulation. FERC found that this request raised all kinds of legal and policy considerations that it was not yet ready to address. (Of course, if that was the case, why did FERC jump in and assert control over wave energy projects to begin with?)

The FERC order also does not fully grant Verdant's requested relief. Verdant had asked to feed power to the grid while testing its projects but FERC says that it cannot do that if it wants to proceed without a license. By way of background, under Section 23(b) the FPA, just a little bit of power into the grid is deemed to affect the interest of interstate commerce and trigger FERC jurisdiction. That's because, as FERC has held in previous cases, that small hydro projects are part of a broader class of projects that affect interstate commerce. FERC could have reasoned its way around this, by finding that experimental projects, by their nature do not impact interstate commerce because the intent of the projects is to generate power for experimental purposes and not for sale into commerce. But FERC would not take this step though it has the discretion to do so.

The Promise of Ocean Energy

Dan White, organizer of the upcoming
Energy Ocean 2005 (where I'll be speaking) has this op-ed,

Ocean Energy: Putting It All In Perspective
in the April 18, 2005 edition of the Renewable Energy Insider. White argues that national security is impossible without energy security and wonders why the government isn't making more of an effort to tap ocean energy potential these days:

As I continue to explore the use of ocean power technologies, I find it amazing that no matter where we go along the coasts of the continental U.S. and Hawaii, just about every area is suitable for at least one type of ocean energy technology.
There is no one choice-wind, wave, current, tide, OTEC, etc. Each technology will need to be used to meet the U.S. energy needs. There is no one location. All areas will have to be exploited.

Now my least favorite... "Is renewable ocean energy a national priority?" Sadly no. But it once was!

From about 1977 to 1983, there was a movement towards harvesting Ocean Energy that is unmatched today. In 1980 and 1981 the U.S. Department of Energy's appropriation for Ocean Energy Systems alone was over $30 million, but the money disappeared over time as budget cuts forced its eventual demise, and the demise of the agencies responsible for overseeing the technology.

Ocean Energy's time is here. The government, and yes, even the oil & gas companies must take the lead in moving the technologies forward, not favoring any one renewable energy type over another. Remember the train companies - if they had realized they were in the transportation business they would probably be flying jets. Trick question-What business are the oil & gas companies in? Maybe the numbers I used in this article are arguable, and I can imagine that some will want to argue. But that's not the point. No one has yet to show me that Ocean Energy is unfeasible. Energy independence is just around the corner...or should I say "just offshore".

MIT Technology Review on Wave Power

Via the
Renewable Energy Law Blog is a link to an
article on wave power from the MIT Technology Review (3/28/05) on wave power, noting that despite recent advancements, the US government is not pursuing wave energy as a renewable resource.

Offshore Wind on New Jersey - More Skepticism

This AP article by John Curran,
Shore residents leery about offshore wind turbines
, (4/14/05) reports on the first public meeting held by New Jersey's Blue Ribbon Panel on Offshore Wind. According to the article, many commentors feared that windmills would adversly impact tourism. Others had concerns about transmission lines crossing beaches. But Emily Rusch, energy advocate for NJPIRG was quoted as saying that "In southern New Jersey, global warming and its effects are having a far greater impact on the shore, marine life and birds than offshore wind would."

Coverage of Offshore Wind in the Media

In this article,
Why I left The Times
, by Jack Coleman, a former Cape Cod Times Reporter (4/12/05), opines on the bias of the Cape Cod Times in reporting on the Cape Wind Project. According to Coleman, the paper has refused to send reporters overseas to report on offshore wind projects that successfully overcame opposition and refused to correct a poll that showed misleading information about public opinion regarding the offshore wind project. The paper's policies ultimately lead to Coleman's decision to leave.

Wisconsin Wave Pump

This article, Wave pump moves toward completion , Times-Standard (4/14/05) reports that Wisconsin company Independent Natural Resources may begin testing a wave pump, the Seadog , within the year. The article describes the article as follows:
Once built, the 128-foot high, 17.5-foot diameter pump would be anchored and partially submerged a mile offshore to be subjected to wind, waves, tides and currents for a year... The pump should move 535 gallons of water per minute -- or 2 3/4 Olympic-size swimming pools of water per day, based on an analysis of wave patterns in the area. Eureka engineering firm Winzler and Kelly's analysis found the pump could withstand 50-foot waves during 9-foot tides, 80-mph winds and major earthquakes.
Thomas expects the first pump to cost $500,000. Much of that will likely go to local contractors.

Wave Power for Oregon

This article,
Making energy waves in Gardiner
,(4/7/05) reports on a prototype wave energy system currently under development at Oregon State University and intended for deployment off the coast of Gardiner, OR. According to the article, the site was selected for its wave conditions as well as proximity to an electrical substation. The OSU program has the support of EPRI, which also set its sites on Gardiner as the prime spot to launch a $4.6 million, two-year pilot project to determine the feasibility of wave energy technology, including how much it would cost to operate and how well the technology would respond to storms.

Wave Power for Maine

This article, Harnessing the Waves from the Portland Phoenix (week of 4/1/05) reports on the possibility of wave power projects off the coast of Maine. According to the article, the state of Maine, through its Office of Energy Independence and the Maine Technology Institute, is participating in a multi-state study conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to determine whether tidal power is more economical than other forms of renewable energy — such as wind and solar — currently under development. Though the coastal waters don't generate enough surface wave power, there is interest in Maine's tides:

Maine, says Michael Mayhew, energy efficiency engineer at the Public Utilities Commission, has "the biggest hydropower resource in the continental US," with tides ranging from nine to 18 feet, but big tides alone won’t make or break the case for tidal energy. Other issues come into play: transmission capacity, workforce, shipping lanes, fisheries, and environmental impacts, among others. Properly sited tidal turbines would be about the least environmentally intrusive means of producing energy this side of rooftop solar panels, but the details have yet to be worked out.[...]
He’s excited about the study’s potential. "When you start looking at tidal power versus wind," he says, you can get the same energy return with much smaller machines, and fewer of them. "And you can count on it. You know the tides a hundred years from now." This makes tidal power more useful because energy-intensive work in the area of a tidal generating plant could be scheduled around the tides, increasing efficiency. Location is a tricky issue in Maine, though, since the resource tends to be Downeast and the transmission and construction facilities are closer to Portland; how to solve that is one of the questions the feasibility study is supposed to answer.

Maine, along with several other states and Canadian provinces is proceeding with an assessment of tidal resources this year.