The Leading Edge

City installing hydrokinetic units at 4.4-MW Mississippi project

The city of Hastings, Minn., is proceeding with adding two 35-kW hydrokinetic units at the 4.4-MW Mississippi Lock and Dam No. 2 project. This dam on the Mississippi River is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The units are based on the patented technology of Hydro Green Energy LLC, of Houston, Texas, a partner in the hydrokinetic project. Hydro Green Energy said one turbine was installed in December 2008, with the second to be installed in April 2009. The units are suspended from a barge in the tailrace of the dam. They are expected to generate 364 megawatt-hours annually.

In December 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) amended the operating license for the Lock and Dam No. 2 project, approving the first installation of a hydrokinetic power device at an existing U.S. hydroelectric project.

At the 4.4-MW Mississippi Lock and Dam No. 2 project, one 35-kW hydrokinetic unit is operating, supplied by Hydro Green Energy LLC. A second unit is to be installed in April 2009. The unit is suspended from a barge in the tailrace of the dam. (Photo courtesy Mark Stover, Hydro Green Energy)
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FERC staff completed an environmental assessment (EA) of the proposal in September 2008. The commission’s 34-page order adopts some recommendations from the EA, including: more water quality monitoring, a broader approach to evaluating fish entrainment and survival, development of a zebra mussel control plan, and development and implementation of a bird monitoring plan.

The order also requires the city of Hastings to modify turbine operations or remove the turbines or barge if monitoring results show adverse effects on water quality, fish, or diving birds.

Verdant to file application with FERC for RITE project

Verdant Power Inc. is moving forward with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing of its 1.05-MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project. In November 2008, the company filed a notice of intent (NOI) to file an application for an original license for the hydrokinetic pilot project.

The proposed project, in the east channel of the East River in New York City, would consist of 30 35-kW Kinetic Hydropower System turbine-generator units; underwater cable to carry electricity produced to a control room on shore; and appurtenant facilities for navigation and operation. The project is expected to generate 1,680 to 2,500 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.

The filing included:

In December 2008, FERC solicited comments on the pre-filing materials and approved Verdant Power’s request to be designated the non-federal representative for both section 7 and section 106. FERC did not act on the company’s request to use the pilot project licensing procedures.

OPT operates wave units in Hawaii, New Jersey

Wave energy developer Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is operating a wave power unit near Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. OPT launched the unit in November 2008 under the company’s ongoing program with the U.S. Navy for installation of its PowerBuoy system off the U.S. Marine base at Kaneohe Bay.

The unit is located a mile off the coast of Oahu, in 100 feet of water. Resembling an ocean buoy, it is based on OPT’s proprietary design. The unit generates power by moving up and down on a central spar as waves pass by. The unit will be connected to the Oahu power grid.

OPT said the Navy added $300,000 funding to provide for extended operation of the PowerBuoy system.

In October 2008, OPT commissioned a 40-kW PowerBuoy system in the Atlantic Ocean 75 miles off the coast of New Jersey, also under contract from the Navy.

A PowerBuoy unit, manufactured by Ocean Power Technologies, is operating off the U.S. Marine base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. A second PowerBuoy unit is operating in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey.
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At this location, the Navy is studying the PowerBuoy for its Deep Water Active Detection System program. The Navy plans to test the PowerBuoy as a power source for the program, which uses data gathering and communications systems, and unattended sensor networks over wide areas of ocean. In November 2008, the Navy awarded a $3 million contract to OPT to continue its participation in the program. The new contract provides for ocean testing of an advanced version of the autonomous PowerBuoy for the Navy’s operational requirements, OPT said.

OPT receives funds to advance Oregon wave project

OPT also recently received nearly $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support the company’s 2.1-MW wave power project in Reedsport, Ore.

OPT said it would use the money to help fund fabrication, assembly, and factory testing of the first PowerBuoy system to be installed at the Reedsport site. Much of the 150-kW PB150 PowerBuoy system will be manufactured and assembled in Oregon.

Money for the award was included as a congressional earmark by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Installation of the first PB150 PowerBuoy is the first phase of an OPT project to install ten such systems generating a total of 1.5 MW at a site about 2.5 miles off the coast of Oregon. The first PowerBuoy is expected to be ready for deployment in the second half of 2009, the company said. After deployment, OPT plans to manufacture and install the additional nine systems. The company expects the systems will begin operating in 2010, following receipt of federal regulatory approvals.

OPT, headquartered in Pennington, N.J., originally received a preliminary permit to study a 50-MW Reedsport OPT Wave Park. It later filed notice with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that it intends to apply for a hydropower license to build and operate a 2.1-MW version of the project.

Department of Energy forming ocean energy R&D partnerships

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is establishing research, testing, and product development partnerships with developers of two ocean energy technologies, Verdant Power and Resolute Marine Power.

DOE’s Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program selected the companies based on proposals for Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) partnerships. CRADA partnerships are expected to leverage industry experience and needs with the technology research and development expertise of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Laboratories.

Verdant Power

NREL and Sandia are to work with Verdant, of New York, through one-year agreements, to develop a new composite-based rotor design. Under the CRADA agreements, NREL will contribute $300,000 of resources and Sandia will contribute $150,000 of resources. Verdant is to contribute a similar share of in-kind resources.

The partners expect to produce refined rotor designs for handling high current flows, and rotors with larger diameters. The work will be used to help develop tools and methodologies, including hydrodynamic modeling and load calculation methods, that can be applied to Verdant’s rotor design, DOE said.

Resolute Marine Power

NREL is working with Resolute Marine, of Watertown, Mass., to establish a CRADA partnership, beginning in the first quarter of 2009. DOE said the agreement is expected to enable the partners to develop methods for evaluating wave energy concepts and classify their effectiveness in terms of cost and energy.

DOE said it would contribute $50,000 to the partnership. Resolute Marine is expected to make a similar contribution, the government said.

FERC claims jurisdiction over ocean energy projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) continues to assert that it has jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), despite a competing claim by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS).

In October 2008, FERC addressed the jurisdictional question in a rehearing order involving two preliminary permits granted to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) to study developing wave energy projects on the OCS off the California coast. The projects are 40-MW PG&E Humboldt WaveConnect and 40-MW Mendocino WaveConnect. FERC issued both permits in March 2008.

The MMS asserted FERC only has jurisdiction to issue preliminary permits and licenses for projects within state waters, typically extending 3 nautical miles offshore. Projects beyond state waters are considered to be on the OCS. FERC said the Federal Power Act (FPA) gives it authority to issue preliminary permits and licenses for projects on the OCS.

First, FERC said, the law expressly grants FERC jurisdiction to license in “navigable waters” without limitation, as is the case in “streams or other bodies of water over which Congress has jurisdiction.” That, FERC said, means the commission has jurisdiction over hydro projects such as those being studied under the two preliminary permits held by PG&E.

The second authority, it said, stems from the projects being on “reservations” of the U.S. FERC concluded the OCS is land owned by the U.S., qualifying it as a “reservation” under FPA. It noted the U.S. Supreme Court has held the U.S. owns the submerged lands off its shores.

FERC also disputed an Interior Department assertion the Energy Policy Act of 2005 intended for Interior to be the lead federal regulatory authority over wave and ocean current energy projects on the OCS. In its order, FERC said the Energy Policy Act does not limit the scope of FERC’s authority over hydroelectric power or withdraw FERC jurisdiction over projects on the OCS.

The MMS issued proposed rules in July 2008 in which it maintained MMS is the lead federal agency for regulating ocean and tidal energy projects on the OCS. In September 2008, FERC staff urged MMS to back away from plans to regulate ocean energy projects.

Warrior Girl Corp. to buy hydrokinetic turbine developer

Warrior Girl Corp. of Ewing, N.J., is buying American Hydro Energy Co., developer of a slow-moving hydrokinetic turbine designed to generate electricity from river currents.

Warrior Girl said it is involved in development and deployment of technologies in hydropower. Under terms of a letter of intent signed in November 2008, Warrior Girl will acquire all stock in American Hydro Energy, of Little Falls, Idaho, in return for restricted shares of common stock in Warrior Girl. The purchase is subject to due diligence by both parties.

American Hydro Energy said it has developed proprietary techniques to increase the natural river flow velocity passing through a turbine, roughly based on the “venturi effect,” common in rocketry and jet engine applications. One venturi system forces water into the turbine while a second venturi system creates a low-pressure region that pulls water through the turbine, increasing water speed.

American Hydro Energy’s business plan states it is working on a project to develop a $10 million, 10-MW river flow hydropower system that will be placed “at a strategic location” in southern Idaho, in the Snake River.


The California Public Utilities Commission rejected Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s (PG&E) proposal to purchase electricity from the 2-MW Humboldt County Offshore Wave Energy project. PG&E signed a power purchase agreement with developer Finavera Renewables Inc. in December 2007. The commission said it found Humboldt is not viable. It also found the contract price to be unreasonable. ... Developers expect to benefit from Congress’ extension of production tax credits (PTC) for renewable energy projects and the expansion of the PTC law to include ocean energy and in-stream hydrokinetic projects. Production tax credits will be allowed for marine renewable energy facilities of at least 150 kW that are placed in service between Oct. 3, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2011. The tax credit rate for marine renewables is 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for ten years.

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