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Tidal turbines off Marrowstone proceed toward permits November 9, 2009

25563aPlans are moving ahead to place a trio of underwater, tide-powered turbines on the sea floor one-third of a mile east of Marrowstone Island’s Nodule Point.

A briefing held Oct. 22 in Port Townsend for federal, state and local regulators revealed details of the pilot project, which is being managed by the U.S. Navy based on a direct multi-million-dollar appropriation inserted by a group of congressmen into the 2009 defense budget.

The trio of turbines, each resembling squat versions of Eastern Washington’s wind generators, would rise 36 feet up from the sea floor in 72 feet of water at a zero tide. The 4-ton turbines would be bolted to the three corners of a massive steel triangular platform that weighs some 40 tons.

Thanks to swift and consistent tidal ebbs and flows off east Marrowstone, the three uncovered blades on each unit would sweep through the seawater with a 16.4-foot diameter cycle at about 40 revolutions per minute – the tips moving 34 feet per second.

All three units are designed to swing 180 degrees when the tide shifts. The tidal current off Marrowstone is sufficient to power the turbines only for about six hours per day, according to reports.

Temporary project

The installation is designed to be a temporary pilot project to test the ability of the turbines to operate in a remote saltwater environment. The plan calls for the entire platform to be lifted from the sea floor within a year of installation. If permits and funding come through, the installation could happen over a three-week period in the early fall of 2011 or 2012.

Boaters would be warned away from the array by floating and lighted buoys that mark off a 1,300-foot by 1,300-foot surface area. Proponents say that in an existing experimental display of the underwater turbines in the East River off Manhattan in New York, fish tend to steer clear of the rotating turbines. However, an official said at the Oct. 22 briefing that it might be possible to brake the blades to a halt if marine mammals are detected in the area.

Power from the turbines would flow through a trio of cables to a junction box on the platform, and from there to a second junction box on the ocean floor about 140 feet beyond. From there, the steel-jacketed, 2-inch-diameter trunk cable would reach shore through a unique horizontal borehole that bypasses tidal zones and coastal zone disturbances.

The project, called the Navy Puget Sound Hydrokinetic Project (NPS-KHPS), is being managed by the Navy, thanks to the congressional appropriation that has already approved $2.4 million for what could be a $14 million total over five years, according to the Navy’s Mike McCallister, who led the briefing on Oct. 22. The Navy intends to bring the power ashore to Naval Magazine Indian Island.

Horizontal drilling
The power cable could come to Indian Island after coming ashore at an east Marrowstone park, and then be carried by overhead wires to the naval base with the cooperation of Puget Sound Energy. Or the cable could snake underwater for some four miles around the southern end of Marrowstone to the southern end of Indian Island near Oak Bay Park and come ashore directly. While discussion has taken place about the PSE option, no decisions have been made.

A unique technology called “horizontal directional drilling” is expected to minimize environmental impacts of bringing the power cable ashore. A borehole is drilled from the land that bends downward and then moves horizontally below the beach until it punches through into saltwater 60 to 90 feet below the intertidal zone. A flexible PVC pipe is placed in the borehole, and later the power cable is pulled through the pipe.

An on-shore vault is the landward anchor for the cable. When the power gets to Indian Island, a small monitoring station tracks the power, monitors the underwater location and controls the turbines.

The NPS-KHPS tidal generator proposal is a pilot project to demonstrate the underwater tidal technology in a remote saltwater environment. It is still in the preapplication phase under the National Environmental Protection Act, with the Navy as the lead agency.

Stacie Hoskins of the Jefferson County Department of Community Development, who attended the Oct. 22 briefing, said the county has no direct oversight over the project, as no county permits are needed. However the state Department of Ecology (DOE) is involved and is charged with ensuring that the project complies with county shorelines laws before issuing state permits.

Rebekah Padgett, federal permit manager with DOE, said her review would take county code into account. Other state and federal officials are looking at possible impacts on marine life, she said. Other key agencies are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

By Scott Wilson,The Leader – http://www.ptleader.com/main.asp?SectionID=36&SubSectionID=55&ArticleID=25563

 

Public Forum to explore tidal energy issues in Wash. September 9, 2009

Filed under: Utility Companies,Washington,Wave/Tidal Power — nwrenewablenews @ 5:38 pm
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Scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Labs at Sequim Bay will speak at the meeting of the Island County Marine Resources Committee at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the Island County Commissioners’ hearing room, 6th and Main streets, Coupeville. The public is invited.

Speakers will be Dr. Andrea Copping and Simon Geerlofs.

Snohomish Public Utility District is preparing to test several tidal energy generators within the next two years in deep waters about half- mile offshore from Fort Casey.

Tidal and wave energy are known to be far more predictable than wind or solar power, officials agree. They might one day provide an important part of the Northwest’s portfolio of clean, renewable energy, bringing green jobs and economic development to Washington. But questions remain about the potential effects on marine mammals, salmon and fragile ecosystems.

The Pacific Northwest National Lab is engaged in research to avoid and mitigate environmental effects in Puget Sound and the outer coast. It is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratory system. The Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sequim Bay is the DOE’s only marine laboratory.

Whidbey Examiner - http://www.whidbeyexaminer.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=2948

 

Wash. Energy lab will study producing hydrokenetic power September 5, 2009

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., will receive more than $6.8 million over three years to advance the production of energy from ocean waves and moving rivers.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy will pay for a project that examines the environmental impacts of marine and hydrokinetic power. Marine power includes power harnessed from the flux of ocean tides and waves, while hydrokinetic refers to power generated from flowing freshwater without dams.

The project will examine the risks that the power generation techniques pose for the environment and wildlife, conduct laboratory and field experiments to further investigate certain risks, and predict the long-term impact of full-scale energy installations.

Some of the issues include how fish and marine mammals are directly affected by water power devices, including induced electromagnetic fields, noise and blade strike. Researchers will examine whether producing these kinds of power could create “dead zones” by interfering with the ocean’s circulation and nutrient patterns.

Staff from PNNL’s offices in Seattle, Portland, Richland and Sequim, Wash., will work together on the project. The study will be done in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Pacific Energy Ventures, an Oregon renewable energy consulting firm, will take part in the project as well.

Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian – http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2009/09/energy_lab_will_study_producin.html

 

Obama move to cut wave power funding upsets NW advocates May 30, 2009

The Obama administration has proposed a 25 percent cut in the research and development budget for one of the most promising renewable energy sources in the Northwest – wave and tidal power.

At the same time the White House sought an 82 percent increase in solar power research funding, a 36 percent increase in wind power funding and a 14 percent increase in geothermal funding. But it looked to cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million.

The decision to cut funding came only weeks after the Interior Department suggested that wave power could emerge as the leading offshore energy source in the Northwest and at a time when efforts to develop tidal power in Puget Sound are attracting national and international attention.

By some estimates, wave and tidal power could eventually meet 10 percent of the nation’s electricity demand, about the same as hydropower currently delivers. Some experts have estimated that if only 0.2 percent of energy in ocean waves could be harnessed, the power produced would be enough to supply the entire world.

In addition to Puget Sound and the Northwest coast, tidal and wave generators have been installed, planned or talked about in New York’s East River, in Maine, Alaska, off Atlantic City, N.J., and Hawaii. However, they’d generate only small amounts of power.

The Europeans are leaders when it comes to tidal and wave energy, with projects considered, planned or installed in Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland and Norway. There have also been discussions about projects in South Korea, the Philippines, India and Canada’s Maritime provinces.

The proposed cut, part of the president’s budget submitted to Congress, has disappointed Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“Wave and tidal power holds great promise in helping to meet America’s long-term energy needs,” Murray said, adding that Washington state is a leader in its development. “It’s time for the Department of Energy to focus on this potential. But playing budget games won’t get the work done.”

Murray’s staff said that while $16.8 billion in the recently passed stimulus bill is reserved for renewable energy and energy efficiency, none of it is earmarked for wave and tidal power.

Energy Department spokesman Tom Welch, however, said the Obama administration is asking for 10 times more for tidal and wave power than the Bush administration did.

“The trend line is up,” Welch said. “The department is collaborating with industry, regulators and other stakeholders to develop water resources, including conventional hydro.”

Murray sees it differently. Congress appropriated $40 million for the current year, so the Obama administration proposal actually would cut funding by a fourth.

Utility officials involved in developing tidal energy sources said the administration’s approach was shortsighted.

“We need all the tools in the tool belt,” said Steve Klein, general manager of the Snohomish County Public Utility District. “It’s dangerous to anoint certain sources and ignore others.”

The Snohomish PUD could have a pilot plant using three tidal generators installed on a seabed in Puget Sound in 2011. The tidal generators, built by an Irish company, are 50 feet tall and can spin either way depending on the direction of the tides. The units will be submerged, with 80 feet of clearance from their tops to the water’s surface. They’ll be placed outside of shipping channels and ferry routes.

The pilot plant is expected to produce one megawatt of electricity, or enough to power about 700 homes. If the pilot plant proves successful, the utility would consider installing a project that powered 10,000 homes.

“A lot of people are watching us,” Klein said.

The Navy, under pressure from Congress to generate 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, will install a pilot tidal generating project in Puget Sound near Port Townsend next year.

In Washington state, law requires that the larger utilities obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The law sets up interim targets of 3 percent by 2012 and 9 percent by 2016.

Most of the attention so far has focused on developing large wind farms east of the Cascade Mountains. Because wind blows intermittently, however, the region also needs a more reliable source of alternative energy. Tidal and wave fit that need. Also, at least with tidal, the generators would be closer to population centers than the wind turbines in eastern Washington.

“The potential is significant and (tidal and wave) could accomplish a large fraction of the renewable energy portfolio for the state,” said Charles Brandt, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s marine sciences lab in Sequim.

LES BLUMENTHAL, THE BELLINGHAM HERALDhttp://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/761430.html

 

Ocean power surges amid tide of energy alternatives May 9, 2009

Three miles off the craggy, wave-crashing coastline near Humboldt Bay, Calif., deep ocean swells roll through a swath of ocean that is soon to be the site of the nation’s first major wave-power project.

Like other renewable energy technology, ocean power generated by waves, tidal currents, or steady offshore winds has been considered full of promise yet perennially years from reaching full-blown commercial development.

That’s still true – commercial-scale deployment is at least five years away. Yet there are fresh signs that ocean power is surging. And if all goes well, WaveConnect, the wave-energy pilot project at Humboldt that’s being developed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), could by next year deploy five commercial-scale wave systems, each putting 1 megawatt of ocean-generated power onto the electric grid.

At less than 1 percent of the capacity of a big coal-fired power plant, that might seem a pittance. Yet studies show that wave energy could one day produce enough power to supply 17 percent of California’s electric needs – and make a sizable dent in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nationwide, ocean power’s potential is far larger. Waves alone could produce 10,000 megawatts of power, about 6.5 percent of US electricity demand – or as much as produced by conventional hydropower dam generators, estimated the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the public utility industry based in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2007. All together, offshore wind, tidal power, and waves could meet 10 percent of US electricity needs.

That potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Obama administration. After years of jurisdictional bickering, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Interior last month moved to clarify permitting requirements that have long slowed ocean energy development.

While the Bush administration requested zero for its Department of Energy ocean-power R&D budget a few years ago, the agency has reversed course and now plans to quadruple funding to $40 million in the next fiscal year.

If the WaveConnect pilot project succeeds, experts say that the Humboldt site, along with another off Mendocino County to the south, could expand to 80 megawatts. Success there could fling open the door to commercial-scale projects not only along California’s surf-pounding coast but prompt a bicoastal US wave-power development surge.

“Even without much support, ocean power has proliferated in the last two to three years, with many more companies trying new and different technology,” says George Hagerman, an ocean-energy researcher at the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington, Va.

Wave and tidal-current energy are today at about the same stage as land-based wind power was in the early 1980s, he says, but with “a lot more development just waiting to see that first commercial success.”

More than 50 companies worldwide and 17 US-based companies are now developing ocean power prototypes, an EPRI survey shows. As of last fall, FERC tallied 34 tidal-power and nine wave-power permits with another 20 tidal-current, four wave-energy, and three ocean-current applications pending.

Some of those permits are held by Christopher Sauer’s company, Ocean Renewable Power of Portland, Maine, which expects to deploy an underwater tidal-current generator in a channel near Eastport, Maine, later this year.

After testing a prototype since December 2007, Mr. Sauer is now ready to deploy a far more powerful series of turbines using “foils” – not unlike an airplane propeller – to efficiently convert water current that’s around six knots into as much as 100,000 watts of power. To do that requires a series of “stacked” turbines totaling 52 feet wide by 14 feet high.

“This is definitely not a tinkertoy,” Sauer says.

Tidal energy, as demonstrated by Verdant Power’s efforts in New York City’s East River, could one day provide the US with 3,000 megawatts of power, EPRI says. Yet a limited number of appropriate sites with fast current means that wave- and offshore-wind power have the largest potential.

“Wave-power technology is still very much in emerging pre-commercial stage,” says Roger Bedard, ocean technology leader for EPRI. “But what we’re seeing with the PG&E WaveConnect is an important project that could have a significant impact.”

Funding is a problem. As with most renewable power, financing for ocean power has been becalmed by the nation’s financial crisis. Some 17 Wall Street finance companies that had funded renewables, including ocean power, are now down to about seven, says John Miller, director of the Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Even so, entrepreneurs like Sauer aren’t close to giving up – and even believe that the funding tide may have turned. Private equity and the state of Maine provided funding at a critical time, he says.

“It’s really been a struggle, particularly since mid-September when Bear Sterns went down,” Sauers says. “We worked without pay for a while, but we made it through.”

Venture capitalists are not involved in ocean energy right now, he admits. Yet he does get his phone calls returned. “They’re not writing checks yet, but they’re talking more,” he says.

When they do start writing checks, it may be to propel devices such as the Pelamis and the PowerBuoy. Makers of those devices, and more than a dozen wave-power companies worldwide, will soon vie to be among five businesses selected to send their machines to the ocean off Humboldt.

One of the major challenges they will face is “survivability” in the face of towering winter waves. By that measure, one of the more successful generators – success defined by time at sea without breaking or sinking – is the Pelamis, a series of red metal cylinders connected by hinges and hydraulic pistons.

Looking a bit like a red bullet train, several of the units were until recently floating on the undulating sea surface off the coast of Portugal. The Pelamis coverts waves to electric power as hydraulic cylinders connecting its floating cylinders expand and contract thereby squeezing fluid through a power unit that extracts energy.

An evaluation of a Pelamis unit installed off the coast of Massachusetts a few years ago found that for $273 million, a wave farm with 206 of the devices could produce energy at a cost of about 13.4 cents a kilowatt hours. Such costs would drop sharply and be competitive with onshore wind power if the industry settled on a technology and mass-produced it.

“Even with worst-case assumptions, the economics of wave power compares favorably to wind power,” the 2004 study conducted for EPRI found.

One US-based contestant for a WaveConnect slot is likely to be the PowerBuoy, a 135-five-foot-long steel cylinder made by Ocean Power Technology (OPT) of Pennington, N.J. Inside the cylinder that is suspended by a float, a pistonlike structure moves up and down with the bobbing of the waves. That drives a generator, sending up to 150 kilowatts of power to a cable on the ocean bottom. A dozen or more buoys tethered to the ocean floor make a power plant.

“Survivability” is a critical concern for all ocean power systems. Constant battering by waves has sunk more than one wave generator. But one of PowerBuoy’s main claims is that its 56-foot-long prototype unit operated continuously for two years before being pulled for inspection.

“The ability to ride out passing huge waves is a very important part of our system,” says Charles Dunleavy, OPT’s chief financial officer. “Right now, the industry is basically just trying to assimilate and deal with many different technologies as well as the cost of putting structures out there in the ocean.”

Beside survivability and economics, though, the critical question of impact on the environment remains.

“We think they’re benign,” EPRI’s Mr. Bedard says. “But we’ve never put large arrays of energy devices in the ocean before. If you make these things big enough, they would have a negative impact.”

Mr. Dunleavy is optimistic that OPT’s technology is “not efficient enough to rob coastlines and their ecosystems of needed waves. A formal evaluation found the company’s PowerBuoy installed near a Navy base in Hawaii as having “no significant impact,” he says.

Gauging the environmental impacts of various systems will be studied closely in the WaveConnect program, along with observations gathered from fishermen, surfers, and coastal-impact groups, says David Eisenhauer, a PG&E spokesman, says.

“There’s definitely good potential for this project,” says Mr. Eisenhauer. “It’s our responsibility to explore any renewable energy we can bring to our customers – but only if it can be done in an economically and environmentally feasible way.”

Offshore wind is getting a boost, too. On April 22, the Obama administration laid out new rules on offshore leases, royalty payments, and easement that are designed to pave the way for investors.

Offshore wind power is a commercially ready technology, with 10,000 megawatts of wind power already deployed off European shores. Studies have shown that the US has about 500,000 megawatts of potential offshore wind power. Across 10 to 11 East Coast states, offshore wind could supply as much as 20 percent of the states’ electricity demand without the need for long transmission lines, Hagerman notes.

But development has lagged, thanks to political opposition and regulatory hurdles. So the US remains about five years behind Europe on wave and tidal and farther than that on offshore wind, Bedard says. “They have 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind and we have zero.”

While more costly than land-based wind power, new offshore wind projects have been shown in some studies to have a lower cost of energy than coal projects of the same size and closer to the cost of energy of a new natural-gas fired power plant, Hagerman says.

Offshore wind is the only ocean-energy technology ready to be deployed in gigawatt quantities in the next decade, Bedard says. Beyond that, wave and tidal will play important roles.

For offshore wind developers, that means federal efforts to clarify the rules on developing ocean wind power can’t come soon enough. Burt Hamner4plans a hybrid approach to ocean energy – using platforms that produce 10 percent wave energy and 90 percent wind power.

But Mr. Hamner’s dual-power system has run into a bureaucratic tangle – with the Minerals Management Service and FERC both wanting his company to meet widely divergent permit requirements, he says.

“What the public has to understand is that we are faced with a flat-out energy crisis,” Hamner says. “We have to change the regulatory system to develop a structure that’s realistic for what we’re doing.”

To be feasible, costs for offshore wind systems must come down. But even so, a big offshore wind farm with hundreds of turbines might cost $4 billion – while a larger coal-fired power plant is just as much and a nuclear power even more, he contends.

“There is no cheap solution,” Hamner says. “But if we’re successful, the prize could be a big one.”

KIVI -http://www.kivitv.com/Global/story.asp?S=10320129

 

Wave Power Coming on Slow Rollers April 21, 2009

Two years ago, there was a “gold rush” on the ocean to stake claims for wave energy. Now the spray is settling. As it clears, fewer heads remain above water. Energy developers have given up on about a quarter of the wave projects they proposed along the West Coast. Some tidal power proposals are ebbing away as well. The slow arrival of this new source of renewable energy is just fine with some coastal residents who still harbor doubts about the technology. We get more on the story from KPLU’s Tom Banse.

For more information:
Congressional letter – March 2009 Congressional letter requesting $250 million of DOE stimulus funds be set aside for marine renewable power technology R&D. Signers include Jay Inslee (D-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and David Wu (D-OR)

West Coast wave energy projects proposed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (www.ferc.gov) listed from north to south (filing date):

P-12751 Makah Bay (Finavera) application to surrender license filed 2/09

P-13058 Grays Harbor Ocean Energy (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) 11/2007

P-13047 Oregon Coastal Wave Energy (Tillamook Intergovernmental Dev. Entity) 10/2007

P-12750 Newport OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) permit surrendered 3/09

P-12793 Florence Oregon Ocean Wave Project (Oceanlinx) 4/2007, withdrawn 4/08

P-12713 Reedsport OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 3/2006

P-12743 Douglas County Wave Energy (Douglas County, OR) 9/2006 (oscillating column device on Umpqua River jetty)

P-12749 Coos Bay OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 3/2006

P-12752 Coos County Offshore (Bandon, Oregon) (Finavera) permit cancelled w/o objection 6/08

P-12779 Humboldt County WaveConnect (PG&E) 2/07

P-12753 Humboldt County Wave Energy (Finavera) permit surrendered 2/09

P-13075 Centerville OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 11/2007

P-12781 Mendocino County WaveConnect (PG&E) 2/07

P-13053 Green Wave Mendocino Wave Park (Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC) filed 10/07 pending

P-13377 and P-13378 Fort Ross Project- N & S (Sonoma County Water Agency) 2/09 pending

P-13376 Del Mar Landing Project (Sonoma County Water Agency) 2/09 pending

P-13308 San Francisco Ocean Energy Project (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) 10/08 pending

P-13379 San Francisco Ocean Energy Project (City and County of SF) 2/09 pending

P-13052 Green Wave San Luis Obispo Wave Park (Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC) filed 10/07 pending

P-13309 Ventura Ocean Energy Project (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) filed 10/08 pending

Total proposed wave energy projects since 2006: 21
Total projects scrubbed for any reason: 5

KPLU, http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kplu/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1496258&sectionID=1

 

Tidal Energy Project Anchors Near Whidbey Island April 17, 2009

Researchers at work on a tidal energy project near Whidbey Island are exploring new terrain. Not only in the field of renewable energy, but also along the dark bottom of Puget Sound.

University of Washington researchers spent part of last week testing the waters in Admiralty Inlet. The area is a possible site for underwater turbines that could generate power from the tides.

U.W. Oceanographer Jim Thomson says the recent trip provided a deeper view of the area, thanks in part to a new research assistant.

Thomson: “This is basically an underwater robot. And so here at the front it has color and blank–and–white cameras. I has a small robot arm that can grab things.”

The robot recorded video of the ocean floor. That gives researchers a better picture of whether this spot is appropriate for the underwater windmills.

Thomson: “Well it’s kind of a boring, rocky bottom — a dark, boring, rocky bottom, which is kind of ideal for a tidal turbine. So, at first pass there is nothing that would indicate that this is not the right site, but now we’re digging a little deeper.”

Snohomish County P.U.D. is heading up this pilot project. If it’s successful, the P.U.D. plans to develop five sites for tidal energy in Puget Sound.

The P.U.D.’s Craig Collar says, altogether, the sites could produce enough energy for up to 70 thousand homes.

Collar: “Our load is growing, and resources like wind and traditional hydro power simply aren’t going to be enough to meet those needs. And there’s a lot of energy out there in the Sound, so if there’s a way to effectively harness it in a responsible way, it could be a really significant contributor to meeting those challenges.”

The P.U.D. plans to work with the University on several more studies before any turbines go in the water. The studies will look at how the turbines affect fish, marine habitat and the underwater environment.

Liz Jones, KUOW Newshttp://kuow.org/program.php?id=17328

 

 
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