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Bill introduced to aid American marine hydrokinetic industry

Legislation introduced to the U.S. Senate in early August could help remove regulatory obstacles and encourage research and development in the marine hydrokinetic energy sector. The bill, introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013, or S. 1419.

The bill includes measures for renewable energy produced by waves, currents, ocean tides and free-flowing water in lakes and rivers.

The bill reauthorizes the Department of Energy's National Marine Renewable Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Centers at the University of Washington, Oregon State University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of Hawaii. The legislation also designates the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency to coordinate environmental reviews, while setting a goal of licensing pilot programs in one year or less.

University receives grant for marine energy research

A US$600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the University of Minnesota's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) to launch a new collaborative project to advance research, innovation and training in marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technology.

The two-year grant is being provided via the foundation's Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program and will "promote the growing MHK industry by enhancing the performance and resilience of MHK technologies while ensuring environmental compatibility," according to an SAFL release.

Much of the research will center around New York's 1.05-MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project, which became the first tidal project to earn Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing, in January 2012.

The laboratory said the effort will combine its computational modeling and research capabilities with project developer Verdant Power's industry and field expertise, plus the materials science and manufacturing of Energetx Composites Inc., which is is supplying materials.

Researchers at SAFL will develop a "high-performance computing simulation toolbox" that will provide an in-depth understanding of how turbines perform in real-life aquatic environments, SAFL said. Information will then be used to not only improve turbine design, but also to optimize RITE's array. Eventually, the site is to house as many as 30 units.

The grant will also be used to improve the MHK workforce through the development of a four-year hydrology degree program at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., an institution focusing on increasing the Native American presence in the geosciences.

BOEM releases EA for offshore marine hydrokinetic testing

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released an environmental assessment in August in response to a lease request by Florida Atlantic University's Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (FAU SNMREC).

BOEM gave a finding of "no significant impact" in the environmental statement, regarding a lease request to test marine hydrokinetic technology 9 to 15 nautical miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. This is the first ever ocean energy test site proposed in the U.S.

FAU SNMREC submitted an application to test devices in the lease area in August 2011. BOEM released an environmental assessment in April 2012, before revising the currently published assessment and reporting the findings. The revised edition was released to include the most updated information.

The devices to be tested are various ocean current turbine models. FAU SNMREC has received nearly US $20 million to deploy "test berths" as early as 2014 in the Gulf Stream.

According to a release from BOEM, the assessment evaluated the impacts and effects of the lease and subsequent testing, such as "surveys, installing mooring and telemetry buoys, and testing of equipment designed to use the Florida current to generate electricity."

The finding of no significant impact (FONSI), states that the "environmental impacts associated with the proposed action and alternatives would not significantly impact the environment," according to BOEM.

The lease application, FONSI and EA are all available for viewing at www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Florida.

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