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The Leading Edge

Maine to streamline tidal power permitting process

If passed, legislation in Maine would streamline the permitting process for tidal energy projects off the coast. The proposed bill, An Act to Streamline the General Permit Process for Tidal Power, would simplify the process for developers and reduce overlapping policies between state and federal authorities.

To be eligible for an expedited permit process for small tidal projects under Maine law, the applicant must have documentation from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) stating that the project would not have a significant impact on environmental quality at the site. But to receive this approval, FERC requires the project to first be approved by the state.

In response to this problem, state Senator Mike Thibodeau and Representative Joyce Maker went before the legislature with a proposed amendment to the law. Known as LD 437, the bill would allow the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to receive and process a developer's application without the results of the federal environmental assessment.

After a public hearing in March, Maine's Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources recommended the bill pass and the law be amended.

The bill now goes before the Senate and House for consideration and voting.

Department of Energy plans marine power impact research

A competitive funding opportunity recently announced by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Program was designed to help reduce market barriers commonly faced by the marine and hydrokinetic technology industries.

DOE said it would collaborate with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in divvying up US$1.9 million in funding between 11 recipients to finance projects that address data needs and an increased understanding of the environmental effects of MHK technology. The letters of intent were submitted in April.

Included in DOE's Marine and Hydrokinetic Environmental Effects Assessment and Monitoring program were allocations for:

- Fish Behavior and Mortality Around Hydrokinetic Turbines (One Award: $200,000-$500,000): This project will quantify the behavior of fish around tidal or current turbines, with an emphasis on avoidance behaviors;

- Environmental Monitoring of MHK Projects (Four Awards: $150,000-$400,000 each): Through collection of environmental monitoring data from deployed MHK devices, awarded projects will help to reduce uncertainty for high-priority environmental questions regarding MHK technologies;

- Analysis of Environmental Effects of MHK Surrogate Technologies (Two to Six Awards: $50,000-$150,000 each): Projects will analyze existing data from surrogate technologies with stressors and receptors similar to those expected from MHK technologies, in order to characterize the potential environmental risk posed by MHK device deployments.

"The lessons learned as a result of this competitive solicitation will be shared with regulators and other MHK stakeholders, helping to inform the future of the industry while supporting pioneering MHK projects," DOE said.

DOE collected letters of intent through April 18 and is now organizing and expediting the merit review process.

FERC, Coast Guard to cooperate on hydrokinetic project licensing

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and U.S. Coast Guard have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the development and licensing of hydrokinetic energy projects, including ocean energy and stream power projects.

The FERC-Coast Guard memorandum, released March 12, is to advance interagency cooperation in protecting navigation safety, maritime security and environmental resources when considering license proposals for hydrokinetic energy projects.

FERC reviews the citing of, and issues licenses for, the construction and operation of non-federal hydropower projects, including hydrokinetic projects. The Coast Guard regulates, and is an expert on, matters related to safety of navigation, maritime security and marine environmental stewardship in waters subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S.

The agencies said the agreement would improve their ability to establish a joint timetable, identify critical issues early, acquire and share information efficiently, and collaborate on analysis.

The MOU may be obtained at www.ferc.gov/legal/maj-ord-reg/mou/mou-usch-03-2013.pdf.


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