Excerpts of FRANK HARTZELL’s article, Mendocino Beacon, May 7, 2009
It’s locals’ first look at action by a newly recast Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is tasked by the Obama Administration to make a greater push to develop alternative energy.
On May 1, FERC issued an exclusive preliminary permit to GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC. The permit’s area stretches from just north of Albion to off Point Cabrillo, about a half-mile from shore to three miles offshore.
Five men from the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California, including Tony Strickland, a Republican state senator, formed GreenWave Energy Solutions about two years ago.
Strickland, one of the state’s most ardent deregulators and anti-tax advocates, won the state Legislature’s closest race last November by a handful of votes. He made his involvement in alternative energy a key part of his campaign.
Green Wave Energy Solutions is composed of president Wayne Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante, developer Dean Kunicki and developer Gary Gorian. Kunicki and Gorian are major real estate developers in Southern California.
The preliminary permit reserves that area solely for GreenWave and also gives the company first rights to apply for a long-term power license in state waters.”
“The GreenWave proposal envisions eventual construction of a power plant with more than twice the capacity of that planned by PG&E. GreenWave’s Burkamp said the firm is not a shell corporation or a subsidiary of any other company.
GreenWave hopes to someday install 10 to 100 Pelamis or OPT hydrokinetic devices capable of producing 100 megawatts, with a 2- to 3-mile long powerline running to shore, the permit application states.
FERC’s permit conditions for GreenWave don’t vary much from those imposed by FERC under the former Bush Administration.
But locals made this preliminary permit one of the longest ever. And the application has more interveners and more people commenting than any other “hydrokinetic” project in the nation. FERC has issued and is considering hydrokinetic permits from the Yukon River to the Florida Keys for wave, tidal, ocean current and river flow power.
While issuing the permit, FERC briefly responds to each point raised by locals.
“As for the concerns raised by Mendocino County and Laurel Krause regarding the financial capability and experience of the applicant, it has been the Commission’s policy for some time that, at least where there is no competition for a permit, the Commission will not base grant of the permit on proof of an applicant’s ability to finance or perform studies under the permit,” FERC wrote. “However, as discussed below, application of the Commission’s strict scrutiny policy may include cancellation of the permit if the applicant is unable to demonstrate, for financial or other reasons, adequate progress toward the possible development of a license application.”
Although FERC is an independent agency, President Obama appointed Jon Wellinghoff as chairman of the five-member commission after the chairman under President Bush resigned and left FERC. With the commission now split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats, Obama now has the opportunity to change its direction with his appointment of a new fifth member.
FERC also recently accepted three preliminary permit applications from Sonoma County to study wave energy off its shores, a nod to local government that signals a change of direction for the independent federal commission.
That change began when Mendocino County and the City of Fort Bragg protested exclusion from the process and a lawsuit was threatened.
The permit is the first wave energy permit since the Obama Administration released new standards for the process of generating alternative energy on the outer continental shelf.
Under that plan, FERC has complete control of the wave energy process inside three miles. For projects like PG&E’s wave energy proposal, which extends on both sides of the three-mile line, a Minerals Management Service lease is required past state waters. PG&E withdrew from its efforts to get a MMS lease last year.
GreenWave’s permit area appears to extend just beyond the three-mile limit. John Romero of MMS said neither PG&E or GreenWave has sought a lease from MMS.
GreenWave’s application says the initial phase will involve spending between $1 million and $2 million and will be financed entirely through private equity.
“The estimated cost of the second phase (the actual installation of wave energy devices in the water and the generation of power from these devices) will be $20 million to $40 million,” the application states.
Burkamp told the newspaper that GreenWave’s application is different from PG&E’s in that GreenWave will focus on solving environmental issues, while PG&E Wave Connect is set up to test rival technologies.