Pacific Gas and Electric Company has won approval to recover from ratepayers $4.8 million in wave energy development costs.
The California Public Utilities Commission this week approved the funding mechanism for the company’s WaveConnect project, said Jana Morris, a PG&E spokeswoman, said.
“Over time, it will be incorporated into the rates like some of our other projects,” she said. She did not provide any specific information of when or how bills will be affected.
The funding approval allows the company to move forward with wave energy studies, which remain in the exploratory stages.
“It’s a small amount” when it’s spread out over time and shared by all California PG&E customers, said Fort Bragg City Councilmember Dave Turner.
Of more concern are the project’s potential environmental, economic and visual effects, he said.
County officials and area residents said they favor “green energy” projects, but want to know more about the potential impacts to the ocean and coast before they take a stand on wave energy.
The devices could damage fisheries, interfere with whale migration and create visual blight on a seascape that is crucial to tourism, critics say.
There are dozens of wave energy devices PG&E will study. Some look like giant buoys bobbing in the ocean while others are train-sized contraptions that snake along the surface.
The energy generators could be placed between a half-mile and five miles offshore at depths of up to 600 feet, according to PG&E’s proposal. Each device could potentially generate from 150 kilowatts to 4 megawatts, which at the upper limit is enough to power about 3,000 homes.
Each of the two WaveConnect project sites could produce up to 40 megawatts of clean renewable electricity, according to PG&E.
Morris said the company is years away from launching ocean wave energy devices, Morris said.