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The Leading Edge

U.S., Washington State coordinate hydrokinetic project review

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the state of Washington are coordinating procedures and schedules for reviewing hydrokinetic energy projects in Washington State waters. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said this coordination will reduce some of the regulatory barriers to developing the emerging forms of hydrokinetic technology.

FERC and the state agree:

FERC said the agreement ensures the governments will undertake their regulatory efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner that recognizes economic and cultural factors.

In 2008, the state of Washington appealed the nation’s first hydrokinetic project license, arguing FERC may not issue a “conditional” license before obtaining state permits and authorizations. FERC issued the conditioned license in December 2007 to Finavera Renewables Ocean Energy Ltd. for the 1-MW Makah Bay Offshore Pilot Project. FERC had said a conditioned license does not authorize construction or installation and expressly stated that no such authority would be granted until Finavera obtained all necessary authorizations, which it had obtained. However, Finavera surrendered the Makah Bay license in April 2009.

U.S. completes rules for offshore renewable energy development

The U.S. Department of Interior issued guidelines in April 2009 for leasing the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for renewable energy production under joint oversight with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Interior’s Minerals Management Service is to issue two types of leases for development of renewable resources off U.S. coasts. Long-term leases of about 25 years will cover construction and energy production of offshore projects. Limited leases will allow data collection and technology testing over about five years.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff signed a memorandum of understanding in April clarifying their agencies’ jurisdictional responsibilities for regulating renewable energy projects on the OCS. This agreement clears the way for developing wind, solar, wave, tidal, and ocean current energy sources. Under the agreement, Interior has exclusive jurisdiction over offshore wind and solar energy. FERC is to oversee offshore projects that generate electricity from wave and tidal energy.

In addition to establishing a process of granting leases, easements, and rights of way for offshore renewable energy development, the new program also establishes methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewables projects with adjacent coastal states.

The final framework is available at www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2009-09462_PI.pdf.

Alstom Hydro licenses Clean Current tidal technology

Hydro equipment manufacturer Alstom Hydro acquired an exclusive worldwide license for ocean and tidal stream applications for Clean Current Power Systems Inc.’s patented technology.

Alstom Hydro is a joint venture of Alstom and Bouygues of France. Clean Current is a Canadian developer of hydrokinetic tidal energy technology.

Clean Current’s tidal energy technology consists of an underwater horizontal-axis ducted turbine with a direct drive variable-speed permanent magnet generator. The turbine generator is equally efficient in both directions to take advantage of two-way tidal currents, the companies said.

In addition, Alstom Hydro and Clean Current will cooperate to further develop technology, deploy demonstration units, and position Alstom Hydro as an equipment and turnkey provider for tidal stream farms. Alstom said it plans to commercialize its first tidal stream products by 2012.

British Columbia-based Clean Current is one of several companies previously named to pursue tidal demonstration projects in the Minas Passage area of Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy.

Developers advance tidal projects in Washington, Nova Scotia

Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) in Washington selected OpenHydro of Ireland to design, build, and install up to three marine turbines at a 1-MW tidal energy pilot plant in Admiralty Inlet. And OpenHydro awarded a C$1.7 million (US$1.5 million) contract to Cherubini Metal Works of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to build a subsea base for a tidal energy demonstration project in the province’s Bay of Fundy.

The pilot project in Admiralty Inlet, in Puget Sound west of Whidbey Island, Wash., could begin operating in 2011, producing up to 1 MW, the utility said. The tidal devices are to be connected to subsea electric cable linked to transmission lines on Whidbey Island. The turbines are to be positioned outside of the main shipping channel and ferry routes, the utility said.

In the next two years, Snohomish PUD is to focus on finalizing its engineering plans and obtaining approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and other state and federal agencies. In addition, the utility said it plans to conduct studies to better assess tidal flows, seabed composition, the presence of fish and marine mammals, cable routes, and interconnection options.

During the Admiralty Inlet pilot project, Snohomish PUD is to conduct in-water testing and monitoring to address issues related to tidal turbine performance, cost, and environmental effects. It plans to place up to three horizontal-axis tidal devices on the seabed floor. The units will measure 50 feet in height and can spin either way, depending on the direction of the tides.

The turbines will be manufactured at OpenHydro’s technical design and assembly center in Ireland. The company’s commercial-scale test turbine is operating at the European Marine Energy Center in Scotland.

In Nova Scotia, the subsea base will provide foundations for OpenHydro and partner Nova Scotia Power to install OpenHydro’s first 1-MW turbine in the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Passage area. Roughly the height of a two-story house, the 10-meter-diameter turbine could generate electricity to power 800 homes.

The subsea base is expected to create 25 jobs over several months, with work expected to be complete by August 2009, the government said. Pending environmental approvals, the turbine is expected to go into the water in the fall of 2009.

FERC dismisses seven Outer Continental Shelf projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dismissed preliminary permit applications filed by Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co. LLC to study developing seven 100-MW projects at sites in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

FERC said its action is consistent with a memorandum of understanding with the Interior Department that clarifies the agencies’ jurisdictional responsibilities for renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

In its applications, Grays Harbor said it intended to study the feasibility of hydrokinetic projects in the Atlantic Ocean 12 to 25 miles off the coasts of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, and in the Pacific Ocean 5 to 30 miles off the coasts of California and Hawaii. FERC’s April 2009 order noted submerged lands beyond 3 miles from shore are considered part of the OCS.

Briefly...

Free Flow Power Corp. surrendered preliminary permits granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the feasibility of developing ten hydrokinetic projects totaling 433.2 MW at sites on the Ohio River. Free Flow said the energy generation potential of the sites is not sufficient to justify further development. ... The University of Maine and its partners are using a $951,000 federal appropriation to advance development of Maine’s tidal power resource. The money will enable researchers at the Maine Maritime Academy to move forward in evaluating the potential environmental effect of harnessing tidal energy off the coast of Eastport, Maine, the university said.


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