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The Leading Edge

Editor’s Note: Hydro Review is pleased to introduce this new department. In each issue, “The Leading Edge” will provide information about innovative and emerging water-based generation. This will include: wave, tidal, kinetic, and hydrogen produced from hydro.

FERC issues interim policy for permitting ocean projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) established an interim process in February 2007 for handling preliminary permit applications for wave, current, and in-stream hydropower technologies.

FERC called for public comment on how it should process preliminary permit applications for those technologies and how FERC should enforce permits once they are issued. “Our action today announcing an interim policy while seeking comment on alternative approaches shows that we are dedicated to demonstrating regulatory flexibility with respect to development of these promising new hydroelectric technologies,” FERC Chairman Joseph Kelliher said.

Kelliher said FERC has seen interest in new hydroelectric technologies grow over the past year. Since March 2006, he said, more than 40 preliminary permit applications for such projects have been filed. FERC staff has issued 11 preliminary permits for the projects: three for proposed tidal energy projects in California, New York, and Washington; and eight for proposed ocean current projects off the coast of Florida. FERC also has received its first license application for a wave energy project, AquaEnergy Group Ltd.’s 1-MW Makah Bay Wave Energy project, offshore of Clallam County, Wash. (See “License application filed for Makah Bay wave project,” page 70.)

FERC seeks comments on several alternatives for reviewing permit applications. Comments will be due 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. The notice (RM07-8) also will be available from the e-library system on FERC’s Internet site, www. ferc.gov.

FERC initially opts for “stricter scrutiny”

Specifically, FERC said it wants to know if it should: maintain the standard preliminary permit review process; provide stricter scrutiny of permit applications and limit permit boundaries to prevent “site banking” and promote competition; or decline to issue preliminary permits for the new technologies.

Until FERC determines how it will review permit applications for the technologies, the commission said it would use the “stricter scrutiny” alternative approach, which addresses issues raised at a December 2006 technical conference. FERC conducted that meeting to explore environmental, financial, and regulatory issues associated with new hydropower technologies. “In my view, our interim policy supports continued development of this new technology, while guarding against site banking,” Kelliher said.

Verdant Power installs fish monitors at RITE project

To assist in evaluating the effects of tidal energy turbines on fish and other organisms in the East River in New York, Verdant Power has installed acoustic equipment at its Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project. The equipment, supplied by BioSonics Inc. in Seattle, Wash., consists of four DT-X echosounder systems and 12 transducers.

Monitoring animal abundance and activity in the vicinity of the turbines at the RITE project is a key aspect of Verdant Power’s upcoming license application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A FERC license is necessary for Verdant Power to move the RITE project to its final phase of operations – a full field of turbines with a projected capacity of 10 MW.

The current phase of the RITE project centers on installing a 200-kW test field of six turbines, which will be used to perform environmental impact studies and generate electricity. The first unit was installed in December 2006 and has provided electricity to a nearby supermarket. The second installment to complete the initial set of six turbines is planned for spring 2007.

Verdant Power determined that using scientific acoustic techniques was the most appropriate tool to monitor fish activity in and around this field of turbines. Each monitoring system consists of one DT-X echosounder system and three transducers. The systems are mounted near the shore, with associated equipment housed in a facility on-site. The system is permanently connected to the Internet to allow automated operation and remote access.

The first and second systems are deployed immediately upcurrent and downcurrent from the turbines to form acoustic curtains close to the turbines. The third and fourth systems are deployed farther out from the turbines, one upcurrent and one downcurrent, to form acoustic curtains at a distance from the turbines. The inner systems detect animals passing through or around the turbines, while the outer systems detect animals approaching the turbines.

The monitoring systems include a multiplexed split-beam feature that allows for classification of individual targets based on their location in the river, acoustic properties, swimming speed, and other characteristics. To further evaluate the acoustic echo signals received by each system, BioSonics developed “trained” signal processing and pattern recognition software. The hardware and software can measure and test a variety of conditions against threshold values set by team scientists and regulatory agencies. Accordingly, the system alerts project personnel if it detects animals in the vicinity of the turbines. Personnel can then evaluate recorded acoustic data in a timely manner.

To capture data from all four seasons, the systems are planned to continue monitoring the RITE project area until May 2008.

Bills offer tax credits to kinetic hydropower

Senators Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced bills in January 2007 that would extend production tax credits to kinetic hydropower.

Amending the renewable energy production tax credits of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Smith’s bill (S.425) defines kinetic hydropower as:

– Ocean free-flowing water from tidal currents, ocean currents, waves, or estuary currents;

– Ocean thermal energy; and

– Free-flowing water in rivers, lakes, man-made channels, or streams.

To be eligible, facilities could not include impoundment structures.

Murkowski’s bill (S.298) uses the same definition but calls the category “Wave, current, tidal, and ocean thermal energy,” rather than “kinetic hydropower.”

The bills would make facilities that generate electricity using kinetic hydropower eligible for the production tax credit offered to most renewables under Internal Revenue Code Section 45. The tax credit amount, which was 1.9 cent per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2006, is adjusted for inflation and is roughly double the amount offered to incremental conventional hydropower and small irrigation hydropower, which was 0.9 cent per kWh in 2006.

Smith cited the potential for kinetic hydro technology in Oregon, saying the state could install more than 200 MW of wave energy and transmit the electricity with no need for upgrades to the existing transmission system.

Murkowski’s bill offers an additional incentive to ocean energy, directing the secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy to make grants to eligible entities, to be determined by the secretary, to develop all forms of ocean energy, including wave, current, tidal, and thermal energy. The bill would authorize appropria- tions of $100 million for the grants.

Project in-service dates

Concerning project in-service dates, Murkowski’s bill would conform to the current law, which includes projects placed in service after enactment of the bill and before January 1, 2009. Smith’s bill would change the 2009 date to 2011, giving time for additional projects to be developed. The credit would be available for ten years of generation.

In December 2006, a bipartisan group of 42 senators called for President Bush to recommend extending the renewable energy production tax credit to 2013.

License application filed for Makah Bay wave project

In November 2006, AquaEnergy Group Ltd., an Ocean Energy division of Finavera Renewables Limited in Ireland, submitted an application for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to construct the 1-MW Makah Bay Offshore Wave project. AquaEnergy used FERC’s alternative licensing process, which requires the commission to act on the permit application within 12 months.

This project is proposed for a 625-foot by 450-foot area of water in depths of about 150 feet, about 3.7 miles off of Hobuck Beach in Makah Bay, Wash. The Makah Bay project will consist of four of AquaEnergy’s 250-kW AquaBuOY wave energy converters. The project is expected to deliver 1,500 megawatt-hours of electricity each year.

AquaEnergy has a land lease agreement with the Makah Indian Nation, as well as a power purchase agreement with the Clallam County Public Utility District (PUD).

Organizations working with AquaEnergy to develop the project include the Makah Indian Nation, Clallam County PUD, Washington State University, Bonneville Power Administration (through the Northwest Energy Innovation Center), and Clallam County Economic Development Council.

In late October 2006, AquaEnergy completed the draft environmental assessment to accompany its license application. The assessment was prepared by Devine Tarbell & Associates Inc. in Portland, Maine.

Tidal power demonstration project installed in British Columbia

In January 2007, a 65-kW turbine- generator began operating in British Columbia, Canada, using the tides in the Pacific Ocean. The unit will provide all of the electricity necessary to operate the marine education center and other facilities that are part of the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. The reserve is offshore of Vancouver Island. The Pearson College – EnCana – Clean Current Tidal Power Demonstration Project at Race Rocks uses a turbine provided by Clean Current Power Systems Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Before installation of the tidal turbine, diesel-powered generators provided the reserve’s electricity requirements. These generators have a negative environmental effect through harmful emissions and high noise levels. The reserve is located 3 nautical miles from Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific; staff and students at the college act as volunteer environmental stewards for the reserve.

The turbine installed at Race Rocks is a bi-directional ducted horizontal axis turbine. It is connected to a direct-drive variable-speed permanent magnet generator. The turbine-generator is equally efficient in both directions, allowing it to produce the maximum amount of electricity from the tidal currents.

The unit, which has a blade diameter of 3.5 meters, is deployed in water about 15 meters deep. An undersea cable transmits electricity to a battery storage facility on the island.

Clean Current will operate the unit for five years. Then, if the project is not deemed viable to continue, Clean Current will remove the installation and remediate the site at its cost. Otherwise, Clean Current will sell the installation to either B.C. Parks, the owner of the land, or Pearson College, the wardens of the ecological reserve.

Initial funding for this project is a $3 million investment from the EnCana Environmental Innovation Fund. The fund was established to advance new technologies and solutions that improve environmental performance associated with consuming and producing energy. In addition, Canadian government agency Sustainable Development Technology Canada has committed $933,000, subject to executing a contract that establishes eligible costs, milestones for payments, reporting requirements, and audit procedures.


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