Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008
Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is looking to generate power from Scottish waters as well. Nasdaq-listed OPT reported July 28 that it had signed a berth agreement with the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland. OPT can, under the berth agreement, deploy and operate its unit as well as hook up to EMEC’s dedicated 2-MW subsea cable connected to the Scottish grid and will sell power to the grid up to the unit’s 2-MW capacity limit, using the EMEC berth for other deployments.
Across the Atlantic, wave energy development in the United States, another country looking to assume market leadership, suffered a temporary setback in late June 2008 when Finavera Renewables scuttled plans for a wave energy project off the Oregon coast to focus on developing the technology needed for other projects.
Finavera let preliminary permits granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expire by not filing required reports. FERC cancelled Finavera’s preliminary permit on June 26 for the proposed 100-MW Coos Country project, saying the company had failed to file six-month progress reports on studies that the company was required to perform for the project to move forward. The preliminary permit allowed for further site assessment and so-called micro siting to determine the best location for the proposed wave park, and allowed studies on such topics as oceanographic conditions, marine mammal resources, shoreline conditions, and public safety. “We had to focus some of our resources on a couple [of] other high priority projects,” said Myke Clark, vice president of corporate development for Finavera.
These include a planned 2-MW wave energy initiative at Makah Bay, California, which has already secured a long-term power purchase contract in December 2007 with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric – the first commercial PPA for a wave project in North America. In developing the new technology, engineers are tackling such challenges as the intermittency of waves and how to produce electricity from new types of equipment cheaply enough to make it profitable, he said. “We’re definitely in an intensive phase right now in terms of this technology,” Clark said, adding that the company is cancelling the project because “we need to focus a bit more on the technology development.”
The marine energy industry in America faces policy as well as technology obstacles.
As FERC promotes development of hydrokinetic energy and companies seize opportunities, the agency has issued preliminary permits that allow environmental assessments and other studies to be performed – only to have its regulatory authority questioned by other federal agencies.
The US Department of the Interior in April 2008 asserted that FERC lacked the authority to issue leases for hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf and called on FERC to rehear its decisions to issue two preliminary permits for wave electricity projects being considered off the coast of California.
FERC issued a license to Finavera in December 2007 for a 1-MW wave energy project in Clallam County, Washington, but several parties sought rehearing of the decision, claiming FERC violated the Clean Water Act by issuing a license before the state ecology department had issued a water quality certificate and other state permits and authorizations. In a March 20 order FERC said the rehearing requests are moot since the state issued the necessary permits to Finavera in February 2008. FERC said that its initial order was a conditional license that did not authorize construction or installation of facilities and “expressly stated that no such authority would be granted until Finavera obtained all necessary authorizations.”
The US wave energy industry received a boost in late July 2008, though, when the US Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that regulates offshore energy development, said it intends to issue leases for thirteen alternative energy research projects in the federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf, including wave-energy projects off the California coast.