Excerpts from FRANK HARTZELL’s article in the Mendocino Beacon, June 4, 2009
Ocean Power Technologies’ subsidiary California Wave Energy Partners in it’s “wave energy project proposed off Cape Mendocino has surrendered its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit, making two major companies that have abandoned the area in the past two weeks.
The moves come at a time when President Obama’s energy policy has cut funding for wave energy in favor of solar and wind energy development.
The withdrawals leave GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC, with a permit off Mendocino, as the only local wave energy project.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced earlier this month they would not seek to develop wave energy off Fort Bragg. However, PG&E has not yet legally abandoned its FERC preliminary permit.
California Wave Energy Partners did just that on May 26, telling FERC their parent company, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) was pulling out of California in favor of developing wave energy more seriously in Oregon.
The project was proposed near Centerville off Humboldt County, south of Eureka on the remote coast of Cape Mendocino.
“OPT subsidiaries are also developing two other projects at Coos Bay and Reedsport,” wrote Herbert Nock of OPT. “During the process of developing these projects, OPT has learned the importance of community involvement in the project definition and permitting process.
“OPT therefore feels it is in the best interests of all parties to focus its efforts (in Oregon) at this time. This will allow the time and resources necessary to responsibly develop these sites for the benefit of the coastal community and the state,” Nock wrote.
The Cape Mendocino project was to be situated in a prime wave energy spot, but with connections to the power grid still to be determined. The project was never the subject of a public meeting in Mendocino County and stayed under the radar compared to several other Humboldt County projects. PG&E still plans to develop its WaveConnect project off Eureka.
Brandi Ehlers, a PG&E spokeswoman, said PG&E plans to relinquish the preliminary permit for the Mendocino Wave Connect project soon.
She said the utility spent $75,000 on the Mendocino County portion of Wave Connect before stopping because Noyo Harbor was ill-equipped to deal with an offshore energy plant.
“PG&E is not currently pursuing applications for new FERC hydrokinetic preliminary permits, but it is important that we continue to explore other possibilities,” Ehlers said in response to a question.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced that his department will host 12 public workshops this month to discuss the newly-issued regulatory program for renewable energy development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
All the meetings are to be held in large cities — in Seattle June 24, Portland on June 25, and San Francisco on June 26.
Salazar restarted the process of building a framework for energy development in the ocean, which had been started in the Bush Administration but never finished.
The new program establishes a process for granting leases, easements, and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy projects as well as methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States. The rules for alternative energy development in the oceans become effective June 29.
Most of the actual ocean energy development figures are for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The Pacific Ocean’s near-shore slopes are too steep and too deep for current wind energy technology. Wave and tidal energy are still in their infancy, not seen as able to help with President Obama’s energy plan.
The Obama administration has proposed a 25% cut in the research and development budget for wave and tidal power, according to an in-depth report in the Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune.
At the same time the White House sought an 82% increase in solar power research funding, a 36% increase in wind power funding and a 14% increase in geothermal funding. But it looked to cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million, the News Tribune reported.
Interior’s Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with regulating renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf [and specifically wind energy projects], is organizing and conducting the workshops, which will begin with a detailed presentation and then open the floor to a question and answer session. All workshops are open to the public and anyone interested in offshore renewable energy production is encouraged to participate.”