Northwest Renewable News

Your Daily Source for Renewable Energy News in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana & Northern California

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 –


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.



Hydropower: It’s Renewable, But Is It Green? May 11, 2009

A federal judge in Portland is considering how the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia iRver interact with salmon.

At the same time, environmentalists continue to push the Obama Administration to remove several of the hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River.

And that leads us to the next installment in our energy series, The Switch.

Hydroelectric power has long been part of the Northwest’s fabled history. In fact, Woody Guthrie wrote a whole album about building the Columbia River dams.

But in our clean energy future, is hydropower really “green” enough?

Ethan Lindsey explores the issue.
Hydro power and the Northwest. They’re nearly synonymous, even for people who’ve never heard Guthrie’s “Roll on Columbia.”

In fact, when Fran Halpin graduated from college in Massachusetts, it just made sense to move West and work on one of the country’s biggest renewable energy projects.

Fran Halpin: “I came here and got a job with Bonneville, and I said, this is like my dream job. I get to do engineering and I get to be environmentally conscious, and work with fish survival and renewable energy and conservation. Being an engineer, I am not that much of a braggard. People have to pry this stuff out of me. It is a job I am very proud to be doing and happy to be doing. I’ve loved it ever since I came out here.”

Halpin works in the Portland offices of the Bonneville Power Administration.

Today, he heads up a team that watches the water flow of the Columbia River system and markets power accordingly.

Through Halpin’s eyes, the hydroelectric power generated along the Columbia is one of the best answers we’ve got to our energy questions.

His office sits next to a trading floor and monitoring room – both of which feature banks and banks of computer screens.

Fran Halpin: “I have a couple of displays here that I can show you if you want. Ok, so this is about midnight here. So we’re at 1500 megawatts or 1700 megawatts at Grand Coulee. And then it’s dropping off between midnight and 1 o’clock. Turning off the Late Show, electric heaters are turning off. And then, early risers start getting up, so you start seeing the load picking up, people are coming into schools or offices, so the load does come way up.”

The Bonneville Power Administration sells and markets electric power generated from the federally-owned energy projects in the Northwest – that includes wind and nuclear power, as well as BPA’s bedrock business: hydroelectric dams.

On a tour of the Bonneville Dam, the sheer scale of the engineering is breathtaking.

The dams are operated by federal agencies, notably the Army Corps of Engineers.

Dams make up the biggest piece of the Northwest’s hydroelectric pie.

They’re a reliable source of base load power. That and their ability to respond to increased demands at peak times are key selling points of hydro.

Longtime Oregonians remember when hydro constituted more than 90 percent of the state’s power a few decades ago.

Inside the dam, next to the energy turbines, it’s hard to believe that hydro’s share of the regional power mix has now been cut in half.

Population and energy growth has been coupled with a push to sell cheaper power to California.

So now, Oregon gets just 42-percent of its energy from hydroelectric power.

Still, hydro is one of the cheapest – if not the cheapest – power source we’ve got.

The Bonneville Power Administration says its average price per kilowatt-hour over the past year was 2.73 cents.

The only rival is coal – but hydro supporters like to point out the dams don’t pump any pollution into the sky.

And on top of all that, it’s renewable.

Steve Wright: “Well, hydro is clearly renewable. I don’t think there’s any question about that. The fact of the matter is, it’s the cycle of water that we are able to take advantage of.

Steve Wright is the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration.

He says it’s also sustainable, and in his mind, green.

Steve Wright: “I believe the fundamental value of the electric power system in the Northwest resides in that river. This is a huge river, and it sits on the side of a very steep hill. And that’s a unique opportunity. Hydro power is the best renewable resource because it is the lowest cost and most reliable renewable resource. And I think that’s why so many people in the Northwest feel connected to the Columbia.”

But Wright, as well as anyone, knows and acknowledges the environmental costs of the dams.

They damaged the nearby habitat, forever changed cultures, and killed lots and lots of fish.

And to Brett Swift at the conservation group American Rivers, a label like “green” or “sustainable” or “renewable” just doesn’t fit.

Brett Swift: “Dams absolutely have an adverse impact on the environment. The important question is ‘what is the role of hydropower in the future of our energy mix. And how we label it doesn’t necessarily inform that.”

Swift says American Rivers knows that hydropower will be a part of the region’s future energy reliance – but says that doesn’t mean we should start building new dams or dismiss getting rid of old, inefficient ones.

One model for future hydro is small-scale, low impact dams.

Jerry Bryan stands next to a small hydroelectric project in the Farmers Irrigation District outside Hood River

The entire facility is about the size of a 7-11.

Jerry Bryan: “You are looking right now at the control panels for both of those generators. I still think that I am staring at engineering technology from the 40s and 50s.”

Unlike a traditional dam, this project allows fish to swim by unimpeded and yet provides local irrigators with the water they need to grow their crops.

Many in the state say little hydro projects like this could serve as models for low-impact, small scale power generation in the future, but Bryan is reluctant to take any praise.

Jerry Bryan: “If I am going to stand here and say a project I am working on is a model for everyone, I am justly accused of affected arrogance. So I am not willing to say that, but what I am willing to generalize is that if people sit down, then wonderful models emerge.”

Bryan says his project isn’t perfect. Every energy source has drawbacks.

And that’s the crux of the hydro debate, says Angus Duncan, with the non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

Angus Duncan: “There’s a tendency to exalt some sources of energy, and demonize others. And for better or worse, hydro has been demonized in the Northwest. Right now, a far greater threat to salmon runs generally, is global warming. That is a bigger threat than the hydroelectric system.”

Duncan says inefficient and destructive dams are being torn out around the region right now. And that should continue.

But he says if we tear out the big dams,we’ll need to replace that energy with something else.

And until hydro power can be replaced by something other than coal, it’s “green” enough for most.



Hydrokinetic river generator gives power to remote villages in AK February 5, 2009

481-42069076871originalstandaloneprod_affiliate71A technology almost as simple as a Yukon River fishwheel could one day power the laptop computers and microwave ovens of Alaska’s river people. In Ruby it’s beginning to do just that.

Last summer, the Western Alaska village on the banks of the Yukon became the first community in America to tap into the power of an in-stream hydrokinetic generator, a submersible turbine that looks a bit like a tipped-over fish wheel.

In-stream power also gets called “low-impact hydro” and “hydro without the dam.” By any name, it may be an idea whose time has finally come.

A 100-kilowatt turbine about 20 times larger than Ruby’s is scheduled to be installed later this year in the Upper Yukon River village of Eagle, where it’s expected to power all the homes in town from breakup to freezeup.

That could eventually provide a fuel-free alternative to Eagle’s present practice of burning about 80,000 gallons of increasingly costly diesel fuel each year to generate electricity.

In-stream hydro is no longer just a quirky, renewable energy concept, Ruby project director Brian Hirsch said Tuesday, displaying a slide-show image of four generators now in production during a workshop on the subject at the 2009 Alaska Forum on the Environment under way in Anchorage.

“Every one of these devices that you see up there are not just an artist’s rendering anymore but actually a device that is made of steel and now producing electricity,” Hirsch said.

Admittedly not a whole lot so far. Unlike increasingly popular wind farms and geothermal power plants, in-stream hydro is still a costly technology in its infancy, with lots of unanswered questions. Especially in Alaska.


Can the turbines floating on the surface of the Yukon withstand bombardment by the huge logs that regularly drift downstream? Will the Yukon’s notoriously silty water damage their intricate mechanism? Or might the turbines cause problems of their own, disrupting river navigation or posing a threat to migrating fish?

The Ruby generator, a mere 5-kilowatt turbine capable of powering only two households, was an experiment. After one month of operation last summer, Hirsch can report that it works.

“But there’s a lot to improve,” he said.

On the plus side, in-stream hydro is a simple, highly portable technology that can be up and running in a matter of weeks and might be ideal for remote riverbank communities.

The Ruby project, sponsored by the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (Hirsch serves as the council’s energy program manager), was partly assembled in Fairbanks, then barged downstream from Nenana. Its price tag was $65,000.

That included the cost of the turbine itself, manufactured by a Canadian firm, as well as the cost of a pontoon boat to float it, gear to anchor it, a debris boom to protect it and underwater transmission cables to connect the generator to Ruby’s power grid.

Ruby was selected as a test case partly because diesel-generated power there is so expensive, and partly because its residents enthusiastically supported the project, Hirsch said. Ruby also satisfied some technical requirements.

In-stream turbines ideally get placed in the part of a river where the current is strongest. That’s usually on the surface near the middle, where the river is deepest. But placing it in the middle of a river increases the length of the transmission lines required and possibly creates navigational hazards. Ruby proved ideal because the fastest, deepest current was close to shore.

To protect the turbine from floating driftwood, the construction team fashioned a simple A-frame prow out of two logs. That was only halfway successful, Hirsch said. It diverted everything that floated on the surface. But some debris on the Yukon floats beneath the surface, and it accumulated on the vessel’s anchor chain. Eventually all the snagged flotsam began to shield the turbine from the current and lowered its electrical output.

“It’s a challenge, and it’s something we’re working on,” Hirsch said.

The larger in-stream hydro turbine waiting to be installed in Eagle this summer may offer an answer to that problem. It’ll come equipped with a heavy, metal sieve-like prow that will extend deep into the river, deflecting subsurface debris.

Underwritten by a $1.6 million grant from the Denali Commission, the Eagle project was proposed and advanced by the Alaska Power & Telephone Co., a Washington-state- based utility that provides Eagle residents with electricity. The company chipped in some seed money of its own.

But it’s still “really expensive” per kilowatt to put a hydrokinetic generator in the water when you compare the new technology with more mass-produced renewables like wind power, said Benjamin Beste, an AP&T engineer who also addressed the forum.

Even so, Beste thinks in-stream hydro is a viable summer source of power for Eagle, as well as other small, isolated river communities in Alaska. He doesn’t think the turbines could avoid damage in winter or spring, when break-up occurs. Like Ruby, the in-stream hydro operators in Eagle plan to remove their turbines from the river each fall.

And its effect on migrating salmon? “The fishery impact is not really well known yet,” Beste said.

What is known is that adult salmon that migrate upstream favor the slowest current in the river, rather than the fastest, where in-stream turbines are typically placed, said Gwen Holdman, director of the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

So adult salmon might be OK, as well as the fishing vessels that pursue them. But juvenile salmon migrating downstream to sea as smolts prefer the faster current to expedite their journey, and they represent a potential concern, Holdman said.

The university’s energy center plans to study such issues if and when a 50-kilowatt in-stream generator is installed this summer as planned in the Tanana River at Nenana.

And Ruby might receive another turbine — a 25-kilowatt generator large enough to satisfy about half the village’s summer energy needs — if a renewable energy appropriation previously approved by the Alaska Legislature survives the current session.

By GEORGE BRYSON, The Anchorage Daily News


PG&E gives more specifics about Hydrokenitic project in Fort Bragg, CA January 16, 2009

Pacific Gas & Electric has volunteered to pay the city of Fort Bragg’s costs for wave energy as any other developer of a local project would do, City Manager Linda Ruffing told a City Council committee on Tuesday.

After nearly two years of local pleas for specifics about the WaveConnect project, PG&E representatives surprised city and county representatives with many new details. Those included the promise by PG&E that all environmental studies would be public, not private information. The utility had been resisting calls by competitors and ratepayer advocates before the California Public Utilities Commission to make public more information learned during the WaveConnect study.

Another surprise was that PG&E has found about 10 different viable wave energy technologies — far more than first envisioned. The utility will choose the top three or four wave energy devices and test those under a pilot project license.

PG&E representatives had said in the past that the pilot license was not a good fit because they wanted to take all the time needed for study.

On Tuesday, the pilot license process became the biggest issue for Mayor Doug Hammerstrom and other wave energy officials gathered at Town Hall to hear two top officials explain the roles of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, and the California Coastal Commission.

Both Tom Luster, who will oversee all wave energy projects for the California Coastal Commission and 23-year FERC veteran

Ann Miles said Fort Bragg has had more interest in wave energy than anywhere else in California.

Ruffing told Miles that FERC’s 30-day comment period for the pilot license was an “outrageously” short amount of time for comments, a concern echoed by Hammerstrom and Terri Gross from the Mendocino County Counsel’s Office.

Hammerstrom said 30 days wasn’t enough time to hire a consultant much less employ one to provide comments for the city. He said further there should be a provision to react to the suggestions of others made during that 30-day period.

The much quicker pilot license process was invented in the heyday of Neoconservative policy from the Bush administration which sought new ways to cut through red tape. Miles said she couldn’t answer questions about how the Obama administration might change this approach, as that was beyond the scope of her visit to Fort Bragg.

Miles said the pilot process is intended to cause minimal impacts with more extensive monitoring while generating power. A pilot project must be able to be shut down and removed quickly under FERC rules.

Ironically, PG&E may have chosen the faster pilot process to give themselves more time, locals at the morning meeting speculated.

Miles said PG&E would need to file for a conventional license by this March under FERC rules. Using the “faster” pilot license gives them until next March to get started.

Miles, who is director of FERC’s Division of Hydropower licensing, provided lengthy and knowledgeable explanations of convoluted FERC processes during a three-hour meeting. But PG&E’s new announcements, which came in private meetings last week, overshadowed the presentations by the top state and federal officials.

Luster explained how the California Coastal Commission would work with the State Lands Commission to review any wave energy project within three miles of shore.

But PG&E is now saying their 40-megawatt powerplant will be located “well beyond” that three-mile state limit. The powerplant would likely come after the five-year pilot project license.

That announcement unexpectedly changed the game for the state.

Luster said the big power cable that extends to shore would be regulated by the Coastal Commission, but development beyond three miles would be regulated only for “federal consistency.”

PG&E told the city that wave energy is “more robust farther from shore,” Ruffing reported. Questions have been repeatedly raised locally and never answered about the impracticality of attaching cables to the bottom in waters as deep as those more than three miles from shore.

Some locals have speculated the real intent of working so far from shore is oil and gas exploration, a notion PG&E has denied.

PG&E has not released any of its new information to the press. Ruffing said she emailed her summary of what the company is now saying to the PG&E representatives, who provided no objections by reply.

While planning for an eventual project many miles from shore, PG&E will give up on areas more than 3 miles from shore for now, they have told FERC.

PG&E told the city they would site the pilot project much closer to shore, to avoid the jurisdictional conflict between FERC and fellow federal agency Minerals Management Service, or MMS.

FERC claims the authority to be the regulatory authority for all water energy projects in the United States. MMS claims authority for ocean federal waters, which are those more than 3 miles from shore.

PG&E’s 68-square-mile preliminary permit area, which runs from Point Cabrillo to Cleone and to more than three miles offshore, will be trimmed down to eliminate areas beyond the federal-state jurisdiction line.

“PG&E expects that MMS and FERC will have worked out their dispute by the time PG&E is ready to apply for a long-term license,” Ruffing reported.

PG&E representatives are now promising significant help to local governments.

“All of the power generated by the 40 megawatt WaveConnect would be consumed in Mendocino County and would provide for nearly all of Fort Bragg’s electric demand when WaveConnect is generating,” Ruffing reported.

Additionally, the city and county have been promised that PG&E will pay their expenses, including reviewing, permitting and the community process for public participation.

Miles said FERC has no requirements in place to determine that a developer be able to pay for removal of devices in case of bankruptcy or disaster.

Luster said the State Lands Commission handles financial arrangements, such as bonding of projects.

That question has come up more with GreenWave LLC, which has proposed a wave energy project off Mendocino village. The LLC stands for limited liability company, a business form invented to allow greater risks to be taken.

GreenWave’s preliminary permit application is in the public comment phase until Feb. 3. The GreenWave permit has not been issued, as was reported here previously. FERC always grants these permits, unless they directly violate federal law, which is not the case with GreenWave.

Miles was making her first ever visit to Northern California. She was set to answer questions from the general public at a Town Hall forum Tuesday night.

She came equipped with a powerpoint presentation that illustrated the process. She offered a map that showed all hydrokinetic projects. There have been 137 hydrokinetic preliminary permits issued, with another 68 pending, as of December. Most of those are clustered in the Mississippi River, the Yukon River, below Niagara Falls and off the Washington, Oregon and Northern California coasts. The East Coast features a cluster of tidal energy projects.

Judith Vidaver and Char Flum, of the local Ocean Protection Coalition, also attended Tuesday morning’s Council. Committee meeting.

Jim Martin and John Innes of the FISH committee (Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics) also were in attendance. PG&E also apparently met with the FISH committee. Also on hand was Lisa Badenfort, who will now represent the Mendocino County Chief Executive’s Office on wave energy issues.

A report on Tuesday night’s public meeting with Miles will appear in the Jan. 22 edition of the Fort Bragg Advocate-News.


First Commercial Hydrokinetic Power Turbine is Successfully Installed January 5, 2009

Filed under: Emerging Technology,Hydrokinetic — nwrenewablenews @ 1:16 pm
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Hydro Green Energy, LLC has successfully completed the installation of one of two turbines at the nation’s first-ever commercial hydrokinetic power project. Once the electrical systems are tested, the hydrokinetic turbine will send clean, environmentally-friendly, renewable electricity to the Minnesota electric power grid. The second underwater turbine will be installed in the spring of 2009.

Hydrokinetic power refers to the generation of electricity from moving water without impoundments or diversionary structures that are typically used at conventional hydropower facilities. Hydro Green Energy’s technology operates in open rivers, tidal areas and oceans. Its broadly patented technology (U.S. Patent # 6,955,049), which is the first surface-suspended system in the industry, is also deployable downstream from existing hydropower facilities (known as Hydro+(TM)), which allows for new, clean power generation within the existing project footprint.

The City of Hastings is installing a two-turbine Hydro+(TM) project downstream from its 4.4 megawatt run-of-river hydropower plant on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lock & Dam No. 2. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the project by a 5-0 vote on December 13, 2008 and on December 23 authorized the installation of the first turbine. Once the project is operational, extensive water quality, fish survival, mussel and avian studies and/or monitoring will be performed by Hydro Green Energy, much at the request of the National Park Service, which participated extensively in the nearly two-year long licensing process.


FERC and Fort Bragg, CA residents clash over likely hydrokinetic power development December 30, 2008

On January 13, 2009, a “top official from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will appear to explain the agency’s strategy on developing what it calls “hydrokinetic” power as an alterative energy source.

Ann F. Miles, FERC’s director of the Division of Hydropower Licensing, will meet with county and city officials before attending the public meeting in Fort Bragg.

“The FISH Committee is looking forward to FERC’s visit, and welcomes the opportunity to learn about the different FERC licensing processes for wave energy, and how fishermen and other affected people can participate and have their voices heard,” said attorney Elizabeth Mitchell, who represents the Fisherman Involved for Safe Hydrokinetics.

Ocean waters off the Mendocino Coast, from Little River to Cleone, are now claimed under exclusive study permits by two different wave energy developers. GreenWave LLC claims 17 square miles of waters from Little River to Point Cabrillo, while PG&E claims 68 square miles from Point Cabrillo to Cleone.

Preliminary permits granted by FERC give not only exclusive study rights to the claimants, but also licensing priority to develop wave energy upon successful completion of the three-year studies.

Fort Bragg has become ground-zero for wave energy regulation. The federal Minerals Management Service, which is involved in an open feud with FERC over wave energy regulation, has sought to make Fort Bragg its test case.

FERC drew local ire by denying local efforts to intervene in the study process. At one point, protesters carried signs targeting the obscure federal agency with messages such as “Don’t FERC with us.”

One FERC insider said commissioners had complained that more fuss had been made in tiny Fort Bragg than the entire rest of the nation.

FERC later relented and on appeal granted intervener status to Mendocino County, for the PG&E project. The period to intervene and comment on GreenWave’s permit closes Friday, Feb. 6. As yet, nobody has filed anything with FERC, according to its Website.

“The commission’s existing procedures are well-established and well-suited to address this expansion of conventional hydropower with new technologies,” Miles told Congress last year, “and we are prepared to learn from experience in this rapidly evolving area and to make whatever regulatory adjustments are appropriate in order to help realize the potential of this renewable energy resource.”

FERC expanded its domain into all tidal, wave, river flow and ocean current study and licensing with its novel concept of a unified “hydrokinetic” regulation.

From the Yukon River in Alaska to the ocean currents off the Florida Keys, FERC has grown its regulatory territory dramatically since the start of the Bush administration. The agency is now explaining how dam regulation and wave energy innovation can go together. FERC recently granted the first hydrokinetic plant permit for production of energy in the Mississippi River in the state of Minnesota.

The independent agency has moved quickly with Neo-Con era disdain for regulation, eschewing calls from fellow federal and state agencies for a conventional rulemaking process. Instead FERC has adjusted its process as it goes along.

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