Regional energy officials hope to one day power homes from tidal movements running in and out of Grays Harbor.
Grays Harbor PUD General Manager Rick Lovely told the Hoquiam City Council the district is working with the Pacific County PUD to get funding for the proposed tidal energy generation project.
Lovely said putting an underwater turbine beneath the channel from the Chehalis River into the Harbor could capture the energy from the flow of tides along the river.
“The velocities in there are rather significant,” he said. “It’s like a river under the river.”
He predicted the movement could produce about 1 megawatt of power, enough to light up about 100 homes. He hoped to have a pilot program in the water by 2011.
The PUDs are also evaluating potential sites in Willapa Harbor, he said. Only a few sites on the West Coast have the right kind of estuary for the technology.
“We know that the velocity of the water that moves through there is very attractive,” he said.
A couple spots at the mouth of the Columbia River are also being studied.
PUD Spokeswoman Liz Anderson said the next phase of the project would cost about $2 million to fund studies, permits and other feasibility research.
“It looks like there’s great potential,” she said.
The utility districts plan to apply for $1.5 million in federal funding for the research, Anderson said. The rest would come from regional partnerships with companies or organizations.
The first phase of the effort cost about $150,000 as the districts first measured velocity and scouted potential sites, she said.
The third and final phase of research would be constructing and installing a pilot device to actually test the concept and power output, she said. Installing the device could cost another $4 million to $5 million.
The City Council asked about what sort of challenges come with the project. Lovely said funding is the first issue, then several locations have to be considered.
He said a number of companies have designed devices that should work for the project, but a lot of additional studying has to be done.
“This isn’t ocean wave energy and it isn’t wind energy,” he said.
Other projects have been proposed, but this is a new technology, uniquely suited for the Twin Harbors. A lot of questions still need to be answered, he said.
The Council unanimously passed a resolution in favor of the project.