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FERC, Interior issue guide on Outer Continental Shelf hydrokinetics

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Department of the Interior have issued a guidance document on regulation of hydrokinetic project development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The document builds on the agencies' agreement in April 2009 that clarified the jurisdictional responsibilities of FERC and Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) for regulating ocean energy projects on the offshore OCS. Interior also issued guidelines in April 2009 for leasing the OCS for renewable energy production.

Under the agreement, the Interior Department has jurisdiction over non-hydrokinetic offshore energy, such as wind and solar energy projects, while FERC will oversee offshore projects that generate electricity from wave and tidal currents.

However, the agreement provides that MMS has exclusive jurisdiction to issue leases, easements, and rights of way regarding OCS lands for hydrokinetic projects. FERC will not issue a license or exemption for an OCS hydrokinetic project until the applicant first has obtained a lease, easement, or right of way from MMS for the site. FERC will not issue preliminary permits for OCS projects.

"This guidance document is designed to provide information to applicants and stakeholders about the respective responsibilities of each agency and how to best navigate the process of obtaining a hydrokinetic lease and license on the OCS," the document said.

The guide uses a format of frequently asked questions on the topics of: general requirements and definitions; provisions for obtaining a lease and license; municipalities and competition; lease and license terms; financial assurance requirements; fee structures; hybrid project considerations; "straddle" projects on the boundary between state waters and the OCS; and contact information.

— The document, "MMS/FERC Guidance on Regulation of Hydrokinetic Energy Projects on the OCS," may be obtained at: www.ferc.gov. The MMS issued "Guidance for the Minerals Management Service Renewable Energy Framework" is available at: www.mms.gov.

Official opening celebrated for Hastings hydrokinetic turbine

Federal, state, and city officials celebrated the opening of what has been billed as the first federally-licensed hydrokinetic power project in the U.S. This project, on the Mississippi River in Hastings, Minn., will feature two hydrokinetic turbines suspended from a barge in the tailrace of the 4.4-MW Mississippi Lock and Dam No. 2 project.

The August 20, 2009, celebration marked the first production of a 100-kW turbine manufactured by Houston-based Hydro Green Energy LLC. The second turbine will be installed in 2010. Together, the two units provide an addition capacity of up to 250 kW at the dam, which is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Philip Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said the startup of this hydrokinetic power turbine is a "step forward in the advancement of hydrokinetic technologies."

Philip Moeller
Philip Moeller

Philip Moeller, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, flips the switch to start operation of a 100-kW hydrokinetic turbine suspended from a barge in the tailrace of the 4.4-MW Mississippi Lock and Dam No. 2 project. Federal, state, and city officials celebrated the opening of the project, in Minnesota, in August 2009. (Photos courtesy Hydro Green Energy)

Hydro Green Energy also said Normandeau Associates, an environmental consulting firm, evaluated the turbine's direct effect on fish. Pre-installation computer modeling indicated an estimated 97.5 percent fish survival rating for the turbine, Hydro Green Energy said.

"The preliminary results on the Hastings fish study confirm what we knew and, in fact, exceed our expectations and modeling," said Wayne Krouse, chairman and chief executive officer of Hydro Green Energy.

Researchers enhancing operation of turbines in East River

To increase the efficiency and performance of multi-turbine arrays in New York City's East River, researchers at St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) are analyzing the river's tides.

This work, being performed at SAFL at the University of Minnesota, is being funded through a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

SAFL Director Fotis Sotiropoulos will lead a team of researchers to improve the design of underwater turbines used in the 1.05-MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project. This project, which began operating in 2006, is funded by DOE, Verdant Power, private industry, and the university's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.

The test array currently installed in the river consists of six Free Flow turbines supplied by Verdant Power. Five of those turbines have grid-connected generators.

Using computer models from SAFL, researchers will analyze the river's tides and enhance the kinetic hydropower system so it can generate power from higher water velocities.

SAFL said the strong tides of the East River "wreaked havoc" on earlier turbine designs. In the summer of 2008, six newer turbines were installed and are providing power to a nearby parking garage and supermarket.

Float Inc. developing Rho-Cee wave energy converter

Float Inc. in San Diego, Calif., is developing the Rho-Cee wave energy converter (WEC) system. This system relies on tuned oscillating water column technology, says Dr. Neal A. Brown, vice president of Float Inc.

The name Rho-Cee derives from the Greek symbol rho, which denotes sea-water mass density, and C, the length-dependent velocity of water gravity waves. The input impedance of the Rho-Cee design matches the characteristic impedance of the targeted waves, which maximizes the energy captured, Brown says. Wave impedance is the ratio of wave pressure-to-water particle velocity.

The company is examining the type of equipment to be used to convert the captured wave energy into electricity, Brown says. Leading options include unidirectional reaction-type air-turbines driving alternators, and long-stroke hydraulic cylinders with accumulators, hydraulic motors, and controls.

The Rho-Cee converter is integrated with Float's pneumatically stabilized platform that provides stability, deck area, and a significant potential-energy storage capacity, Brown says. Both the Rho-Cee and platform structures are made of pre-stressed, reinforced concrete, avoiding problems with sea-water corrosion, he says. All equipment requiring inspection and maintenance will be "in the dry" and fully accessible by personnel.

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