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Archive for the ‘Dept. of Energy’ Category

Laurel Krause, MendoCoastCurrent, September 10, 2011 ~ 9/10/11

PRESIDENT OBAMA promised on October 27, 2007: “I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the FIRST THING I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.”

On Peace

President Obama has been in office for 32 months and there are still 45,000 troops in Iraq and 100,000+ troops in Afghanistan.

When we voted for Obama we expected our future President to keep his word, not involve us in FOUR MORE WARS!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’re ON NOTICE ~ Next election Americans will come out in great numbers to vote for a peace-focused presidential candidate that will keep his word.

On Commercial-scale Renewable Energy

We felt validated that we voted for Obama when early in his presidency our President pledged to begin to develop safe, sustainable and renewable energy. We saw it as an excellent way to put the American workforce ‘back to work’ and begin to build a renewable energy future for America. Since then NOT ONE significant renewable or sustainable energy project has been created nor backed by the federal government. If there is one, please name it! The validation we felt back then has expired long ago into distrust and disrespect.

On the BP Gulf Oil Leak

Mostly based on watching our President minimize and shield his eyes (along with Energy Sec Chu) as the BP Oil Leak continues to leak and spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico, to this day. We are beyond disappointed that no significant or innovative remedial (as in clean up) action has been taken in the Gulf or poisoned coastal areas.

On Fukushima & Nuclear Reactors

Then we were shocked when our President in his address to the nation, moments after Fukushima went into melt-through in March 2011, disbelieving our President’s pledge of allegiance to more, new nuclear development in America. Except for President Obama’s corporate backers, the rest of us DO NOT WANT MORE NUCLEAR ENERGY REACTORS in the U.S. We demand our President begin to close down all U.S. nuclear reactors now, also a position very far from our President’s nuclear energy corporate BFF’s.

THE NATIVES ARE BECOMING RESTLESS MR. PRESIDENT!

PUT AMERICA BACK ON THE RIGHT TRACK

STEP 1) Immediately BRING ALL TROOPS HOME to be re-deployed in cleaning up the affected areas, as in making whole again, at the on-going BP Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

STEP 1-A ~ Fire & replace Energy Secretary Chu with a qualified, earth-friendly, safe renewable energy visionary.

STEP 2) Segment a significant portion of your new Jobs Bill towards sustainable and renewable energy R&D to create a VISION & PLAN FOR AMERICA to become the world leader in these new, safe technologies.

STEP 2-A ~ Consider and fund Mendocino Energy, a fast-tracked commercial-scale renewal/sustainable energy thinktank to get started TODAY. Learn more about Mendocino Energy ~ http://bit.ly/t7ov1

Mr President, let us live in peace on a healthy planet.

JOIN US, JOIN IN at the Peaceful Party: http://on.fb.me/hBvNE3

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 14, 2011

Dear President Obama,

Continuing to hear comments that you, your administration and your cabinet members consider nuclear power as a clean, renewable solution is most alarming.

Mr. President, let’s consider the nuclear event occurring in Japan right now and learn the simple truth that any safe renewable energy portfolio DOES NOT include nuclear energy.

The ramifications of the current Japanese nuclear trauma will be felt worldwide as will the fall-out, for months and possibly years to come.

Mr. President, I strongly encourage your team to change course, hit the ground running in alternative, renewable and sustainable energy r&d right now.

Here’s a solution that may be started TODAY ~ http://bit.ly/t7ov1

I call it Mendocino Energy and am not attached to the name, yet very passionate about this important safe, renewable energy development concept. Time has come for us to get rolling!

Mendocino Energy ~ At this core energy technology incubator, energy policy is created as renewable energy technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing, refinement and implementation.

The Vision

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco, Silicon Valley. On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, utilizing a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site to innovate in best practices, cost-efficient, safe renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag/algae, smart grid and grid technologies, et al.

The process is collaborative in creating, identifying and engineering optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions with acumen.

Start-ups, utility companies, universities (e.g. Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford), EPRI, the federal government (FERC, DOE, DOI) and the world’s greatest minds gathering at this fast-tracked, unique coming-together of a green work force and the U.S. government, creating responsible, safe renewable energy technologies to quickly identify best commercialization candidates and build-outs.

The campus is quickly constructed on healthy areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre industry created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is underway.

Determining best sitings for projects in solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, algae farming, bioremediation; taking the important first steps towards establishing U.S. leadership in renewable energy and the global green economy.

With deep concern & hope,

Laurel Krause

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 11, 2011

Awakened this morning to a tsunami warning phone call on the landline from Sargent Barney warning of an impending tsunami to occur in just over half an hour at 7:23 a.m. He continued that it was due to a 9.0 earthquake in Japan hours earlier. Our coastal community is urgently called to prepare for a tsunami. At risk situations are at land elevations of 150 ft and below, especially low lying areas at & near river mouths here on the coast of northern California. The reverse-911 tsunami warning phone call suggested everyone go to higher ground immediately and it was 6:55am.

First action was to call a close neighbor without a land line suggesting we meet at our highest ground probably between 250-300 feet. Packing stuff I needed, making a pot of coffee, I am writing this post right now and it’s 9:17am.

I packed my car, went to highest ground here as suggested. Around 9am, a friend called to say the tsunami had been downgraded. The tsunami has passed (or so I believe right now). It was an excellent exercise.

Realized long after the early morning reverse-911 warning that the tsunami sirens were not sounded here on the coast.

A friend mentioned that a tsunami drill had been scheduled for March 11, not sure of the time.

Redheaded Blackbelt also has tsunami updates for Humboldt county ~ http://bit.ly/hspXcz

10:20 am: Here’s the NOAA Tsunami report ~

SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE EUREKA CA
1020 AM PST FRI MAR 11 2011
REDWOOD COAST-MENDOCINO COAST-
1020 AM PST FRI MAR 11 2011

...A TSUNAMI WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR DEL NORTE...HUMBOLDT
AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES COASTAL AREAS...

EARTHQUAKE DATA...
 PRELIMINARY MAGNITUDE 8.9.
 LOCATION 38.2 NORTH 142.5 EAST.
 NEAR EAST COAST OF HONSHU JAPAN.
 TIME 2146 PST MAR 10 2011.

A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED AND HAS CAUSE DAMAGED ALONG THE DEL NORTE
COUNTY AND DAMAGE ALONG THE HUMBOLDT AND MENDOCINO COASTS IS
STILL EXPECTED. PERSONS AT THE COAST SHOULD BE ALERT TO
INSTRUCTIONS FROM LOCAL EMERGENCY OFFICIALS.

DAMAGING WAVES HAVE BEEN OBSERVED ACROSS HAWAIIAN ISLANDS.
DAMAGING WAVES HAVE ARRIVED AT CRESCENT CITY HARBOR WHERE ALL
DOCKS HAVE BEEN DESTROYED. WAVES HAVE BROKEN OVER THE SPIT AT
STONE LAGOON. A 3 FOOT WAVE HAS BEEN REPORTED IN HUMBOLDT BAY. A
2-4 FOOT FLOOD WAVE WAS REPORTED MOVING UP THE MAD RIVER AT 8:45
AM PST. DAMAGING WAVES WILL CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS.

MEASUREMENTS OR REPORTS OF TSUNAMI WAVE ACTIVITY
GAUGE LOCATION        TIME      AMPLITUDE
CRESCENT CITY CA     844 AM       8.1FT
NORTH SPIT HUMBOLDT  830 AM       3.1FT
ARENA COVE           917 AM       5.3FT

REMEMBER...DONT BE FOOLED...TSUNAMI WAVES CAN SEEM STOP FOR LONG
PERIODS AND THEN BEGIN AGAIN. WAIT FOR THE OFFICIAL ALL CLEAR TO
RETURN TO THREATENED AREAS.

IN DEL NORTE COUNTY...PEOPLE ARE ORDERED TO EVACUATE TO ABOVE 9TH
STREET. SHELTER LOCATIONS INCLUDE SMITH RIVER ELEMENTARY...DEL NORTE
HIGH SCHOOL AND YUROK TRIBAL OFFICE IN KLAMATH.

IN HUMBOLDT AND MENDOCINO COUNTIES...PEOPLE ARE ADVISED TO STAY
OFF BEACHES...NOT TRAVEL BY WATERCRAFT AND EVACUATE LOW LYING
COASTAL AREAS IMMEDIATELY UNTIL ADVISED THAT IT IS SAFE TO RETURN.

PEOPLE SHOULD STAY CLEAR OF LOW LYING AREAS ALONG COASTAL RIVERS AS
TSUNAMI WAVES CAN TRAVEL UP FROM THE MOUTH OF COASTAL RIVERS.

BULLETINS WILL BE ISSUED HOURLY OR SOONER IF CONDITIONS WARRANT
TO KEEP YOU INFORMED OF THE PROGRESS OF THIS EVENT. IF AVAILABLE...
REFER TO THE INTERNET SITE HTTP://TSUNAMI.GOV FOR MORE INFORMATION.

DUE TO RAPIDLY CHANGING CONDITIONS ASSOCIATED WITH TSUNAMI WAVE
ACTIVITY...LISTENERS ARE URGED TO TUNE TO LOCAL EMERGENCY ALERT
SYSTEM MEDIA FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION ISSUED BY LOCAL DISASTER
PREPAREDNESS AUTHORITIES. THEY WILL PROVIDE DETAILS ON THE
EVACUATION OF LOW-LYING AREAS...IF NECESSARY...AND WHEN IT IS SAFE
TO RETURN AFTER THE TSUNAMI HAS PASSED.
****************************************

It’s 4:44 pm March 11, 2011: Receive the reverse-911 phone call ‘canceling the tsunami warning’ on the coast.

****************************************

4:50pm March 11, 2011: Governor Brown “has ordered San Mateo, Del Norte, Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties to utilize state aid in handling local emergencies, and repairing “damage to ports, harbors and infrastructure” caused by the tsunami. ~ http://bit.ly/fQxMIl

March 15, 2011: Mendocino Town Seeks Aid for $4M Tsunami Damage ~ http://bit.ly/gWy090

Videos of today’s Japanese tsunami and the 8.9 earthquake ~

Video taken near Crescent City, CA morning of March 11, 2011 ~

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 24, 2010

Public institutions and private sector organizations from across the country should form a coalition to help states, localities and regions develop and deploy successful and cost-effective electric demand response programs, a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff report says.

The coalition effort is the centerpiece of the National Action Plan on Demand Response Report , issued today, that identifies strategies and activities to achieve the objectives of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“There is strength in numbers. Coalitions harness the combined energy of individual organizations, producing results that can go far beyond what can be accomplished on an individual basis,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “The success of this National Action Plan depends on all interested public and private supporters working to implement it.”

The public-private coalition outlined in the National Action Plan would coordinate and combine the efforts of state and local officials, utilities and demand response providers, regional wholesale power market operators, electricity consumers, the federal government and other interest groups. Demand response refers to the ability of customers to adjust their electricity use by responding to price signals, reliability concerns or signals from the grid operator. Demand response is a valuable resource for meeting the nation’s energy needs.

The 2007 law required FERC to identify the requirements for technical assistance to states so they can maximize the amount of demand response that can be developed and deployed; design and identify requirements for a national communications program that includes broad-based customer education and support; and develop or identify analytical tools, information, model regulations and contracts and other materials for use by customers, states, utilities and demand response providers.

The National Action Plan applies to the entire country, yet recognizes Congress’ intent that state and local governments play an important role in developing demand response. It is the result of more than two years of open, transparent consultation with all interested groups to help states, localities and regions develop demand response resources.

The National Action Plan on Demand Response is available at here.

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MARSHA WALTON, MNN.com, June 8, 2010

The last thing that supporters of a promising renewable energy source want is a technology that harms wildlife.

So before wave energy buoys are deployed off the Oregon coast, scientists and developers want to make sure that 18,000 migrating gray whales are not put in jeopardy.

These whales, weighing 30 to 40 tons each, make a twice-yearly journey, heading south to breed off Baja, Mexico, in winter, and back up to the Pacific Northwest in spring.

Biologist Bruce Mate wants to find out if a low power underwater noise can be used effectively to nudge the whales away from wave energy devices.

“We want them to turn their headlights on,” says Mate, director of Oregon State’s Marine Mammal Institute.

Mate says the “whoop-whoop-whoop” sound being tested “is designed to be something unnatural. We don’t want them to think of it as background noise, as a wave, or as another animal. We want it to be something that is disconcerting,” he says.

Disconcerting enough so that the animals would move a few hundred yards away from the energy-capturing buoys, expected to weigh about 200 tons.

The underwater cables on these wave buoys are solid, 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Mate says a gray whale swimming 3 to 4 mph could be seriously hurt if it collided with a cable.

Mate has a grant from the Department of Energy to test whether the acoustic device is the right strategy to keep whales and buoys away from each other. Tests will begin in late December, and end before mothers and calves migrate north in May.

The noise-making device, about the size of a cantaloupe, will be located about 75 feet below the ocean surface, moored in about 140 feet of water. During the testing, it will make noise for three seconds a minute, six hours a day.

Gray whales stick close to shore, about 2.5 to 3 miles away. Swimming farther out, they can become lunch for killer whales.

During the tests, researchers will use theodolites, surveying instruments that measure horizontal and vertical angles. Mate says the animals’ actions should be fairly easy to observe as they encounter the noise.

“These animals track very straight lines during migration. They are motivated to get to the other end,” he says.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licenses wave energy technologies, and dozens of agencies oversee how this technology will affect ocean life.

“Wave energy developers are required to undergo a rigorous permitting process to install both commercial-scale and pilot projects,” says Thomas Welch of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Ocean Power Technologies is set to deploy the first of 10 energy-generating buoys off Reedsport, Ore., later this year.

Wave energy developers say they have worked with conservation groups from the start, dealing with everything from whales to erosion.

“As an untapped renewable resource there is tremendous potential,” says Justin Klure, a partner at Pacific Energy Ventures, a company that advances the ocean energy industry.

A believer in clean energy, Klure says it is imperative that the technology be the least disruptive.

“Nobody knows if a large buoy or any other technology is going to have an impact on an ecosystem. A misstep early could set back the industry. This is hard work, it’s expensive, if you don’t have a solid foundation, we feel, that is going to cost you later,” he says.

Klure says the industry has studied how other energy development, including wind and solar, have dealt with environmental challenges.

“I think the lesson here is how critical project siting is. It’s the same concept as land use planning for the ocean. Where are the most sensitive ecosystems? Where are areas that need to be preserved for recreation, or commercial fishing?” Klure says.

It will likely be five to 10 years before wave energy provides significant electricity production. But the acoustics research by Mate could provide help to animals, reaching beyond the Pacific coast.

“We certainly hope it has broader uses,” Mate says. If the sounds do move animals to safety, similar devices could be used to lure whales back from shallow waters if they are in danger of stranding — or even help whales or other marine mammals skirt the poisons of a large oil spill.

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May 22, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of California have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate procedures and schedules for review of hydrokinetic energy projects off the California coast.

This marks the fourth hydrokinetics MOU that FERC has signed with other states, following agreements signed last year with Washington and Maine, and with Oregon in 2008. Today’s agreement ensures that FERC and California will undertake all permitting and licensing efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner, taking into account economic and cultural concerns.

“This agreement with California shows FERC’s continuing commitment to work with the states to ensure American consumers can enjoy the environmental and financial benefits of clean, renewable hydrokinetic energy,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

“I am delighted the State of California has signed an MOU with the Commission on developing hydrokinetic projects off the California coast,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “This completes a sweep of the West Coast which, along with Maine, is showing its commitment to bringing the benefits of clean hydrokinetic energy to the consumers of the United States.”

FERC and California have agreed to the following with respect to hydrokinetics:

  • Each will notify the other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license or license;
  • When considering a license application, each will agree as early as possible on a schedule for processing. The schedule will include milestones, and FERC and California will encourage other federal agencies and stakeholders to comply with the schedules;
  • They will coordinate the environmental reviews of any proposed projects in California state waters. FERC and California also will consult with stakeholders, including project developers, on the design of studies and environmental matters; and
  • They will encourage applicants to seek pilot project licenses prior to a full commercial license, to allow for testing of devices before commercial deployment.

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GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN, New York Times, March 2, 2010

Harnessing the ocean waves for emission-free power seems like a tidy concept, but the ocean is anything but tidy. Waves crash from multiple directions on a seemingly random basis, and converting the kinetic energy into electricity is a frontier of alternative energy research that requires grappling with large unknowns.

But with several utility companies and states, and in one case, the U.S. Navy, investing in wave power, or hydrokinetic energy, may not be too far off in the utility mix. At least two companies hope to reach commercial deployments within the next three to five years.

Off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, is the Oyster, a white- and yellow-flapped cylinder, 40 feet tall and firmly locked into the ocean’s bed. With a total of seven moving parts, two of which are pistons, it captures waves as they near the coast. Oyster funnels them into a pipe and carries the power inland to a hydroelectric power generator. The generator has been supplying the United Kingdom’s grid with 315 kilowatts of energy at peak power since October.

A farm of up to 100 Oysters could yield 100 megawatts, according to Aquamarine Power, the Scottish company that developed the technology.

“From an environmental perspective, in the sea you have a very simple machine that uses no oil, no chemicals, no electromagnetic radiation,” said Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine.

The Oyster provides a tiny fraction of the 250 gigawatts of power that the water is capable of providing, including conventional hydroelectric energy by 2030, according to the United Nations. At least 25 gigawatts of that will come from marine renewables, according to Pike Research, a clean technology market research group. The non-conservative estimate is as much as 200 gigawatts. And 2015 will be the benchmark year to determine which of these estimates will be true.

The field of hydrokinetic power has a number of companies such as Aquamarine, all with unique designs and funded by utility companies, government grants and venture capitalists. If at least 50% of these projects come online by 2015, marine power could supply 2.7 gigawatts to the mix, according to Pike Research. A gigawatt is the electrical output of a large nuclear power plant.

‘PowerBuoy’ joins the Marines

There are six marine renewable technologies currently under development that aim to take advantage of ocean waves, tides, rivers, ocean currents, differences in ocean temperatures with depth, and osmosis.

“The energy landscape is going to be a mix of different energy sources, with an increasing proportion coming from renewables,” said Charles Dunleavy, CEO of Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-based research group also developing wave energy. “We aim to be a very big part of this.”

The company has been testing its wave energy device, called the PowerBuoy, in the ocean since 2005. It recently launched another device a mile offshore from the island of Oahu in Hawaii and connected it to the power grid of the U.S. Marine Corps base. It now supplies 40 kilowatts of energy at peak, enough to power about 25 to 30 homes.

“The Navy wants to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuel; they have a strong need to establish greater energy independence,” said Dunleavy.

The buoy captures the energy from right-sized waves (between 3 and 22 feet tall), which drive a hydraulic pump. The pump converts the motion into electricity in the ocean using a generator embedded into its base. A subsea cable transfers the power to the electrical grid. A buoy farm of 30 acres could yield 10 megawatts of energy, enough to supply 8,000 homes, said Dunleavy.

The structures rise 30 feet above water, and extend 115 feet down. They would not be a problem for commercial trawlers, which are farther offshore, or for ship navigation lanes, said Dunleavy. Recreational boaters, however, may have to watch out.

‘Oyster’ competes with the ‘top end of wind’

In comparison with a system such as the Oyster that brings water ashore to power turbines, creating electricity in the ocean is more efficient, said Dunleavy. “You lose a lot of energy to friction,” he said.

But Aquamarine’s system of having onshore power generation will cut down on maintenance costs, according to McAdam. Operation costs are expected to consume as much as 40% of the budget of operating a marine power plant, according to Pike Research.

Ocean Power is already selling its device for individual commercial use and building larger units of 150 kilowatts off the West Coast of the United States and for the utility company Iberdrola’s unit in Spain.

It is also developing the first wave power station under the Department of Energy’s stimulus program at Reedsport, Ore., according to Dunleavy. The farm, which currently has a 150-kilowatt unit, could grow by nine additional buoys.

And as for price, which is a major concern, Dunleavy said that cost compares with other renewables.

“It is cheaper than solar thermal and photovoltaics, and in the range of biomass,” he said. “It is at the top end of wind.”

The Oyster is also aiming to position itself as an alternative to wind power for utilities. McAdam said that by 2013, his company hopes to be a competitor to offshore wind installations. And by 2015, he hopes to compete with onshore wind.

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ALLAN CHEN & RYAN WISER, Lawrence Berkeley Nat’l Lab, December 2, 2009

Home sales prices are very sensitive to the overall quality of the scenic vista from a property, but a view of a wind energy facility does not demonstrably impact sales prices.

Over 30,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity are installed across the United States and an increasing number of communities are considering new wind power facilities. Given these developments, there is an urgent need to empirically investigate typical community concerns about wind energy and thereby provide stakeholders involved in the wind project siting process a common base of knowledge. A major new report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory evaluates one of those concerns, and finds that proximity to wind energy facilities does not have a pervasive or widespread adverse effect on the property values of nearby homes.

The new report, funded by the DOE, is based on site visits, data collection, and analysis of almost 7,500 single-family home sales, making it the most comprehensive and data-rich analysis to date on the potential impact of U.S. wind projects on residential property values.

“Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes,” says report author Ben Hoen, a consultant to Berkeley Lab.  “No matter how we looked at the data, the same result kept coming back – no evidence of widespread impacts.”

The team of researchers for the project collected data on homes situated within 10 miles of 24 existing wind facilities in nine different U.S. states; the closest home was 800 feet from a wind facility.  Each home in the sample was visited to collect important on-site information such as whether wind turbines were visible from the home.  The home sales used in the study occurred between 1996 and 2007, spanning the period prior to the announcement of each wind energy facility to well after its construction and full-scale operation.

The conclusions of the study are drawn from eight different hedonic pricing models, as well as repeat sales and sales volume models.  A hedonic model is a statistical analysis method used to estimate the impact of house characteristics on sales prices.  None of the models uncovered conclusive statistical evidence of the existence of any widespread property value effects that might be present in communities surrounding wind energy facilities.

“It took three years to collect all of the data and analyze more than 50 different statistical model specifications,” says co-author and project manager Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab, “but without that amount of effort, we would not have been confident we were giving stakeholders the best information possible.”

“Though the analysis cannot dismiss the possibility that individual homes or small numbers of homes have been negatively impacted, it finds that if these impacts do exist, their frequency is too small to result in any widespread, statistically observable impact,” he added.

The analysis revealed that home sales prices are very sensitive to the overall quality of the scenic vista from a property, but that a view of a wind energy facility did not demonstrably impact sales prices.  The Berkeley Lab researchers also did not find statistically observable differences in prices for homes located closer to wind facilities than those located further away, or for homes that sold after the announcement or construction of a wind energy facility when compared to those selling prior to announcement.  Even for those homes located within a one-mile distance of a wind project, the researchers found no persuasive evidence of a property value impact.

“Although studies that have investigated residential sales prices near conventional power plants, high voltage transmission lines, and roads have found some property value impacts,” says co-author and San Diego State University Economics Department Chair Mark Thayer, “the same cannot be said for wind energy facilities, at least given our sample of transactions.“

Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California.  It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov/

Additional Information:

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CAROL FLETCHER, The Record, November 29, 2009

Linda Rutta says she has a “tiger by the tail” with a renewable energy device she and her husband, Stanley, invented that can convert the power of ocean waves into electricity.

Now the research and development team needs funding to analyze five days of data from a landmark test of the 12-foot cylindrical prototype and build a life-size version.

“We have to scale up and make a commercial unit,” said Linda Rutta, but “the costs ahead are larger than a small entity can shoulder.”

Able Technologies is based in the Ruttas’ Englewood home, where the couple designed what they call an electricity-generating wave pipe with the help of colleagues in mechanical and oceanic engineering after patenting their concept in 2002.

Devices harnessing kinetic energy from ocean waves, known as wave energy converters, are not new and can be problematic. Online organizations reported in March that three devices installed off the coast of Portugal by a Scottish developer were taken ashore due to structural problems and lack of funding.

The Scottish devices are horizontal, serpentine structures that undulate in sync with the waves, whereas the Ruttas’ version anchors vertically to the ocean floor.

That means the machine has to stand up to the fierce oceanic conditions much like a bridge stanchion. These include the very force it captures in trying to produce enough electricity to be viable, said Rutta.

The Ruttas got their first opportunity to test the prototype’s endurance and energy production in mid-November, at the Ohmsett Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Facility at Leonardo in Monmouth County. The facility operates under the U.S. Department of Interior and runs a massive, 11-foot-deep wave tank for testing oil spill response equipment. This year it added wave energy technology.

The agency offered the Ruttas a week at Ohmsett after finding merit in a white paper the Ruttas submitted on the technology.

Every day for a week, the wave pipe was fitted with probes and other sensory equipment while being battered with saltwater waves up to 3 feet high. The purpose was to measure how it performed against small waves — which might have made it stall — and high ones, and whether it delivered energy, said Rutta.

“It worked with the waves beautifully — that was my happiest surprise,” said Rutta, “and it produced power. It exceeded our expectations.”

The week’s worth of results will be analyzed to determine the weight and size a commercial unit should be to withstand ocean conditions and estimate how much electricity could be produced, Rutta said.

While the tests raise their credibility, she said, funding is needed to analyze the data and design and build a full-size prototype.

Rutta said she is waiting for word on their application for a $150,000 grant from the small business arm of the Department of Energy to analyze the data. Designing and building a commercial-sized prototype could be “in the millions,” she said.

All money up to this point has come from their personal savings, said Rutta, and has reached “into the six figures.”

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RenewableEnergyFocus.com, November 25, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will fund $18 million to support small business innovation research, development and deployment of clean and renewable energy technologies, including projects to advance wave and current energy technologies, ocean thermal energy conversion systems, and concentrating solar power (CSP) for distributed applications.

The funding will come from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act and, in this first phase of funding, 125 grants of $150,000 each will be awarded to 107 small advanced technology firms across the United States for clean and renewable energy. The companies were selected from a pool of 950 applicants through a special fast-track process with an emphasis on near-term commercialization and job creation.

Companies which demonstrate successful results with their new clean and renewable technologies and show potential to meet market needs, will be eligible for $60m in a second round of grants in the summer of 2010.

“Small businesses are drivers of innovation and are crucial to the development of a competitive clean energy US economy,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “These investments will help ensure small businesses are able to compete in the clean energy economy, creating jobs and developing new technologies to help decrease carbon pollution and increase energy efficiency.”

Grants were awarded in 10 clean and renewable energy topic areas, including $2.8m for 12 projects in Advanced Solar Technologies where projects will focus on achieving significant cost and performance improvements over current technologies, solar-powered systems that produce fuels, and concentrated solar power systems for distributed applications.

Another $1.7m will go to 12 clean and renewable energy projects in Advanced Water Power Technology Development where projects will focus on new approaches to wave and current energy technologies and ocean thermal energy conversion systems.

Other key areas are:

  • Water Usage in Electric Power Production (decreasing the water used in thermoelectric power generation and developing innovative approaches to desalination using Combined Heat and Power projects);
  • Advanced Building Air Conditioning and Cool Roofs (improve efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration while reducing GHG emissions);
  • Power Plant Cooling (advanced heat exchange technology for power plant cooling);
    Smart Controllers for Smart Grid Applications (develop technologies to support electric vehicles and support of distributed energy generation systems);
  • Advanced Industrial Technologies Development (improve efficiency and environmental performance in the cement industry);
  • Advanced Manufacturing Processes (improving heat and energy losses in energy intensive manufacturing processes);
  • Advanced Gas Turbines and Materials (high performance materials for nuclear applications and novel designs for high-efficiency and low-cost distributed power systems); and
  • Sensors, Controls, and Wireless Networks (building applications to minimise power use and power line sensor systems for the smart grid).

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 21, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that it is providing $14.6 million in funding for 22 water power projects to move forward in the commercial viability, market acceptance and environmental performance of new marine and hydrokinetic technologies as well as conventional hydropower plants.

The selected projects will further the nation’s supply of domestic clean hydroelectricity through technological innovation to capitalize on new sources of energy, and will advance markets and research to maximize the nation’s largest renewable energy source.

“Hydropower provides our nation with emissions-free, sustainable energy.  By improving hydropower technology, we can maximize what is already our biggest source of renewable energy in an environmentally responsible way.  These projects will provide critical support for the development of innovative renewable water power technologies and help ensure a vibrant hydropower industry for years to come,” said Secretary Chu.

Recipients include the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, California, receiving $1.5 million, $500,000 and $600,000 for three projects with the Hydro Research Foundation in Washington, DC, receiving to $1 million.

According to the Dept. of Energy, selected projects address five topic areas:

  • Hydropower Grid Services – Selection has been made for a project that develops new methods to quantify and maximize the benefits that conventional hydropower and pumped storage hydropower provide to transmission grids.
  • University Hydropower Research Program – Selected projects will be for organizations to establish and manage a competitive fellowship program to support graduate students and faculty members engaged in work directly relevant to conventional hydropower or pumped storage hydropower.
  • Marine & Hydrokinetic Energy Conversion Device or Component Design and Development – Selections are for industry-led partnerships to design, model, develop, refine, or test a marine and hydrokinetic energy conversion device, at full or subscale, or a component of such a device.
  • Marine and Hydrokinetic Site-specific Environmental Studies – Selected projects are for industry-led teams to perform environmental studies related to the installation, testing, or operation of a marine and hydrokinetic energy conversion device at an open water project site.
  • Advanced Ocean Energy Market Acceleration Analysis and Assessments – Selections are for a number of energy resource assessments across a number of marine and hydrokinetic resources, as well as life-cycle cost analyses for wave, current and ocean thermal energy conversion technologies.

For a complete list of the the funded projects, go here.

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Hydro Review with edits, Pennwell, July 9, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe U.S. Treasury and the Department of Energy are now offering $3 billion in government funds to organizations developing renewable energy projects including hydropower and ocean energy projects.

The funds, from the economic stimulus package passed by Congress in February, support the White House goal of doubling U.S. renewable energy production over the next three years.

The money provides direct payments to companies, rather than investment or production tax credits, to support about 5,000 renewable energy production facilities that qualify for production tax credits under recent energy legislation. Treasury and DOE issued funding guidelines for individual projects qualifying for an average of $600,000 each.

Previously energy companies could file for a tax credit to cover a portion of the costs of a renewable energy project. In 2006, about $550 million in tax credits were provided to 450 businesses.

“The rate of new renewable energy installations has fallen since the economic and financial downturns began, as projects had a harder time obtaining financing,” a statement by the agencies said. “The Departments of Treasury and Energy expect a fast acceleration of businesses applying for the energy funds in lieu of the tax credit.”

Under the new program, companies forgo tax credits in favor of an immediate reimbursement of a portion of the property expense, making funds available almost immediately.

“These payments will help spur major private sector investments in clean energy and create new jobs for America’s workers,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

“This partnership between Treasury and Energy will enable both large companies and small businesses to invest in our long-term energy needs, protect our environment and revitalize our nation’s economy,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said.

Eligible projects have the same requirements as those qualifying for investment and production tax credits under the Internal Revenue Code. As with production tax credits, eligible renewables include incremental hydropower from additions to existing hydro plants, hydropower development at existing non-powered dams, ocean and tidal energy technologies.

Projects either must be placed in service between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010, regardless of when construction begins, or they must be placed in service after 2010 and before the credit termination date if construction begins between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2010. Credit termination dates vary by technology, ranging from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2017. The termination date for hydropower and marine and hydrokinetic projects is Jan. 1, 2014.

The U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Energy are launching an Internet site in the coming weeks, but are not taking applications at this time. However, to expedite the process, they made a guidance document, terms and conditions, and a sample application form immediately available on the Internet at here.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 06, 2009

SecretaryChu_tnU.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced more than $153 million in Recovery Act funding to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Under the Dept. of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP), states and territories have proposed statewide plans that prioritize energy savings, create or retain jobs, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative is part of the Obama Administration’s national strategy to support job growth, while making a historic down payment on clean energy and conservation.

“This funding will provide an important boost for state economies, help to put Americans back to work, and move us toward energy independence,” said Secretary Chu. “It reflects our commitment to support innovative state and local strategies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while insisting that taxpayer dollars be spent responsibly.”

The following states and territories are receiving 40% of their total SEP funding authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today: Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New York and the Virgin Islands.

With today’s announcement, these states and territories will now have received 50% of their total Recovery Act SEP funding. The initial 10% of total funding was previously available to states to support planning activities; the remaining 50% of funds will be released once states meet reporting, oversight and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act.

Under the Recovery Act, DOE expanded the types of activities eligible for SEP funding, which include energy audits, building retrofits, education and training efforts, transportation programs to increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles, and new financing mechanisms to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

The Recovery Act appropriated $3.1 billion to the State Energy Program to help achieve national energy independence goals and promote local economic recovery. States use these grants at the state and local level to create green jobs, address state energy priorities, and adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Transparency and accountability are important priorities for SEP and all Recovery Act projects. Throughout the program’s implementation, DOE will provide strong oversight at the local, state, and national level, while emphasizing with states the need to quickly award funds to help create new jobs and stimulate local economies.

The following states are receiving awards today:

Arkansas – $15.7 Million Awarded

Arkansas will use SEP Recovery Act funding to reduce energy consumption and advance energy independence by implementing several energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. These programs will also help create and support jobs within the state. Arkansas will use over half of its SEP Recovery Act funding to establish two loan programs to encourage industry and state buildings to invest in energy efficiency technologies. These energy efficiency upgrades will reduce utility bills for both sectors and make businesses more profitable.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive almost $20 million in additional funding, for a total of nearly $40 million.

Georgia – $32.9 Million Awarded

Georgia will implement several programs to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy across residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental sectors with SEP Recovery Act funding. Together these programs will advance the country’s energy independence and create and support jobs statewide.

The state will use a large portion of the Recovery Act funding to implement the State Utilities Retrofit Program, administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. In this new program, the state of Georgia proposes to allocate $65 million to retrofit state government facilities. This funding will be used to conduct energy audits and assessments and capital projects to pay for the incremental cost difference between standard and high-efficiency technologies. Proposals for funding will be selected based on the projects’ ability to comply with state and federal energy goals and priorities, including energy independence, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the creation of green jobs.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive more than $41 million in additional funding, for a total of almost $82.5 million.

Mississippi – $16.1 Million Awarded

Mississippi will use its SEP funding through the Recovery Act to promote energy efficiency in state buildings and initiate selected renewable energy projects. The state plans to initiate a “lead by example” program to enhance energy efficiency in state buildings, including the installation of advanced smart meters to monitor real-time energy consumption. Meters that can gather energy data quickly and identify equipment problems will be installed in various state agencies. The agencies will then be able to analyze their energy use data to know exactly how much energy their facilities are using at any given time so that they can reduce consumption and unnecessary power use where possible. The state will also provide grants, loans or other incentives to municipalities in Mississippi to purchase hybrid and alternative-fueled vehicles.

In addition, Mississippi will design and implement selected pilot projects for renewable energy installations, targeting several sectors including commercial, industrial, residential, and transportation. On a competitive basis, this program will provide incentives to public and private entities to build or expand renewable energy production or manufacturing facilities that produce energy or transportation fuels from biomass, solar or wind resources.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $20 million, for a total of $40 million.

Montana – $10.3 Million Awarded

Montana will use its Recovery Act funding to undertake projects that will improve the energy efficiency of state buildings, while expanding renewable energy use and recycling infrastructure in the state. State Energy Program funds will support energy efficiency improvements to fifty state-owned buildings and will provide for a significant expansion of the State Buildings Energy Conservation Program. The state will also use Recovery Act funds for grants to speed the implementation of new clean energy technologies that have moved into the production phase but are not yet well known or utilized in the state.

In addition, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which oversees the SEP program, will be able to increase the amount it lends in low-interest loans to consumers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to install various renewable energy systems, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass.

Under the State Energy Program, DEQ will also expand the state’s recycling infrastructure to help limit the quantity of recyclable materials that end up in landfills. As a result of the state’s rural nature with small population centers and long distances between communities, it is often difficult to cost effectively recycle materials. With an expanded recycling infrastructure, the state will be able to reduce the need for new materials to be mined and manufactured, which saves energy at all stages of the processing.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $13 million, for a total of $25 million.

New York – $49.2 Million Awarded

New York will direct its SEP Recovery Act funding to programs that will accelerate the introduction of alternative-fuel vehicles into New York communities, boost the energy efficiency of buildings across the state, increase compliance with the state’s energy codes and expand the use of solar power.

The Clean Fleet program will provide funding for eligible entities—such as cities, counties, public school districts, public colleges and universities and others—to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets. Recovery Act funding will also provide financial support for energy efficiency and retrofit projects in the municipal, K-12 public schools, public university, hospital and not-for-profit sectors.

A third project aims to achieve at least 90 percent compliance in the commercial and residential sectors for a new statewide Energy Code. With Recovery Act funding, the state will offer technical assistance and local compliance support to local municipal officials, as well as those professions who work closely with energy code buildings, such as architects, engineers, and home builders. Finally, New York will provide SEP funding to encourage installation of a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems across the state, and to provide training opportunities for installers.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $61.5 million, for a total of $123 million.

Virgin Island – $8.2 Million Awarded

The U.S. Virgin Islands will utilize its SEP Recovery Act funding to advance energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy projects on the islands. The Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO) will establish or expand multiple programs to reduce energy demand in buildings and the transportation sector through energy efficiency education, outreach and financial assistance.

Buildings initiatives that will receive Recovery Act funding include an expansion of VIEO’s existing Energy Star Rebate program, which provides incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient products. VIEO will also direct SEP funding to the development and implementation of energy education and training programs to promote energy efficiency in the design, construction, installation and maintenance of a wide variety of buildings and energy systems.

VIEO will also work to implement a financial incentive program for residents to encourage the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the Virgin Islands will receive over $10 million in additional funding, for a total of more than $20.5 million.

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 30, 2009

hydropower-plant-usbr-hooverU.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu is making available over $32 million in Recovery Act funding to modernize the existing hydropower infrastructure in the U.S., increase efficiency and reduce environmental impact.

His  announcement supports the deployment of turbines and control technologies to increase power generation and environmental stewardship at existing non-federal hydroelectric facilities.

“There’s no one solution to the energy crisis, but hydropower is clearly part of the solution and represents a major opportunity to create more clean energy jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “Investing in our existing hydropower infrastructure will strengthen our economy, reduce pollution and help us toward energy independence.”

Secretary Chu notes a key benefit of hydropower: potential hydro energy can be stored behind dams and released when it is most needed. Therefore, improving our hydro infrastructure can help to increase the utilization and economic viability of intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

Secretary Chu has committed to developing pumped storage technology to harness these advantages. Today’s funding opportunity announcement under the Recovery Act will be competitively awarded to a variety of non-federal hydropower projects that can be developed without significant modifications to dams and with a minimum of regulatory delay.

Projects will be selected in two areas:

  • Deployment of Hydropower Upgrades at Projects >50 MW: These include projects at large, non-federal facilities (greater than 50 MW capacity) with existing or advanced technologies that will enable improved environmental performance and significant new generation.
  • Deployment of Hydropower Upgrades at Projects < 50 MW: These include projects at small-scale non-federal facilities (less than 50 MWs) with existing or advanced technologies that will enable improved environmental performance and significant new generation.

Letters of intent are due July 22, 2009, and completed applications are due August 20, 2009.

The complete Funding Opportunity Announcement, number DE-FOA-0000120, can be viewed on the Grants.gov Web site. Projects are expected to begin in fiscal year 2010.

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Joseph Romm, ClimateProgress, June 22, 2009

cathy-zoiOn June 19th, the United States Senate, by voice vote, confirmed Cathy Zoi to be the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Cathy Zoi, CEO of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, will now serve as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) under Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Zoi has a unique combination of expertise in clean energy and high level federal government experience — she was Chief of Staff in the Clinton White House Office on Environmental Policy, managing the staff working on environmental and energy issues (recent writing below). Since I have known Zoi for nearly 2 decades and since in 1997 I held the job she is now nominated for, I can personally attest she will be able to hit the ground running in the crucial job of overseeing the vast majority of the development and deployment of plausible climate solutions technology.

What does EERE do? You could spend hours on their website, here, exploring everything they are into. Of the 12 to 14 most plausible wedges the world needs to stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm — the full global warming solution — EERE is the principal federal agency for working with businesses to develop and deploy the technology for 11 of them!

The stimulus and the 2009 budget dramatically increases — more than doubles — EERE funding for technology development and deployment. Zoi’s most important job is deployment, deployment, deployment. And again she is a uniquely qualified to get clean energy into the marketplace. Zoi was a manager at the US Environmental Protection Agency where “she pioneered the Energy Star Program,” which was the pioneering energy efficiency deployment program launched in the early 1990s.

So we know Zoi gets energy efficiency. Here’s what she wrote last year about “Embracing the Challenge to Repower America“:

Many Americans have a hard time thinking about our energy future, largely because their energy present is so challenging. With gasoline prices hovering near $4 per gallon and rising energy bills at home and at work, our economy is struggling with the burden of imported oil and reliance on fossil fuels. The need to satisfy the nation’s oil appetite has shaped our foreign and defense postures, and is a primary reason for our current entanglements overseas. Extreme weather here in the U.S. has us feeling uneasy. And the scientists remind us more urgently every week about the mounting manifestations of the climate crisis.

To solve these problems, we must repower our economy. Fast.

Vice President Gore has issued a challenge for us to do just that: Generate 100% of America’s electricity from truly clean sources that do not contribute to global warming — and do so within 10 years. It is an ambitious but attainable goal. American workers, businesses and families are up to it.

Meeting the challenge to repower America will deliver the affordability, stability and confidence our economy needs, as well as a healthy environment. And it will generate millions of good American jobs that can’t be outsourced.

It will involve simultaneous work on three fronts. First, get the most out of the energy we currently produce. Second, quickly deploy the clean energy technologies that we already know can work. Third, create a new integrated electricity grid to deliver power from where it is generated to where people live.

The first front involves energy efficiency. The potential here is vast and largely untapped. Now is the time to begin a comprehensive national energy upgrade that will reduce the energy bills of homeowners and businesses — even as costs of energy supplies may be on the rise.

The second front requires expanding the use of existing generation technologies. This will include accelerated growth in our wind energy industry. We have a strong running start — the U.S. was the leading installer of wind technology last year. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens says we can get at least 20 percent of America’s electricity from wind power. We think he’s right.

Solar thermal power is also booming and poised for rapid acceleration. The resource potential is so vast that a series of collectors in the American southwest totaling just 92 miles on a side could power our entire electricity system. Utilities in Arizona, Nevada, and California have already begun to tap this potential, with plans for powering nearly one million homes underway.

Advances in thermal storage technologies, along with investments in our grid, mean that solar thermal power will be able to provide electricity at night, like coal power does today.

Nuclear and hydroelectric power facilities currently combine to contribute roughly 25% of America’s electricity. That will continue. Coal and natural gas can also play a significant role by capturing and storing their carbon emissions safely. Our hope is that this CCS emissions technology can be developed and commercialized quickly. Without it, coal isn’t “clean.” There are reportedly a few CCS plants now proposed in the U.S., although another roughly 70 proposed coal plants have no such plans to capture their carbon pollution.

The third front is the creation of a unified national electricity grid. A “super smart grid” will form the backbone and the entire skeleton of our modern power system. Efficient high voltage lines will move power from remote, resource-rich areas to places where power is consumed.

It will also allow households to make money by automatically using energy at the cheapest times and selling electricity back to the grid when a surplus is available can. A smart meter spins both ways.

Meeting this 100% clean power challenge will require a one-time capital investment in new infrastructure, with the bulk of funding coming from private finance. If policies reward reducing global warming pollution, private capital will flow towards clean energy solutions.

But the most important cost figures to consider may be the ones we’ll avoid. American utilities will spend roughly $100 billion this year on coal and natural gas to fuel power plants. And more next year and the year after that — until we make the switch to renewable fuels that are free and limitless.

The 10-year time frame is key.

The science, the economic pressures and our national security concerns demand swift, concerted action. The best climate scientists tell us we must make rapid progress to turn the corner on global carbon emissions or the ecological consequences will be irreversible.

The solutions are available now — there are no technology or material impediments. Failing to move swiftly will deprive the U.S. economy of earnings from one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the world.

We’ve done this before. We mobilized the auto industry in 12 months to service the hardware needs of WWII. The Marshall Plan to reconstruct Europe was executed in four years. And as Vice President Gore pointed out, we reached the moon in eight years, not ten.

We can do this. With support from the American people and leadership from elected officials, America can accept the challenge of building a safe, secure and sustainable energy future.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 19, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today adopted legislation to include key provisions of the Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act (Senate Act 923).

In response, the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition (OREC) commended Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for including the marine energy provisions to the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 now being crafted. The legislation is regarded as integral for continued development of ocean, tidal and hydrokinetic energy sources.

“OREC strongly endorses the legislation adopted in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today,” said Sean O’Neill, OREC’s President. “Marine-based renewable resources offer vast energy, economic and environmental benefits. However, the success of this industry requires additional federal support for research, development and demonstration.”

The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act will authorize $250 million per year through 2021 for marine renewable research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D), a Department of Energy sponsored Device Verification Program and an Adaptive Management Program to fund environmental studies associated with installed ocean renewable energy projects.

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MARK CLAYTON, The Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 2009

article_photo1_smWhen giving his slide presentation on America’s new energy direction, Jon Wellinghoff sometimes sneaks in a picture of himself seated in a midnight blue, all-electric Tesla sports car.

It often wins a laugh, but makes a key point: The United States is accelerating in a new energy direction under President Obama’s newly appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). At the same time, FERC’s key role in the nation’s energy future is becoming more apparent.

Energy and climate legislation now pending in Congress would put in FERC’s hands a sweeping market-based cap-and-trade system intended to lower industrial greenhouse-gas emissions.

Besides its role granting permits for new offshore wind power, the agency is also overseeing planning for transmission lines that could one day link Dakota wind farms to East Coast cities, and solar power in the Southwest to the West Coast.

“FERC has always been important to power development,” says Ralph Cavanagh, energy program codirector for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group. “It’s just that people haven’t known about it. They will pretty soon.”

That’s because Mr. Wellinghoff and three fellow commissioners share an affinity for efficiency and renewable energy that’s not just skin-deep, Mr. Cavanagh and others say.

Wellinghoff started his energy career as a consumer advocate for utility customers in Nevada before being appointed by President Bush in 2005 as a FERC commissioner. He was a key author of “renewable portfolio standards” that require Nevada’s utilities to incorporate more renewable power in their energy mix. Now he’s the nation’s top energy regulator.

It’s clear that FERC has a mandate to speed change to the nation’s power infrastructure, Wellinghoff says.

When it comes to the extra work and complexity FERC will encounter if Congress appoints FERC to administer a mammoth carbon-emissions cap-and-trade program, Wellinghoff is eager, yet circumspect.

“We believe we are fully capable of fulfilling that role with respect to physical trading [of carbon allowances],” he says during an interview in Washington. “We’ve demonstrated our ability to respond efficiently and effectively to undertake those duties Congress has given to us. Unfortunately, the result of that is they give you more to do.”

While the US Department of Energy controls long-term energy investment decisions, FERC’s four commissioners (a fifth seat is vacant) appear determined to ensure that wind, solar, geothermal, and ocean power get equal access to the grid.

The commissioners are also biased against coal and nuclear power on at least one key factor: cost.

Many in the power industry believe that renewable energy still costs too much. Not Wellinghoff, who says: “I see these distributed resources [solar, wind, natural-gas microturbines, and others] coming on right now as being generally less expensive.”

That might sound surprising. Yet, with coal and nuclear power plants costing billions of dollars – and raising environmental issues such as climate change and radioactive waste – others also see renewable power as the low-cost option.

Wellinghoff’s outspoken views have irritated some since his March selection as chairman.

Last month, for instance, he drew fire from nuclear-energy boosters in Congress after he characterized as “an anachronism” the idea of meeting future US power demand by building large new coal-fired and nuclear power plants.

“You don’t need fossil fuel or nuclear [plants] that run all the time,” Wellinghoff told reporters at a US Energy Association Forum last month. Then he added: “We may not need any, ever.”

That set off a salvo from Sen. Lind sey Graham (R) of South Carolina, a staunch nuclear-power advocate. “The public is ill-served when someone in such a prominent position suggests alternative-energy programs are developed and in such a state that we should abandon our plans to build more plants,” he said in a statement.

But to others, Wellinghoff is the epitome of what the US needs: a public servant zeroed in on energy security, the environment, efficiency, and keeping energy costs down.

“Wellinghoff has been a longtime supporter of efficiency and consumer interests,” says Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, an energy advocacy group. “I would call him a visionary. He’s not just content with the status quo.”

In Wellinghoff’s vision of the future, where the cost of carbon dioxide emissions is added to the price of coal-fired power plants and natural-gas turbines, it may be less expensive for consumers to set their appliances to avoid buying power at peak times. Or they may choose to buy power from a collection of microturbines, fuel cell, wind, solar, biomass, and ocean power systems.

“We’re going to see more distributed generation – and we’re already starting to see that happen,” Wellinghoff says. “Not only renewable generation like photovoltaic [panels] that people put on their homes and businesses, but also fossil-fuel systems like combined heat and power,” called cogeneration units.

To coordinate and harmonize this fluctuating phalanx of power sources, customers will need to know and be able to respond to the price of power, Wellinghoff says. They will also need a new generation of appliances that switch off automatically to balance power supply and demand peaks.

But there are huge challenges with a power grid that provides energy from a mix of wind, solar, and other renewable power.

“You’re going to have to upgrade this whole grid [along the East Coast], he says. “You can’t just move [wind and wave power] from offshore to load centers onshore without looking at the effect on reliability – Florida to Maine.”

As the percentage of renewable power rises toward 20 to 25% of grid power from around 3% today, there must be a backup to fill gaps when intermittent winds stop blowing or the sun doesn’t shine.

In a decade or more from now, Wellinghoff, says millions of all-electric or plug-in electric-gas hybrid vehicles could plug into the grid and supply spurts of power to fill in for dipping wind and solar output.

“There are new technologies,” he says, “that in the next three to five years will advance the grid to a new level.”

Gesturing to a drawing board on the wall, he hops up from his chair, his hands flicking across a sketch of the eastern half of the US with power lines fanning out from the Plains states to the East Coast.

“This is another grid option that would take a lot of power that’s now constrained in the Midwest, that can be developed – wind energy there – and move it to all the load centers [cities] on the East Coast,” he says.

Similarly, lines could be built across the Rockies to connect wind power in Montana and Wyoming to the West Coast. Instead of building power lines from the Midwest to the East Coast, “a lot of people would say, ‘No, no, let’s look first look at the wind offshore,’ ” he says.

Whether it’s wind from the Plains or the ocean, the resulting variability will have an impact on grid reliability if action isn’t taken, Wellinghoff says.

“You’re going to have to upgrade this whole grid here,” he says, gesturing to the East Coast. “You can’t just move [power] from offshore to load centers onshore without looking at the effect on reliability.”

Reliability of the grid remains paramount – Job No. 1 for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But if boosting renewable power to 25% by 2025 – the Obama administration’s goal – means spreading Internet-connected controllers across substations and transmission networks, then cybersecurity to protect them from increasing Internet-based threats is critical.

Yet a recent review by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation overseen by FERC found more than two-thirds of power generating companies denied they had any “critical assets” potentially vulnerable to cyberattack. Those denials concern Wellinghoff.

“We are asking the responding utilities to go back and reveal what are the number of critical assets and redetermine that for us,” he says. “We want to be sure that we have fully identify all the critical assets that need to be protected.”

It would be especially troubling if, as was recently reported by The Wall Street Journal, Russian and Chinese entities have hacked into the US power grid and left behind malware that could be activated at a later time to disable the grid.

But Wellinghoff says he has checked on the type of intrusion referred to in the article and denies successful grid hacks by foreign nations that have left dangerous malware behind.

While acknowledging that individuals overseas have tried to hack the grid frequently, he says, “I’m not aware of any successful hacks that have implanted into the grid any kinds of malware or other code that could later be activated.”

But others say there is a problem. In remarks at the University of Texas at Austin in April, Joel Brenner, the national counterintelligence executive, the nation’s most senior counterintelligence coordinator, indicated there are threats to the grid.

“We have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids,” he said in prepared remarks. “Do I worry about those grids, and about air traffic control systems, water supply systems, and so on? You bet I do.”

In an e-mailed statement, Wellinghoff’s press secretary, Mary O’Driscoll, says the chairman defers to senior intelligence officials on some questions concerning grid vulnerability to cyberattack: “The Commission isn’t in the intelligence gathering business and therefore can’t comment on that type of information.”

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JAMES RICKMAN, Seeking Alpha, June 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOceans cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. As the world’s largest solar collectors, oceans generate thermal energy from the sun. They also produce mechanical energy from the tides and waves. Even though the sun affects all ocean activity, the gravitational pull of the moon primarily drives the tides, and the wind powers the ocean waves.

Wave energy is the capture of the power from waves on the surface of the ocean. It is one of the newer forms of renewable or ‘green’ energy under development, not as advanced as solar energy, fuel cells, wind energy, ethanol, geothermal companies, and flywheels. However, interest in wave energy is increasing and may be the wave of the future in coastal areas according to many sources including the International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement on Ocean Energy Systems (Report 2009).

Although fewer than 12 MW of ocean power capacity has been installed to date worldwide, we find a significant increase of investments reaching over $2 billion for R&D worldwide within the ocean power market including the development of commercial ocean wave power combination wind farms within the next three years.

Tidal turbines are a new technology that can be used in many tidal areas. They are basically wind turbines that can be located anywhere there is strong tidal flow. Because water is about 800 times denser than air, tidal turbines will have to be much sturdier than wind turbines. They will be heavier and more expensive to build but will be able to capture more energy. For example, in the U.S. Pacific Northwest region alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity.

Companies to Watch in the Developing Wave Power Industry:

Siemens AG (SI) is a joint venture partner of Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation, a leader in advanced hydro power technology and services, which owns Wavegen, Scotland’s first wave power company. Wavegen’s device is known as an oscillating water column, which is normally sited at the shoreline rather than in open water. A small facility is already connected to the Scottish power grid, and the company is working on another project in Northern Spain.

Ocean Power Technologies, Inc (OPTT) develops proprietary systems that generate electricity through ocean waves. Its PowerBuoy system is used to supply electricity to local and regional electric power grids. Iberdrola hired the company to build and operate a small wave power station off Santona, Spain, and is talking with French oil major Total (TOT) about another wave energy project off the French coast. It is also working on projects in England, Scotland, Hawaii, and Oregon.

Pelamis Wave Power, formerly known as Ocean Power Delivery, is a privately held company which has several owners including various venture capital funds, General Electric Energy (GE) and Norsk Hydro ADR (NHYDY.PK). Pelamis Wave Power is an excellent example of Scottish success in developing groundbreaking technology which may put Scotland at the forefront of Europe’s renewable revolution and create over 18,000 green high wage jobs in Scotland over the next decade. The Pelamis project is also being studied by Chevron (CVX).

Endesa SA ADS (ELEYY.PK) is a Spanish electric utility which is developing, in partnership with Pelamis, the world’s first full scale commercial wave power farm off Aguçadoura, Portugal which powers over 15,000 homes. A second phase of the project is now planned to increase the installed capacity from 2.25MW to 21MW using a further 25 Pelamis machines.

RWE AG ADR (RWEOY.PK) is a German management holding company with six divisions involved in power and energy. It is developing wave power stations in Siadar Bay on the Isle of Lewis off the coast of Scotland.

Australia’s Oceanlinx offers an oscillating wave column design and counts Germany’s largest power generator RWE as an investor. It has multiple projects in Australia and the U.S., as well as South Africa, Mexico, and Britain.

Alstom (AOMFF.PK) has also announced development in the promising but challenging field of capturing energy from waves and tides adding to the further interest from major renewable power developers in this emerging industry.

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced several wave energy developments including a cost-shared value of over $18 million, under the DOE’s competitive solicitation for Advanced Water Power Projects. The projects will advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers. The DOE has selected the following organizations and projects for grant awards:

First Topic Area: Technology Development (Up to $600,000 for up to two years)

Electric Power Research Institute, Inc (EPRI) (Palo Alto, Calif.) Fish-friendly hydropower turbine development & deployment. EPRI will address the additional developmental engineering required to prepare a more efficient and environmentally friendly hydropower turbine for the commercial market and allow it to compete with traditional designs.

Verdant Power Inc. (New York, N.Y.) Improved structure and fabrication of large, high-power kinetic hydropower systems rotors. Verdant will design, analyze, develop for manufacture, fabricate and thoroughly test an improved turbine blade design structure to allow for larger, higher-power and more cost-effective tidal power turbines.

Public Utility District #1 of Snohomish County (SnoPUD) (Everett, Wash.) Puget Sound Tidal Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. SnoPUD will conduct in-water testing and demonstration of tidal flow technology as a first step toward potential construction of a commercial-scale power plant. The specific goal of this proposal is to complete engineering design and obtain construction approvals for a Puget Sound tidal pilot demonstration plant in the Admiralty Inlet region of the Sound.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company – San Francisco, Calif. WaveConnect Wave Energy In-Water Testing and Development Project. PG&E will complete engineering design, conduct baseline environmental studies, and submit all license construction and operation applications required for a wave energy demonstration plant for the Humboldt WaveConnect site in Northern California.

Concepts ETI, Inc (White River Junction, Vt.) Development and Demonstration of an Ocean Wave Converter (OWC) Power System. Concepts ETI will prepare detailed design, manufacturing and installation drawings of an OWC. They will then manufacture and install the system in Maui, Hawaii.

Lockheed Martin Corporation (LMT) – Manassas, Va., Advanced Composite Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion – “OTEC”, cold water pipe project. Lockheed Martin will validate manufacturing techniques for coldwater pipes critical to OTEC in order to help create a more cost-effective OTEC system.

Second Topic Area, Market Acceleration (Award size: up to $500,000)

Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, Calif.) Wave Energy Resource Assessment and GIS Database for the U.S. EPRI will determine the naturally available resource base and the maximum practicable extractable wave energy resource in the U.S., as well as the annual electrical energy which could be produced by typical wave energy conversion devices from that resource.

Georgia Tech Research Corporation (Atlanta, Ga.) Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the U.S. Georgia Tech will utilize an advanced ocean circulation numerical model to predict tidal currents and compute both available and effective power densities for distribution to potential project developers and the general public.

Re Vision Consulting, LLC (Sacramento, Calif.) Best Siting Practices for Marine and Hydrokinetic Technologies With Respect to Environmental and Navigational Impacts. Re Vision will establish baseline, technology-based scenarios to identify potential concerns in the siting of marine and hydrokinetic energy devices, and to provide information and data to industry and regulators.

Pacific Energy Ventures, LLC (Portland, Ore.) Siting Protocol for Marine and Hydrokinetic Energy Projects. Pacific Energy Ventures will bring together a multi-disciplinary team in an iterative and collaborative process to develop, review, and recommend how emerging hydrokinetic technologies can be sited to minimize environmental impacts.

PCCI, Inc. (Alexandria, Va.) Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Technologies: Identification of Potential Navigational Impacts and Mitigation Measures. PCCI will provide improved guidance to help developers understand how marine and hydrokinetic devices can be sited to minimize navigational impact and to expedite the U.S. Coast Guard review process.

Science Applications International Corporation (SAI) – San Diego, Calif., International Standards Development for Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy. SAIC will assist in the development of relevant marine and hydrokinetic energy industry standards, provide consistency and predictability to their development, and increase U.S. industry’s collaboration and representation in the development process.

Third Topic Area, National Marine Energy Centers (Award size: up to $1.25 million for up to five years)

Oregon State University, and University of Washington – Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center. OSU and UW will partner to develop the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center with a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development for the U.S. Center activities are structured to: facilitate device commercialization, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in understanding.

University of Hawaii (Honolulu, Hawaii) National Renewable Marine Energy Center in Hawaii will facilitate the development and implementation of commercial wave energy systems and to assist the private sector in moving ocean thermal energy conversion systems beyond proof-of-concept to pre-commercialization, long-term testing.

Types of Hydro Turbines

There are two main types of hydro turbines: impulse and reaction. The type of hydropower turbine selected for a project is based on the height of standing water— the flow, or volume of water, at the site. Other deciding factors include how deep the turbine must be set, efficiency, and cost.

Impulse Turbines

The impulse turbine generally uses the velocity of the water to move the runner and discharges to atmospheric pressure. The water stream hits each bucket on the runner. There is no suction on the down side of the turbine, and the water flows out the bottom of the turbine housing after hitting the runner. An impulse turbine, for example Pelton or Cross-Flow is generally suitable for high head, low flow applications.

Reaction Turbines

A reaction turbine develops power from the combined action of pressure and moving water. The runner is placed directly in the water stream flowing over the blades rather than striking each individually. Reaction turbines include the Propeller, Bulb, Straflo, Tube, Kaplan, Francis or Kenetic are generally used for sites with lower head and higher flows than compared with the impulse turbines.

Types of Hydropower Plants

There are three types of hydropower facilities: impoundment, diversion, and pumped storage. Some hydropower plants use dams and some do not.

Many dams were built for other purposes and hydropower was added later. In the United States, there are about 80,000 dams of which only 2,400 produce power. The other dams are for recreation, stock/farm ponds, flood control, water supply, and irrigation. Hydropower plants range in size from small systems for a home or village to large projects producing electricity for utilities.

Impoundment

The most common type of hydroelectric power plant (above image) is an impoundment facility. An impoundment facility, typically a large hydropower system, uses a dam to store river water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. The water may be released either to meet changing electricity needs or to maintain a constant reservoir level.

The Future of Ocean and Wave Energy

Wave energy devices extract energy directly from surface waves or from pressure fluctuations below the surface. Renewable energy analysts believe there is enough energy in the ocean waves to provide up to 2 terawatts of electricity. (A terawatt is equal to a trillion watts.)

Wave energy rich areas of the world include the western coasts of Scotland, northern Canada, southern Africa, Japan, Australia, and the northeastern and northwestern coasts of the United States. In the Pacific Northwest alone, it’s feasible that wave energy could produce 40–70 kilowatts (kW) per meter (3.3 feet) of western coastline. The West Coast of the United States is more than a 1,000 miles long.
In general, careful site selection is the key to keeping the environmental impacts of wave energy systems to a minimum. Wave energy system planners can choose sites that preserve scenic shorefronts. They also can avoid areas where wave energy systems can significantly alter flow patterns of sediment on the ocean floor.

Economically, wave energy systems are just beginning to compete with traditional power sources. However, the costs to produce wave energy are quickly coming down. Some European experts predict that wave power devices will soon find lucrative niche markets. Once built, they have low operation and maintenance costs because the fuel they use — seawater — is FREE.

The current cost of wave energy vs. traditional electric power sources?

It has been estimated that improving technology and economies of scale will allow wave generators to produce electricity at a cost comparable to wind-driven turbines, which produce energy at about 4.5 cents kWh.

For now, the best wave generator technology in place in the United Kingdom is producing energy at an average projected/assessed cost of 6.7 cents kWh.

In comparison, electricity generated by large scale coal burning power plants costs about 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Combined-cycle natural gas turbine technology, the primary source of new electric power capacity is about 3 cents per kilowatt hour or higher. It is not unusual to average costs of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour and up for municipal utilities districts.

Currently, the United States, Brazil, Europe, Scotland, Germany, Portugal, Canada and France all lead the developing wave energy industry that will return 30% growth or more for the next five years.

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LES BLUMENTHAL, The Bellingham Herald, May 30, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe Obama administration has proposed a 25% cut in the research and development budget for one of the most promising renewable energy sources in the Northwest – wave and tidal energy. 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 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% of the nation’s electricity demand, about the same as hydropower currently delivers.

Some experts have estimated that if only 0.2% 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% 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% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The law sets up interim targets of 3% by 2012 and 9% 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.

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MendoCoastCurrent, May 20, 2009

Mendocino-Energy-Mill-SiteAt this core energy technology incubator, energy policy is created as renewable energy technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing, refinement and implementation.

The Vision

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco/Silicon Valley. On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, utilizing a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site to innovate in best practices, cost-efficient, safe renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag/algae, smart grid and grid technologies, et al.

The process is collaborative in creating, identifying and engineering optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions…with acumen.

Start-ups, utilities companies, universities (e.g. Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford), EPRI, the federal government (FERC, DOE, DOI) and the world’s greatest minds gathering at this fast-tracked, unique coming-together of a green work force and the U.S. government, creating responsible, safe renewable energy technologies to quickly identify best commercialization candidates and build-outs.

The campus is quickly constructed on healthy areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre industry created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is underway.

Determining best sitings for projects in solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, algae farming, bioremediation; taking the important first steps towards establishing U.S. leadership in renewable energy and the global green economy.

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SustainableBusiness.com News, April 30, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoA bill introduced in the Senate aims to encourage development of renewable ocean energy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced the legislation as a companion to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Wash.), that would authorize as much as $250 million a year to promote ocean research.

The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 and a companion tax provision would expand federal research of marine energy, take over the cost verification of new wave, current, tidal and thermal ocean energy devices, create an adaptive management fund to help pay for the demonstration and deployment of such electric projects and provide a key additional tax incentive.

“Coming from Alaska, where there are nearly 150 communities located along the state’s 34,000 miles of coastline plus dozens more on major river systems, it’s clear that perfecting marine energy could be of immense benefit to the nation,” said Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It simply makes sense to harness the power of the sun, wind, waves and river and ocean currents to make electricity.”

The legislation would:

  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to increase its research and development effort. The bill also encourages efforts to allow marine energy to work in conjunction with other forms of energy, such as offshore wind, and authorizes more federal aid to assess and deal with any environmental impacts. 
  • Allow for the creation of a federal Marine-Based Energy Device Verification program in which the government would test and certify the performance of new marine technologies to reduce market risks for utilities purchasing power from such projects.
  • Authorize the federal government to set up an adaptive management program, and a fund to help pay for the regulatory permitting and development of new marine technologies.
  • And a separate bill, likely to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration, would ensure marine projects benefit from being able to accelerate the depreciation of their project costs over five years–like some other renewable energy technologies currently can do. The provision should enhance project economic returns for private developers

 The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that ocean resources in the United States could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity–6.5% of America’s entire electricity generation–if ocean energy gained the same financial and research incentives currently enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy.

“This bill, if approved, will bring us closer to a level playing field so that ocean energy can compete with wind, solar, geothermal and biomass technologies to generate clean energy,” Murkowski said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, April 26, 2009

berkeleysolar1The California Energy Commission is conducting a workshop on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 in Sacramento, to discuss the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provisions related to funding for energy projects.

The workshop will focus on Assembly Bill 811 (Levine, Chapter 159, Statutes of 2008) that finances the installation of energy efficiency improvements, distributed generation and renewable energy sources through contractual assessments to determine if and how ARRA money can advance these programs in local jurisdictions.

This workshop is intended to inform and discuss with the public and various stakeholders the types of projects that may be funded, eligible recipients of funds and application processes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
California Energy Commission
1516 Ninth Street
First Floor, Hearing Room A
Sacramento, California

Remote Attendance
Webcast – Presentations and audio from this meeting will be broadcast over the Internet through Windows Media. For details, please go to [www.energy.ca.gov/webcast/].

Webcast participants will be able to submit questions on areas of interest during the meeting to be addressed by workshop participants via e-mail at [AB811@energy.state.ca.us].

Purpose
Energy Commission staff are exploring the efficacy of supporting AB 811 type programs with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. These would promote the installation of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources or energy efficiency improvements that are permanently fixed to real property and are financed through the use of contractual assessments. Included in this discussion will be the costs and benefits of financing such a program, local and state barriers that may exist to implementing AB 811 related programs, and exploring other financing mechanisms that could be quickly implemented to achieve similar energy efficiency project installation and financing as described in AB 811.

Note that the following criteria for project priorities and expending ARRA funds will be taken into consideration when discussing AB 811 and/or other funding:

  1. Effectiveness in stimulating and creating or retaining green jobs in California;
  2. Achieve lasting and measureable energy benefits consistent with the “Loading Order” priority of energy efficiency systems;
  3. Expend money efficiently, with accountability and minimal administrative burden;
  4. Contribute to meeting California’s energy policy goals as defined by the Energy Commission’s Integrated Energy Policy Report, California Air Resources Board’s AB 32 Scoping Plan as well as other relevant energy policy documents; and
  5. Leverage other federal, state, local and private financing to sustain the economy.

Background
ARRA of 2009 will provide nationally $787 billion in economic investment. The goals of ARRA are to jump start the economy and create jobs for Americans.

The Energy Commission is expected to administer three programs that include: the State Energy Program for approximately $226 million; the Energy Efficiency and Conservation and Block Grant Program for approximately $49.6 million; and the Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program estimated at approximately $30 million.

In addition, there is more than $37 billion available nationwide that the United States Department of Energy (DOE) will administer through competitive grants and other financing for energy- and climate change-related programs. The Energy Commission will work with other state agencies, utilities, and other public and private entities to identify ways to leverage these funds for California projects.

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 11, 2009

17transition2-6001Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that he has just signed his first order establishing renewable energy generation as the top priority of the Department of the Interior. Following President Obama’s lead in steering the United States into this new energy path, he said this agenda would create jobs and grow investment and innovation at home. Also noted was that the DOI will focus mostly in western states for generation of electricity through renewable energy (solar, wind, wave, geothermal, biomass).

Secretary Salazar illustrated this opportunity with the Bureau of Land Management backlog over 200 solar energy projects and over 20 wind projects in western states alone. There have yet been any permits or jobs created for these renewable energy projects to be fast-tracked in consideration, evaluated in terms of environmental impact and anticipating the acceptable projects will move forward swiftly.

Starting today, renewable energy projects in solar, wind, small hydro, geothermal and biomass will benefit in priority treatment to generate electricity and renewable energy. And Secretary Salazar stated that a newly-formed energy and climate change task force is already working hard, nights and weekend to develop these plans (since January 20th) for presentation to a Dept. of Energy committee soon. 

In tandem, Secretary Salazar indicated that through cross-departmental effort (BLM, EPA, Dept. of Energy, MMS, FERC and others), his goal is to rapidly and responsibly move forward with Obama’s renewable energy agenda to develop and upgrade the United States electric transmission grid.  

When asked about Cape Wind off Cape Cod, Mr. Salazar indicate that “after we hold our hearings around the country [for MMS rulemaking] the jurisdictional issues between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Minerals Management Service shall be accomplished within this year.” Many projects are being inhibited and we are actively clearing the path to move forward.

The roadshow planned by Secretary Salazar shall help identify renewable energy zones (solar energy in western states minus ecological sensitivity (reduction). He explained that today, through solar energy in the western states alone, we may produce 88% of all of the energy needs and adding wind takes it over 100%. This also fuels the need for a national transmission system as a high priority.

Salazar also called for the need to finalize and renew offshore renewable energy rules that protect the United States landscapes, wildlife and environment as we serve as steward of our lands.

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MendoCoastCurrent from Platts Energy Podium, February 12, 2009

The recently approved Economic Stimulus Plan includes expanding the US electric transmission grid and this may be the just the start of what will be a costly effort to improve reliability and deliver renewable energy to consumers from remote locations, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Acting Chairman Jon Wellinghoff told the Platts Energy Podium on February 12, 2009.

Wellinghoff defines the Stimulus energy funds as “seed money. But it really isn’t [enough] money to make huge advances in the overall backbone grid that we’re talking about to integrate substantial amounts of wind.”

While details of the plan compromises are unclear, the measure could provide $10 billion or more to transmission upgrades. Wellinghoff said backbone transmission projects could cost more than $200 billion. “And I think we’ll see that money coming from the private sector,” based on proposals already submitted to FERC.

Wellinghoff’s focused on Congress strengthening federal authority to site interstate high-voltage electric transmission lines to carry wind power to metropolitan areas and expects FERC to be heavily involved in formulation of either a comprehensive energy bill or a series of bills meant to address obstacles to increasing renewable wind, solar and geothermal energy, and other matters that fall within FERC’s purview. 

FERC plays a critical role “given the authorities we’ve been given in the 2005 and 2007 acts and our capabilities with respect to policy and implementation of energy infrastructure.”

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Editors Note:  On May 11, 2009, PG&E pulled-out of Mendocino WaveConnect, read it here: http://tinyurl.com/qwlbg6 . The remains of the $6M are now solely allocated to Humboldt WaveConnect.

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPG&E caught a major renewable energy wave today as the California Public Utilities Commission approved $4.8 million in funding their centerpiece wave energy project, WaveConnect. The program also received an additional $1.2 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy. PG&E’s WaveConnect, a project already two years in the making, launches with a $6M kitty.

WaveConnect is chartered with exploring wave energy development off the coasts of Mendocino and Humboldt counties in Northern California. The stakeholders in this region are dyed-in-the-wool political activists, living in environmentally-centric coastal communities and have reacted protectively, sounding alarms that PG&E and the Federal government’s wave energy plans may foul, diminish and destroy the Pacific Ocean and marine life.

Over the two years that PG&E and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) advanced WaveConnect, only recently have environmental concerns and study become part of the discussion. The opportunity for Mendocino and Humboldt coastal communities and local governments to embrace wave energy development and connect with WaveConnect has not gone well, especially as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has disallowed the City of Fort Bragg and local fishermen to be party in the WaveConnect FERC Preliminary Permitting.

Jonathan Marshall, publisher of Next100, a PG&E blog, wrote “PG&E’s first step will be to conduct meetings with local stakeholders and agencies to learn about their issues and concerns. After completing appropriate environmental reviews and permit applications, which could take a couple of years, PG&E then plans to build an undersea infrastructure, including power transmission cables, to support wave energy demonstration projects. The utility will then invite manufacturers of wave energy devices to install them offshore for testing and comparison.”

“The anticipated cost of wave power compares favorably to the early days of solar and wind,” says William Toman, WaveConnect project manager at PG&E. “It will take several stages of design evolution to lower costs and increase reliability.” The CPUC and the DOE are betting on this evolution as in this funding scenario engineered by PG&E, the CPUC awards $4.8M in ratepayer funds while the DOE $1.2M is a matching grant.

Wave energy may become a key source of renewable energy in California. It’s proposed that the 745-mile coastline could produce 1/5th of California’s energy needs if, admittedly a big if, economic, environmental, land use and grid connection issues — and community issues — don’t stand in the way.

Marshall wrote in closing “Making ocean power technology work reliably and at a competitive price will be the first big challenge. Serving offshore installations with power transmission lines will be another economic and engineering hurdle. Finally, ocean power developers must also convince local communities and government regulators that their installations will not destroy marine life, cause boating collisions or navigational hazards, or degrade ocean views.”

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Please Take Action By MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009 before 2:00 pm!

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

ferc_seal1Just a couple of weeks ago, Ann Miles, Director of Hydropower Licensing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission visited the Mendocino coast.  The centerpiece of her presentation on January 13, 2009 at Fort Bragg Town Hall was to explain the FERC Hydokinetic Licensing process.

For all those present at the meeting, Ms. Miles informed the Mendocino community of the WRONG DATE to file citizen Motions to Intervene in the Green Wave LLC proposed FERC project on the Mendocino village coastline.

FERC has kindly updated the mis-information and has indicated they wish to have the correct date promoted.  This correct date to file Motions to Intervene (directions follow) is now Monday, February 9, 2009 no later than 2:00 P.M. PST.

* * * * * * * *

Here’s a novel and effective way for you, your company and your family to state your position to the Federal Government on Mendocino wave energy development. It’s pretty simple to do, it’s empowering and it’s effective in that each filing can make a difference. Interested? Read on.

This action relates to Green Wave Energy Solutions’ application for a wave energy Preliminary Permit that was recently accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Since early December 2008, FERC has enabled a process for the public and interested parties to share their views (intervene).  The best way to participate is go online to the FERC web site and use the guide below to share your views on the Green Wave FERC hydrokinetic application.

Click on this HERE for a step-by-step instruction guide authored by Elizabeth Mitchell, FERC Coordinator for Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, FISH.

More about the FERC and Green Wave Energy Solutions Mendocino Wave Energy Permit

An application for a wave energy project in the ocean off Mendocino, California has been filed by Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC.  Green Wave has made an application to put 10 to 100 wave energy devices in 17 square miles of ocean, between 0.5 and 2.6 miles offshore, running roughly north and south between the Navarro River and Point Cabrillo on the North Coast of California.

On December 9, 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began the permit process for the project by issuing a “Notice of Preliminary Permit Applications Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comment, Motions to Intervene, and Competing Applications.”  

The law provides that interested individuals and organizations may become parties to the permit process.  In order to become a party, you and/or your organization(s) must file a “Motion to Intervene.”  The deadline for intervening in the Green Wave Project is Monday, February 9, 2009 by 2:00 P.M. PST.

You may intervene no matter what your current views are on the merits of wave energy.  Intervention gives you a place at the table as a full party to the permit process.  It also enables you to appeal future FERC rulings with respect to the permit. 

Intervening is not difficult, and you do not have to be a lawyer to do it.  If you file your motion to intervene by the Monday, February 9, 2009 deadline, and no one opposes your intervention, you automatically become a party after 15 days.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 28, 2009
To Keep Momentum, AWEA Calls for Quick Approval of the Obama Stimulus Package

wind-energy1

Architect Laurie Chetwood's Wind Dam

The massive growth in 2008 swelled the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50% and channeled an investment of some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country today along with natural gas, AWEA added. However, at year’s end financing for new projects and orders for turbine components slowed to a trickle as layoffs began to hit the wind turbine manufacturing sector.

“Our numbers are both exciting and sobering,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. “The U.S. wind energy industry’s performance in 2008 confirms that wind is an economic and job creation dynamo, ready to deliver on the President’s call to double renewable energy production in three years. At the same time, it is clear that the economic and financial downturn have begun to take a serious toll on new wind development. We are already seeing layoffs in the area where wind’s promise is greatest for our economy: the wind power manufacturing sector. Quick action in the stimulus bill is vital to restore the industry’s momentum and create jobs as we help make our country more secure and leave a more stable climate for our children.”

The new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42% of the entire new power-producing capacity added nationally last year, according to initial estimates, and will avoid nearly 44 million tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of taking over 7 million cars off of the road.

The amount that the industry brought online in the 4th quarter alone – 4,112 MW – exceeds annual additions for every year except 2007. In all, wind energy generating capacity in the U.S. now stands at 25,170 MW, producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of close to 7 million household. Iowa, with 2,790 MW installed, surpassed California (2,517 MW) in wind power generating capacity. The top five states in terms of capacity installed are now:

  • Texas, with 7,116 MW
  • Iowa, with 2,790 MW
  • California, with 2,517 MW
  • Minnesota, with 1,752 MW
  • Washington, with 1,375 MW

Oregon moved into the top tier states with more than 1,000 MW installed, which now include Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

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PRESTON GRALLA, GreenerComputing.com, January 22, 2009

In a briefing to the Obama transition team in December, IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano recommended that Obama require that all federal data centers go green in three years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama advisers had asked IBM shortly after the election to give a briefing about what impact investing in IT could have on job creation. In response, Palmisano made his presentation in a conference call. 

Most of the call was devoted to how an investment in technology could create jobs. IBM had worked with the think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation to look at three areas: broadband, IT related to health care, and smart grid technologies to make electric power more efficient. 

IBM told the Obama tteam that spending $10 billion for broadband networks to give high-speed Internet access to locations that now don’t have it would create 498,000 jobs in a year. Investing $10 billion in health-related IT would create 212,000 jobs. And investing $10 billion in a smart grid would create 239,000 jobs. 

Doing all that, of course, takes legislation. But according to the Journal article, Palmisano was also asked what steps the Obama administration could take that didn’t require Congressional action. The article says:

Mr. Palmisano suggested an executive order mandating that the government convert all its data center to be “green” data centers, optimized for energy efficiency, within three years.

Here’s hoping that Obama follows the advice. Not only would it directly help the environment and save the federal government money, but it would spur private enterprise to follow suit as well.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 17, 2009

Here’s the post from MendoCoastCurrent in the Citizen’s Briefing Book at President-elect Barack Obama’s change.gov site:

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force

Immediately establish and staff a Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force chartered with exploring and fast-tracking the development, exploration and commercialization of environmentally-sensitive renewable energy solutions in solar, wind, wave, green-ag, et al.

At this ‘world-class incubator,’ federal energy policy development is created as cutting-edge technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing to refinement and implementation.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

If you wish to support this, please vote up this post at :

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Mendocino Energy:

Renewable energy incubator and campus on the Mendocino coast exploring nascent and organic technology solutions in wind, wave, solar, green-ag, bioremediation and coastal energy, located on the 400+ acre waterfront G-P Mill site.

Mendocino Energy may be a Campus in Obama’s Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

Vision:

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site shall be used for exploring best practices, cost-efficient, environmentally-sensitive renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag, among many others. The end goal is to identify and engineer optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions.

Start-ups, universities (e.g., Stanford’s newly-funded energy institute), the federal government (RED) and the world’s greatest minds working together to create, collaborate, compete and participate in this fast-tracked exploration.

The campus is quickly constructed of green, temp-portable structures (also a green technology) on the healthiest areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is currently being tested (one more sustainable technology requiring exploration). So, readying the site and determining best sites for solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, wave energy, etc.

To learn more about these technologies, especially wave energy, RSS MendoCoastCurrent.

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JIM TANKERSLEY, LA Times, January 13, 2009

Senators celebrated Steven Chu today as a scientist, administrator and Nobel Prize winner. But in the hearing on his nomination as President-elect Barack Obama’s Energy secretary, Chu was cast in a new role: politician.

Under gentle questioning from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the physicist and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory signaled his support for a variety of energy alternatives — including coal — to America’s dependence on imported oil.

Chu told Republicans that he would help fast-track a resurgence of domestic nuclear power and accept oil and gas drilling as part of a broad energy package. He told Democrats that he would champion solar plants and a “smart grid” that could help bring more wind power to market.

He told coal-state senators that he supports increased research for so-called “clean coal” technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, but that he wouldn’t wait for that process to be perfected before he supported new coal power plants. He softened a much-publicized 2008 comment that coal is “my worst nightmare,” saying that “if the world continues to use coal in the way we’re using it today . . . that’s a pretty bad dream.”

“We need all of the solutions,” Chu said midway through a more than two-hour hearing. “We need to make them as clean as possible, as quickly as possible. All I can say is, we really need to do all these things.”

But Chu made clear that he favors some things above others. He focused heavily on global warming and the need to combat it through efficiency measures and renewable energy research.

His questioners focused largely on regional energy production concerns, and Chu worked hard to allay them. He did not oppose calls for increased oil drilling as part of an energy package, but noted that the United States contains only an estimated 3% of the world’s known oil and gas reserves.

In multiple answers, he sketched a plan for accelerated nuclear energy development, including improving a department loan program for new reactors and developing a long-range plan for dealing with nuclear waste.

His most extended questioning on climate change came from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who asked whether Chu preferred setting government caps on emissions or levying a carbon tax to curb them. Chu deferred to Obama’s stance in favor of caps.

“Is that the best decision,” Corker asked, “or the politically best decision?”

To which Chu replied, drawing laughter: “You’re far more experienced at answering that question than I am.”

Committee members praised Chu’s credentials and his answers, and they predicted quick and easy confirmation of his appointment. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who chairs the energy committee, said the committee could approve Chu by week’s end.

The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, told Chu: “It’s probably fair to say that you are uniquely poised in your ability to bring with you your background that relates the science and the technology” of the Energy Department.

Chu’s home-state senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, were equally effusive: “Simply stating, in my opinion,” Feinstein said, “there is no one brighter or more equipped than this man to become secretary of energy.”

After the hearing, even environmental groups that oppose coal and nuclear plants praised Chu’s commitment to renewable fuels and efficiency.

“What I am most heartened by is that we have someone heading the Department of Energy now who not only believes that we must fight global warming, but that the top ways of fighting global warming are energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Anna Aurilio, who directs the Washington office for Environment America. “This is a huge change in direction from where the previous administration has been.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 8, 2009

obama-hope1Key President-elect Barack Obama renewable energy quotes from his January 8, 2009 speech to the U.S. Congress and citizens, on his top economic priorities as he takes office.

“. . .the first question that each of us asks isn’t ‘what’s good for me?’ but ‘what’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

On creating new jobs and investing in America’s future:

“This plan must begin today. A plan I’m confident will save and create at least three million jobs over the next few years.”

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Program:

“It’s not just a public works program. It’s a plan that recognizes both the paradox and promise of the moment. The fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work, even as all around the country there’s so much work to be done and that’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education, healthcare and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector while our plan will save public sector jobs . . .”

“To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.”

“In the process, we will put Americans to work in jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced. Jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”

“The time has come to build a 21st century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 7, 2009

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher today issued the following statement:

Today I announce my intention to step down as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), effective January 20, 2009. Although my term as commissioner does not end until 2012, I will also immediately begin to recuse myself from FERC business, as I explore other career opportunities.  

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DAVID EHRLICH, Earth2Tech/GigaOm, December 23, 2008

environmental_defenseOcean energy could have a big part to play under President-elect Barack Obama’s environmentally friendly administration, but a coalition that’s pushing for more wave and tidal power says change is needed to expand the number of projects in the U.S. Right now, there are only a handful of ocean energy projects in the U.S. and they’re all in the testing phase, according to the coalition.

The group, which is led by the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, said it has met with Obama’s transition team to discuss what it says is a confusing, and sometimes contradictory, array of federal regulations for ocean power. It claims that with federal help, ocean energy has the potential to generate 10% of the country’s demand for electricity, as well as create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Earlier this month, Obama named four key members to his cabinet that will be responsible for energy and climate change, including Steven Chu as energy secretary.

One big conflict the new cabinet may have to deal with is a jurisdictional dispute between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Minerals Management Service, part of the Dept. of the Interior. Both agencies have claims on the waters where ocean energy projects would be installed.

Part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the Minerals Management Service the power to issue leases for renewable energy projects in the outer continental shelf a zone of federally owned seabeds outside of state waters, which the coalition said typically covers an area from 3-200 nautical miles offshore.

But that new law didn’t eliminate any preexisting federal authority in the area, and the FERC has said it has the authority to license wave and tidal projects in U.S. territorial waters covering an area within 12 nautical miles of the shore.

According to the coalition, despite negotiations between the two agencies, they’ve been unable to reach an agreement on the overlapping claims. The group said that the continued uncertainty from that conflict is making it harder to lock down financing for ocean energy projects in the States.

The coalition is made up of local governments, utilities, environmental groups and ocean power companies, including Pennington, N.J.-based Ocean Power Technologies, which recently inked a deal to develop wave power projects off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

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Excerpts from article by FRANK HARTZELL, The Mendocino Beacon, December 24, 2008

On January 13, 2009, from 5-7p.m. at Fort Bragg Town Hall, 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.

In her presentation to Congress, Miles focused on wave energy, not the more prevalent river current energy plans. She said wave energy projects will likely occur close to shore, not far out in federal waters.

“The cumulative costs of development … make it advantageous to locate projects nearer to the shore,” Miles told Congress.

Locals have complained that FERC has no intelligible process for public input. Governments and critics of FERC have been frustrated in efforts to get details.

FERC is a uniquely independent federal agency. It is under the Department of Energy but does not report to DOE, a structure that was created during the Great Depression. The president appoints FERC commissioners.

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 15, 2008

opt2Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) recently reported quarterly financials and also recent developments:

– Deployed and tested a PowerBuoy off the coast of Spain under the wave power contract with Iberdrola

– Awarded $2.0 million from the US Department of Energy in support of OPT’s wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon

– Deployed and tested a PowerBuoy for the US Navy at a site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii, on the island of Oahu

– Ocean-tested 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey an autonomous PowerBuoy developed specifically for the US Navy’s ocean data gathering program

– Awarded $3.0 million contract from the US Navy for the second phase of their ocean data gathering program

– US Congress passes bill which provides for wave power to qualify for the US production tax credit

Dr. George Taylor, OPT’s CEO, said, “We have maintained the positive momentum with which we began the 2009 fiscal year, and have made significant progress under a number of contracts during the quarter, most notably with the US Navy and Iberdrola. In September, we deployed a PB40-rated PowerBuoy in Spain under our contract with Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies. OPT also tested one of its autonomous PowerBuoy systems off the coast of New Jersey in October, under contract from the US Navy in connection with the Navy’s Deep Water Active Detection System (“DWADS”) initiative. We ended the second quarter with a PowerBuoy deployment for the US Navy in Hawaii. We have also furthered our relationship with this significant partner and announced a $3.0 million contract for participation in the second phase of the US Navy’s DWADS program.”

“We expect that the US Government’s recent expansion of the production tax credit to now include wave energy will help better position OPT competitively in the alternative energy arena. We are also gratified by signs that the Obama administration in the United States is keen on leveraging renewable energy sources as commercial sources of energy for the country. The $2.0 million award we received this quarter from the Department of Energy, in support of our work in Reedsport, Oregon, is reflective of the US Government’s support for wave energy,” Dr. Taylor concluded.

More about OPT

OPT has seen strong demand for wave energy systems as evidenced by record levels of contract order backlog, currently at $8.0 million. OPT continues to make steady progress on development of the 150 kW-rated PowerBuoy (PB150), which comprises a significant portion of our current backlog. The design of the PB150 structure is on track to be completed by the end of calendar year 2008, and is expected to be ready for complete system testing in 2009. OPT continues to work actively with an independent engineering group to attain certification of the 150 kW PowerBuoy structure design.

OPT’s patent portfolio continues to grow as one new US patent was issued during the second quarter of fiscal year 2009. The Company’s technology base now includes a total of 39 issued US patents.

During the second quarter of fiscal 2009, the Company announced that it expects to benefit from the energy production tax credit provision of the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. Production tax credit provisions which were already in place served only to benefit other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The Act will, for the first time, enable owners of wave power projects in the US to receive federal production tax credits, thereby improving the comparative economics of wave power as a renewable energy source.

OPT is involved in wave energy projects worldwide:

REEDSPORT, OREGON, US – OPT received a $2.0 million award from the US Department of Energy (DoE), in support of OPT’s wave power project in Reedsport, Oregon. The DoE grant will be used to help fund the fabrication, assembly and factory testing of the first PowerBuoy to be installed at the Reedsport site. This system will be a 150 kW-rated PB150 PowerBuoy, major portions of which will be fabricated and integrated in Oregon. OPT is working closely with interested stakeholder groups at local, county and state agency levels while also making steady progress on the overall permitting and licensing process.

SPAIN – OPT deployed and tested its first commercial PowerBuoy under contract with Iberdrola S.A., one of the world’s largest renewable energy companies, and its partners, at a site approximately three miles off the coast of Santona, Spain. The enhanced PB40 PowerBuoy, which incorporates OPT’s patented wave power technology, is the first step of what is expected to be a utility-grade OPT wave power station to be built-out in a later phase of the project.

ORKNEY ISLANDS, UK – OPT is working under a contract with the Scottish Government at the European Marine Energy Centre (“EMEC”) in the Orkney Islands, Scotland to deploy a 150 kW PowerBuoy. OPT is currently working on building the power conversion and power take-off sub-assemblies. The Company is also reviewing prospective suppliers for manufacturing of the PowerBuoy, which is on track to be ready for deployment by the end of calendar year 2009. As part of its agreement with EMEC, OPT has the right to sell power to the grid up to the 2MW berth capacity limit, at favorable marine energy prices.

CORNWALL, UK –The “Wave Hub” project developer, South West of England Regional Development Agency (“SWRDA”), recently appointed an engineering contractor to manage the construction of the “Wave Hub” marine energy test site. SWRDA has forecasted that the Wave Hub connections, cabling and grid connection infrastructure will be completed by the end of the 2010 calendar year. OPT continues to work with SWRDA and is monitoring its progress in developing the project site.

HAWAII, US – OPT deployed its PowerBuoy systems near Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu. The PowerBuoy was launched under OPT’s on-going program with the US Navy at a site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii and will be connected to the Oahu power grid.

US NAVY DEEP OCEAN APPLICATION – OPT tested one of its autonomous PowerBuoy systems 70 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The PowerBuoy was constructed under contract from the US Navy in connection with the Navy’s DWADS initiative, a unique program for deep ocean data gathering. The Company received a $3.0 million contract award for the second phase of the program, which is for the ocean testing of an advanced version of the autonomous PowerBuoy.

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JOHN DRISCOLL, The Times-Standard, December 15, 2008

A white paper commissioned by the state of California says that tapping the ocean for power should be done carefully.

The report for the California Energy Commission and the Ocean Protection Council looked at the possible socio-economic and environmental effects of the infant industry, including what it might mean for fisheries and coastal habitat.

It also made recommendations on what research should be done to address those potential effects.

The waters remain murky in regard to what type of technology wave energy projects might use, and the scope of necessary development. The study finds that it will be key to fill in that missing information to determine what impacts they might have.

“Site selection and project scale are critical factors in anticipating these potential effects,” the report reads.

Depending on their size and location, the study reads, commercial and sport fisheries might be impacted, but new projects would yield construction and operations jobs for nearby communities.

But projects could also interfere with wave shoaling and beach building by stripping some energy out of waves, and that in turn could affect species from the high tide line out to the continental shelf.

The buoys or other structures designed to convert wave power to electricity are also likely to act like artificial reefs where reef-related fish would congregate, the report reads, a change from what would typically occur in the open ocean.

Birds and marine mammals may also be affected, but likely to a small degree, the study found.

Still, the report concludes that there aren’t any dramatic impacts expected, and recommends that the push to develop projects proceed carefully, listing a slew of research that should be done to help understand the potential for problems.

Greg Crawford, an oceanographer with Humboldt State University and an author of the paper, said that much depends on what type of wave projects are employed.

“This stuff needs to be approached holistically,” Crawford said.

While some wave energy projects are beginning to be used around the world, there is little information on how durable they are over the long term.

As Crawford pointed out, they are deployed in particularly difficult and treacherous environments.

The report recommends starting small, both in the laboratory and with small-scale projects to help begin to understand the effects they might have when deployed on an industrial scale.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has won authorization from the federal government to study several areas off the Humboldt and Mendocino coasts, but the company recently ran into what appears to be an insurmountable obstacle from state utilities regulators on another project off Trinidad. In October, the California Public Utilities Commission denied the first wave power project it has ever considered, on the grounds that the Trinidad Head proposal isn’t viable, and the contract price to sell the power is too expensive.

A feud of sorts over final jurisdiction on wave energy projects persists between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Mines and Minerals Service (MMS). And it’s not clear exactly what agency would make the determination of whether the costs of projects outweigh their benefits, said HSU economist Steve Hackett, another author of the study.

“I think it’s a very daunting situation for the public utilities or a power company to take on,” Hackett said.

While environmental issues will be hashed out in an environmental analysis, economic effects should also be considered, Hackett said. That includes the detriments to a struggling fishing fleet and the upside of jobs from energy projects, he said.

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Excerpts from FRANK HARTZELL’s article at the Mendocino Beacon, December 11, 2008

On December 9, 2008  “the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a Southern California development company exclusive rights to 17 square miles off the town of Mendocino for a wave energy study.

GreenWave LLC’s intent is to eventually produce a 100 megawatt wave energy power plant, more than twice as big as the 40 megawatt project Pacific Gas & Electric plans off Fort Bragg.

Due to redefining of the preliminary permit process by FERC, the new preliminary permit does not encourage in-water testing. It does give sole claim and study rights to GreenWave, blocking any local study of the same area.

More valuable, the preliminary permit gives GreenWave exclusive first rights to a license to build a wave energy farm, upon completion of the three-year study.

The preliminary permit came more than a year after GreenWave, of Thousand Oaks, filed for two preliminary permits. FERC had initially rejected the GreenWave application as too sketchy.

GreenWave also was granted a preliminary permit on Tuesday for a nearly identical proposal off San Luis Obispo.

GreenWave is a partnership which consists of five men including Tony Strickland, a leading Republican politician in California, who was recently narrowly elected to the state Assembly. Strickland made his wave energy venture a key point of his campaign. His opponent in a heavily Republican district attacked this as “greening” of one of the most conservative politicians in the state.

That race, one of the closest in California this year, was decided this week in favor of Strickland, who prevailed over Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson by less than 1,000 votes.

FERC had criticized GreenWave for too few details about who was behind the venture and for not having information about the technology to be used.

GreenWave responded by emphatically stating that they weren’t ready to name any particular technology.

“Given the time-horizon for getting through the permitting process and the uncertainties of what the technologies will actually look like, GreenWave believes that it would be misleading to provide detailed specifications of a technology at this stage of the development process. GreenWave intends to select the most suitable commercially ready technology as part of the process once preliminary permits have been issued by FERC to further study the site,” the Green Wave filing states.

However, FERC’s permit says GreenWave will be using the Pelamis device in the permit issued on Tuesday. The Pelamis, which resembles a series of giant redwood log segments on a string, is the only currently viable commercial technology. The company has said it would use only the most seasoned technology.

The issuance is apparently based on an about face made by GreenWave in documents submitted to FERC but not available on the public Website with the rest of the filings.

The permit says 10 to 100 Pelamis devices will be used, having a total installed capacity of 100 megawatts. Connecting the project to shore will be a 2- to 3-mile-long, 36 kilovolt transmission line,

The project site begins a half mile offshore and extends to 2.6 miles from shore in water depths that range from 120 to 390 feet, the GreenWave application says.

Local governments, groups and even residents now have a chance to file motions of intervention, which allows the intervener to play an official role in the process.

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DEBORAH CHARLES, Reuters, December 10, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama’s team to address climate change emerged on Wednesday as Democratic officials said he had chosen a Nobel laureate for U.S. energy secretary and was likely to pick an environmental veteran to serve as coordinator of climate policies.

Announcements to come in the days ahead include several key environment-related appointments — Steven Chu as energy secretary, Carol Browner as energy and climate coordinator, Nancy Sutley to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Lisa Jackson to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

They will be charged with developing policies to reduce carbon emissions blamed for global warming, develop new sources of energy and create new jobs — a top priority for Obama.

Chu is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics. He was an early advocate for scientific solutions to climate change.

Browner was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. A principal at global strategy firm The Albright Group LLC, she heads Obama’s advisory team on energy and the environment.

Sutley has a long history in the environmental community. She is currently deputy mayor for energy and environment for Los Angeles and served on the California State Water Resources Control Board earlier this decade.

Jackson has served as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection in New Jersey.

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TED NESI, Providence Business News, December 5, 2008

riThe list of suitors lining up to develop renewable energy projects off Rhode Island’s coastal waters is getting longer.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has begun reviewing a permit application from Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co., a year-old company based in Seattle, to build 100 large towers that would generate electricity from wave energy and wind turbines. The towers, which Grays Harbor says would use the same support technology as offshore oil platforms, would be located in a 96-square-mile area of federal waters 12 to 25 miles to the south of Block Island. Wind turbines could be placed on top of the towers, although that would require a separate application process. The company estimates the total cost of the project would be between $400 million and $600 million.

Grays Harbor asserts that the structures, known as Oscillating Water Columns, “will be visible from shore for only a few days a year under extremely clear visibility conditions.”

The company also says it will not need to utilize the entire 96 square miles designated in its federal permit. Instead, it will determine which section of that area would be the most conducive to wind-energy generation.

News of the proposed project comes as state officials continue work on an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) for the coastal waters off Rhode Island – a project undertaken in part to facilitate permitting of a $1.5-billion offshore wind farm backed by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri. However, the project proposed by Grays Harbor is outside the area to be covered by the Ocean SAMP.

Rhode Island officials said the company’s application took them by surprise: Grover Fugate, executive director of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, found out about it when the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) forwarded a copy of the document to him as a courtesy.

“It was news to us, when we heard from MMS,” said Laura Ricketson-Dwyer, spokeswoman for CRMC. “But that’s not totally uncommon,” since the CRMC does not have jurisdiction over federal waters. “FERC did not have to notify us.”

The electricity would be transmitted from the converters into an offshore substation, and then the power would be sent to Block Island via a single transmission cable buried about three feet beneath the sea floor. Part of that energy would be used on Block Island, which has some of the highest electricity costs in the country, and the rest would be transmitted to the mainland, coming ashore in the Narragansett village of Jerusalem.

Grays Harbor says it is already in negotiations “with a consortium of local utilities and companies” for them to purchase electricity from the project, and says existing overhead cables could handle the additional load it creates.

Although local officials have doubts about the prospects for wave energy here, Grays Harbor says prior research has given the company confidence it could work in the area. “The site proposed therefore is not speculative,” Grays Harbor president W. Burton Hamner wrote in a letter to FERC Secretary Magalie Salas. “It is the best place for the only technology package we believe will work in that region.” Hamner’s company cites a 2004 study published by the Electric Power Research Institute that said a 100-megawatt wave energy project would be competitive with a 100-megawatt wind farm. But that study looked at wave-energy resources in Massachusetts, not Rhode Island, and Grays Harbor acknowledges in its permit that “Rhode Island wave energy is less than [in] Massachusetts.”

Grays Harbor is specifically applying for a preliminary permit from FERC, which would allow the company to do in-depth research on the project for three years. From there, the company would apply for a pilot project permit, which would allow it to build a 5-megawatt demonstration version of the project. If the pilot project is successful, the company would apply for a standard 30-year FERC permit to build the full-scale development. If all were to go as Grays Harbor hopes, the company expects to have the 5-megawatt demonstration project up and running in 2011, with the full project to follow in 2016.

Grays Harbor cited two issues that could hamper the project: One is the structures’ possible impact on navigation lanes, although the company downplayed the likelihood of that being a problem. The other is the project’s possible impact on fishermen.

“There is no question that where there are wave-energy systems, recreational and commercial fishing will be affected,” the company says in its application. “This is unavoidable because of the conflicting use of the ocean space.” To reduce the project’s impact on fisheries, Grays Harbor said it is considering turning the wave structures into “artificial reefs … that can support fish and other marine organisms.”

The public has until January 28, 2009 to comment on the proposal at the commission’s web site.  The permit application for the Rhode Island offshore wave energy project was filed by Grays Harbor on October 22 and processed by FERC on November 28.

On the same day it submitted its application to develop the Block Island project, Grays Harbor filed applications for nearly identical projects off Cape Cod, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and San Francisco and Ventura, Calif.

And in July, the company was granted a preliminary FERC permit for a similar project in Washington state. “Our intention in applying for nearly identical projects in several sites is to achieve significant economics of scale in site evaluation and to help federal agencies develop effective agreements regarding management of ocean renewable-energy projects,” Hamner wrote in his letter to Salas.

But all the projects depend in part on the outcome of a bureaucratic turf war between two federal agencies:

  • The MMS, which was granted jurisdiction over most offshore energy projects by a 2005 federal energy law to the MMS, but which is still completing its final regulations for offshore projects.
  • And the FERC, which already has jurisdiction over inland hydroelectric projects, and this fall asserted its right to review and permit wave-energy projects as well.

Unsurprisingly, Grays Harbor has sided with FERC and agreed that the commission has authority over wave-energy projects. But the company also said the MMS still has jurisdiction over leasing the area in question – an issue the FERC has promised to work out.

In its permit application, Grays Harbor promised to work closely with state and local authorities. The company raised the prospect of establishing public development authorities with area communities to establish co-ownership of the project, and also says it “will develop a Settlement Agreement with stakeholders.”

Grays Harbor also pledged to hire local workers for the project, if possible. “The Providence area has capabilities for manufacturing wave energy converters and every attempt will be made to locally construct the machinery needed for the project,” the company says in its application.

Ricketson-Dwyer, the CRMC spokeswoman, said she is not surprised to see more companies moving quickly to develop ocean-energy projects. “People are – no pun intended – entering the waters here and getting into this.”

The CRMC plans to keep an eye on what happens over the next few weeks, she said, adding: “It’s really to early for us to even know if we have any role in any of this.” Meanwhile, Ricketson-Dwyer said, the proposal underlines the need to finish the state’s Ocean SAMP, in order to streamline the permitting process for offshore energy projects.

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GERRY NORLANDER, Pulp Network, November 25, 2008

President-elect Obama has named Dr. Susan Tierney and Rose McKinney-James to his transition team for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is organizationally within DOE.

Both appointees, former state utility commissioners of Massachusetts and Nevada, respectively, have a record of supporting electricity industry deregulation, or, as it is euphemistically named, “restructuring.” 

Thirty five states did not restructure, no state has restructured since 2000, and several states halted plans to adopt it when they saw its results in states like California and New York. 

The “restructuring” model strips the power generation function away from state-regulated utilities under the premise that the generation function can be deregulated if it is structured to be competitive. An implicit assumption of restructuring, which we reject, is that if the market price of a utility service is “competitive” it will then necessarily satisfy the legal requirement of being “just and reasonable.”

This regulatory fad peaked in the last decade of the last century when it was lavishly promoted by Enron’s Ken Lay, embraced by some state regulators, accepted by both the Clinton and Bush administrations, and pushed by FERC. FERC’s regime now lacks consumer support and confidence. 

To bring about functionally deregulated wholesale electricity markets without statutory authorization, FERC administratively morphed the Federal Power Act system of filed rate regulation into one of unfiled, unreviewable, and unrefundable wholesale market rates. The FERC system is now built upon “organized” spot markets for wholesale electricity such as those run by the NYISO and other Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), where energy is sold by sellers with “market-based rates.”

The FERC system has its greatest impact in restructured states that allowed utilities to sell off power plants whose output had been priced based on the cost of production, requiring most electricity to be bought at wholesale “market-based rates” eventually passed through to retail customers.   

Mathematical game theory, economics lab simulations, and experience demonstrate that the wholesale electricity spot markets that are at the heart of restructuring can be gamed and manipulated to drive prices well above competitive levels beyond the capacity or will of FERC to correct.

Even for those who would conflate the notions of competitiveness and reasonableness, the generation function is increasingly dominated by fewer large companies as the industry consolidates, undercutting the notion that many sellers will someday make electricity a buyer’s market and preclude the need for rate regulation. 

According to Duke Power CEO James Rogers, in light of the recent financial market developments,

“I think within 18 months you’ll see either consolidation or acquisition of all of [the major independent power producers].”

“The case for consolidation in our industry is more compelling today than it’s been in my 20-year career as CEO because of what’s going on in capital markets, because of the economy we’re in and no growth….”

Although most consumer groups are disappointed by the results of restructuring, major utility holding companies formed as a result of restructuring and the repeal of PUHCA, investment banking institutions, energy producers and wholesale traders, deregulated retail sells and the energy derivatives industry still push hard for preservation and expansion of the restructuring model.

Proponents of deregulation such as EPSA and the NYISO occasionally announce reports or studies purporting to show advantages of deregulation. Typically, these reports and studies have loopy methodologies, fail to address how the ISO/RTO markets actually affect consumer prices, and fail to pass any reasonable test of academic rigor. Stated John Kwoka, Northeastern University, in his findings, there is no “reliable and convincing evidence that consumers are better off as a result of the restructuring of the U.S. electric power industry.”

The Obama FERC Transition Team

Dr. Susan Tierney
Dr. Tierney, a consultant with the Analysis Group, has also been mentioned in the trade press as a possible candidate for FERC Chairman. With Cornell degrees in regional planning, she has a long, extensive and varied background in energy issues, including work for the Department of Energy in the Clinton administration. Her biography indicates that in recent years a significant part of her consulting work has been on behalf of electric utilities and industry stakeholders in defense of electric industry deregulation or “restructuring.” 

Rose McKinney-James 
According to Obama’s Change.gov web site, another transition team member, apparently overseeing the FERC appointments, is Rose McKinney-James:  

Rose McKinney-James is the Managing Principal of Energy Works Consulting. Previously she served as the President and CEO of the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTRR) and Chair of the Nevada Renewable Energy Task Force. Past positions also include Commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, Director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Chief of Staff for the City of Las Vegas and Project Manager for the Nevada Economic Development Corporation. McKinney-James serves on the Board of Directors of MGM-Mirage, Employers Insurance Group, Toyota Financial Savings Bank, the Energy Foundation, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the Nature Conservancy. She is the Board Chair for Nevada Partners.

According to Politico,

Rose McKinney-James single-handedly will lead the review on Federal Regulation and Oversight of Energy. She has a strong background in renewable energy and is currently the managing principal of Energy Works Consulting. She previously served as president and CEO of the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources.

James was formerly a Nevada utility regulator. After the Western states experienced the results of market manipulation, she, along with numerous former state utility commissioners from restructured states, signed onto a 2003 Declaration of Consumer Benefits from Wholesale Power Markets, a statement indicating support for the restructuring model.  Since then, however, James appears not to have been actively involved in the continued promotion of restructuring and she reportedly has a keen interest in renewable energy. 

Conclusion

We would certainly be more hopeful of change in the interests of consumers if the DOE/FERC transition team more reflected the judgment of most states not to restructure, and better realized the experience of consumers in the states that did. Nevertheless, it cannot be assumed that Obama transition team members will recommend candidates for key positions who would continue the relentless restructuring efforts of past administrations without reflection upon the results to date and without heeding consumer concerns. 

Perhaps it is a hopeful sign of change that the latest rumored candidate for a FERC position is John H. Norris,  Chairman of the Iowa Utilities Board. Iowa, a state that once considered but did not adopt restructuring.

Update, December 4, 2008

The Longview Washington Daily News, in a story about the controversial Bradwood LNG terminal project for the Columbia River, states:

Obama also could reshape FERC itself.

Terms of the four FERC commissioners who voted in favor of the Bradwood project will expire during Obama’s first term, starting in 2009, Tamara Young-Allen, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mail. The other three commissioners’ terms expire in 2010, 2011 and 2012. (Commissioners serve five-year terms.)

Obama can also appoint a new FERC chairman. That would shift the current chairman, Joseph Kelliher, into a regular commissioner seat. It’s unclear whether Kelliher would finish out his term, which lasts through 2012, if he is removed from the chairman’s position.

When asked about his plans, Young-Allen noted, Kelliher has said, “When I have something to announce, I will tell you.”

VandenHeuvel, of Riverkeeper, speculated that Obama will appoint Jon Wellinghoff as the new chairman. Wellinghoff is a Nevada Democrat who was the only FERC member to oppose the Bradwood terminal in the September vote.

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KEVIN FERGUSON, The Information Week, November 24, 2008

1739725132_460c52d56dWhere is President-elect Barack Obama headed with environmental protection and renewable energy? The answer lies not so much in the encouraging but ultimately self-serving video posted on the transition team’s Web site, but rather on links elsewhere on the page. In particular, look at the appointment of senior transition official Rose McKinney-James as FERC Review Team Lead.

Unless you live in California or Nevada, you may not be familiar with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  FERC — a relatively tiny agency that requested only $273.4 million and 1,465 full-time employees in its FY 2009 budget — regulates the country’s natural gas industry, hydroelectric projects, oil pipelines, and wholesale rates for electricity. You may recall that public advocacy groups excoriated FERC for its role in the deregulation of the wholesale electricity market in California and subsequent power crisis in 2000 and 2001.

So, what’s the significance of this recent appointment? McKinney-James, managing principal of Energy Works Consulting, has been championing renewable energy for decades, as the president and CEO of the public Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTRR), chair of the Nevada Renewable Energy Task Force, commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, and other pubic posts.

Her efforts also have included renewable energy advocacy in the private sector — and in some rather unexpected places. The most visible of those places is MGM Mirage’s  Protech CityCenter in Las Vegas. McKinney-James sits on the MGM board.

The $7 billion development was recently awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Project CityCenter includes a 4,000-room hotel-casino, two 400-room boutique hotels, more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, and 2,900 residential units on 66 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

Perhaps McKinney-James can accelerate what has been a slow accommodation of renewable energy sources into FERC’s mix.

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MendoCoastCurrent, November 17, 2008

Announcements and short biographies of Obama’s Team Leads that oversee renewable energy policy development and associated agencies.

Energy and Natural Resources Team Lead
David J. Hayes is a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group responsible for the energy and natural resources agencies. He is former Global Chair of the Environment, Land and Resources Department at Latham & Watkins, an international law firm. He is a Senior Fellow at the World Wildlife Fund, advising the President of WWF on climate change matters, and he is a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, specializing on energy matters. Mr. Hayes is the Vice-Chairman of the national conservation group, American Rivers, and he is the former Chairman of the Board of the Environmental Law Institute. Mr. Hayes was the Deputy Secretary of the Interior during the Clinton Administration. During the 2007-2008 academic year, Hayes was a Consulting Professor at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Department of Energy Review Team Leads
Elgie Holstein was a Senior Energy Policy Advisor to the Obama for America Presidential Campaign. Under President Clinton, he was Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Associate Director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science at the Office of Management & Budget; Chief of Staff at the Department of Energy; and Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the National Economic Council. He was also Director of State-Federal Relations for energy and environmental programs for the National Conference of State Legislatures, and worked as a congressional aide.

Elizabeth Montoya is currently a Consultant with Sealaska Corporation in Juneau Alaska where she is an expert in human resource management and strategic planning and advises the CEO and COO. Previously, she was Associate Director of Presidential Personnel in the White House, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Department of Energy, and Associate Director of Management and Administration at the Small Business Administration.

Sue Tierney is a Managing Principal and expert on economics, regulation and policy in the electric and gas industries at Analysis Group. She previously served as Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Energy, under President Clinton; Secretary of Environmental Affairs in Massachusetts under Governor Weld; and Commissioner at the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities under Governor Dukakis.

EPA Review Team Leads
Cecilia V. Estolano is the Chief Executive Officer of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. Prior to joining CRA/LA, Estolano practiced land use and environmental law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. She has served as a Special Assistant to the City Attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, a Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a member of the California Coastal Commission.

Lisa Jackson was appointed in 2006 by Governor Jon Corzine to lead New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Her past experience includes management responsibilities at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Robert Sussman is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP). During the Clinton Administration, Sussman served as Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, where he played a leading role on Superfund, global warming, science policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

FERC Review Team Lead
Rose McKinney-James is the Managing Principal of Energy Works Consulting. Previously she served as the President and CEO of the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTRR) and Chair of the Nevada Renewable Energy Task Force. Past positions also include Commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, Director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Chief of Staff for the City of Las Vegas and Project Manager for the Nevada Economic Development Corporation. McKinney-James serves on the Board of Directors of MGM-Mirage, Employers Insurance Group, Toyota Financial Savings Bank, the Energy Foundation, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the Nature Conservancy. She is the Board Chair for Nevada Partners.

Department of the Interior Review Team Leads
John Leshy is a professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. Previously he was Solicitor (General Counsel) of the U.S. Department of the Interior; Special Counsel to Chairman George Miller of the Resources Committee, U.S. House of Representatives; professor of law at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona; Associate Solicitor of Interior for Energy & Resources; and with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in California and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington.

Robert Anderson is a professor at the University of Washington School of Law and is the Director of the School’s Native American Law Center. After working for 12 years for the Native American Rights Fund, he was the associate solicitor for Indian affairs and Counselor to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. He is a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

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TODD WOODY, Green Wombat @ Fortune Magazine, November 13, 2008

The wind, solar and geothermal industries have wasted no time pressing the incoming Obama administration to implement an alternative energy agenda to spur investment and create jobs.

During a conference call Thursday, the leaders of the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association and other trade groups lobbied for a plethora of legislation and policy initiatives. None of these proposals are new, but given Barack Obama’s campaign promises to promote alternative energy and the strengthened Democratic majority in Congress, the industry has the best chance in many years of seeing this wish list made real.

  • A five-year extension of the production tax credit for the wind industry (it currently has to be renewed every year) to remove uncertainty for investors.
  • A major infrastructure program to upgrade the transmission grid so wind, solar and geothermal energy can be transmitted from the remote areas where it is produced to major cities. Obama advisor Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently joined with General Electric chief Jeff Immelt to launch a joint initiative to develop such smart grid technology as well as push for policy changes in Washington to allow the widespread deployment of renewable energy by rebuilding the nation’s transmission system.
  • Impose a national “renewable portfolio standard” that would mandate that utilities obtain a minimum 10% of their electricity from green sources by 2012 and at least 25% by 2020. Two-thirds of the states currently impose variations of such requirements.
  • Mandate that the federal government – the nation’s single largest consumer of electricity – obtain more energy from renewable sources.
  • Enact a cap-and-trade carbon market.

“If the administration and Congress can quickly implement these policies, renewable energy growth will help turn around the economic decline while at the same time addressing some of our most pressing national security and environmental problems,” the green energy trade groups said in a joint statement.

No doubt those measures are crucial to spurring development of renewable energy and creating green collar jobs. But the major obstacle confronting the alt energy industry right now is the credit crunch that is choking off financing for big wind and solar projects and scaring away investors from more cutting-edge but potentially promising green technologies.

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Publisher Note:  FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher announced his resignation effective January 20, 2009.

GERRY NORLANDER, Pulp Network, November 5, 2008

With the election of a new president comes renewed speculation about leadership change at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in an Obama administration.

The president . . . can designate a new chairman, who generally will belong to the party in the White House. But the president must await a commission vacancy to actually appoint a new commissioner and shift the balance of power if there is a change of party. No more than three commissioners can belong to the same party, so currently FERC has three Republican commissioners and two Democrats. Normally, however, a chairman who is replaced will not want to remain as a commissioner and will resign. 

Currently FERC is filled with a bipartisan cadre of five pro-deregulation commissioners, all appointed by President Bush, who appear intent on approving mega mergers of utility holding companies and implementing the discredited Enron agenda to supplant traditional regulation with reliance on unfiled, unreviewable, and unrefundable “market-based rates” and “organized” spot markets such as those run by the NYISO.

As with recent presidents of both parties, the incoming president received significant campaign financial support from utility executives, investment bankers, and energy traders who still promote electricity deregulation, but hope still remains for change in the interest of consumers, for whose protection the Federal Power Act was enacted in 1935.

President Obama will name a new FERC Chair, to replace the current Chairman, Joseph T. Kelliher.  A former lobbyist, congressional staff lawyer for Texas Rep. Joe Barton, and coordinator of Vice President Cheney’s controversial energy task force, Kelliher steadily continued the agency’s efforts to deregulate wholesale electric rates. Under his leadership FERC continued its unresponsiveness to widespread consumer concerns about unreasonable rates and problems with the spot markets and “market-based rates” FERC approved in an effort to supplant traditional filed rate regulation.  Although he received Senate confirmation of a new term earlier this year, it has been reported that Kelliher agreed with Senator Harry Reid to resign if a democrat is elected President. That time has now come.

Commissioner Suedeen Kelly was mentioned a year ago as a possible FERC Chair in a democratic administration. A protege of deregulation democrat Senator Bingamon, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resourcees Committee, she was formerly an energy industry lobbyist, law professor, Chair of the New Mexico Public Service Commission, and was an attorney for the California ISO. It is not clear, however, if the democratic president envisioned last year when her name was floated for Chair was Barack Obama. If, instead of becoming Chair, another chair is picked, Commissioner Kelly might move on when her seat becomes vacant June 30, 2009.

Assuming that Chairman Kelliher leaves, will the two other republican commissioners making up the current majority — Marc Spitzer (former Arizona utility regulator and republican cousin of former New York Governer Eliot Spitzer) and Philip Moeller (a former utility lobbyist) — stay on under a new Chairman? 

FERC has grown in importance to electricity consumers in states like New York that allowed their utilities to sell their power plants (formerly operated on a state-regulated cost of service basis) to new owners with “market-based rates” from whom they now must buy power for customers based on what the market will bear in flawed FERC-approved spot markets. It is thus essential for the new President’s FERC picks to be sensitive to more than the usual major utility, power generators, energy traders, lobbyists, and other institutional market “stakeholders.” The new picks must be more dedicated than the current FERC to the achievement of just and reasonable electricity rates, as the Federal Power Act requires. 

UPDATE:

November 25, 2008 — Obama Picks Transition Team for DOE, FERC.

December 8, 2008 — Las Vegas Review Journal says U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid supports Jon Wellinghoff for FERC Chairman:

At the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, one of two Democrats is Reid ally Jon Wellinghoff, a former Nevada public utility consumer advocate. In Washington, Wellinghoff has aggressively pushed for energy efficiency and renewable technology, Energy Daily reported.

Asked about Wellinghoff in a recent interview with the Review-Journal, Reid said he definitely believes the Nevadan should chair the FERC.

December 18, 2008 — Other names floated for FERC commissioners or chairmen include two state utility commission chairmen, Charles Box from the Illinois ICC and John Norris from the Iowa Utilities Board.

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TERRY DILLMAN, South Lincoln County News, September 23, 2008

Oregon’s emergence as a national leader in developing wave energy technology crested Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced grant support to establish the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) in Newport.

The agency selected 14 research teams to receive as much as $7.3 million -representing a cost-shared value of more than $18 million – for projects to “advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers.” It’s part of the federal Advanced Energy Initiative designed to dramatically boost clean-energy research funding to develop cleaner, reliable alternative energy sources that cost less. The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) signed into law in December 2007 authorizes DOE to establish a program of research, development, demonstration, and commercial application to expand marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy production.

“Wave, tidal, and current-driven hydro power is an important clean, natural, and domestic energy source that will promote energy security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” John Mizroch, acting assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy, noted in announcing the selections.

A merit review committee of national and international water power experts made the selections. Two awards of up to $1.25 million in annual funding, renewable for up to five years, went to establishing marine energy centers.

One went to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu for the National Renewable Marine Energy Center.

The other went to OSU and the University of Washington to establish the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at HMSC, with “a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development” for the nation. DOE officials want the center to “facilitate commercialization, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in understanding.”

The federal grant will add to funding from the Oregon legislature, OSU, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET), the University of Washington and other sources to bring in $13.5 million in five years to – according to Robert Paasch, the interim program director for the new center – “help move the generation of energy from waves, ocean currents and tides from the laboratory to part of the nation’s alternative energy future.”

The main effort is to build a floating “berth” to test wave energy technology off the Oregon coast near Newport, as well as fund extensive environmental impact studies, community outreach, and other initiatives.

“This is just the beginning,” Paasch added. “There’s still a lot of work to do on the technology, testing, and environmental studies. But we have no doubt that this technology will work, that wave energy can become an important contributor to energy independence for the United States.”

Oregon can now lead those efforts, thanks to involvement by numerous partners.

The state legislature committed $3 million in capital funding to help create the new wave energy test center.

OWET – a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 2007 and funded by Oregon Inc. to be an integral part of the state’s effort to become the leader in renewable wave energy development – has provided $250,000 in funding, and is working to coordinate support from government agencies, private industry, fishing, environmental, and community groups.

OWET’s goal is to have ocean wave energy producing at least 500 megawatts of energy by 2025 for Oregon consumption.

The University of Washington has committed funding support and will take the lead role in innovative research on tidal and ocean current energy. The National Renewable Energy Center in Golden, Colo., will support studies on how to integrate wave energy into the larger power grid, and help it take its place next to other alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar.

Lincoln County officials immersed themselves in the effort from the outset. OSU’s wave energy test site is off county shores, and groups such as the Newport-based FINE – Fisherman Involved in Natural Energy – are active in providing input and advice from coastal constituencies.

“Oregon is now the unquestioned national leader in marine renewable energy,” Paasch said. “But as this technology is still in its infancy, we want to get things right the first time. We need extensive research on environmental impacts, we need to work with community groups and fishermen, and we need our decisions to be based on sound science as we move forward.”

OSU’s College of Engineering, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and Hatfield Marine Science Center will lead technology development, as well as diverse research programs on possible environmental impacts on the wave resource, shores, marine mammals and other marine life.

Construction of the new floating test berth should begin in 2010, Paasch said, after design, engineering work and permits have been completed. The facility will open on a fee basis to private industry groups that want to test their technology, and will provide detailed power analysis, as well as a method to dissipate the power.

“When complete, we’ll be able to test devices, see exactly how much power they generate and be able to assess their environmental impact, using technologies such as the OSU Marine Radar Wave Imaging System and on-site wave sensors,” Paasch

OSU will also continue its own research on wave energy technology led by Annette von Jouanne, professor of electrical engineering.

The university is working closely with private industry partners, recently finished a linear test bed to do preliminary testing of new technology on the OSU campus, and will test prototypes that OSU researchers consider as having the best combination of power production, efficiency and durability. In 2007, the university hosted a workshop to begin looking at the potential ecological implications of establishing wave energy parks along the West Coast. On-going research will continue to ponder that and many other questions.  Much of that research will take place at HMSC.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 13, 2008

osuA new prototype of a wave energy device being developed by Oregon State University and Columbia Power Technologies was successfully tested last month in the ocean off Newport, Oregon, providing valuable data and moving the research program closer to commercialization.

In a $1 million research effort during the past year, 18 different “direct drive” wave energy technologies have been evaluated, five of the most promising selected from that group, and one approach has now been tested in the ocean. The work has been a collaboration of OSU, Columbia Power Technologies and the Facilities Engineering Command of the U.S. Navy.

“Our latest test went exceedingly well,” said Ted Brekken, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at OSU. “The buoy produced significant power, the hydrodynamic behavior fit our expectations and design, the placement and deployment went smoothly and we got a large amount of data to further evaluate. The Columbia Power Technologies and OSU team did a tremendous job in this collaborative effort.”

There are different approaches towards tapping the power of heaving ocean swells, scientists say, but OSU is focused on a direct drive technology that eliminates the need for hydraulic systems and may be more efficient and durable in a rugged ocean environment.

According to Annette von Jouanne, an OSU professor of electrical engineering, one approach may ultimately become the most dominant in this emerging alternative energy industry, as has been the case with wind power. However, different systems may work better depending on the application, she said.

“We may find that the best system is different depending on the need for low, mid-range or high power production,” von Jouanne said. “One might work best for commercial wave parks, while others could be better suited to local use by coastal communities or even small power devices that run sensors or self-powered buoys.”

In use, wave buoys might range widely in size, from a couple of feet to large commercial devices that are as much as 50 feet wide and 100 feet long, probably in a cylindrical shape, Brekken said. The above water portion of the buoy would be similar in size and visibility to a small boat. Researchers envision that energy production devices might have a lifespan of about 20 years with regular maintenance, similar to existing wind energy systems.

OSU is working in several areas of wave energy development, including new technologies, assessments of the potential biological or environmental impacts, site evaluations and outreach to coastal communities and interest groups.

In September, officials also announced funding support for a new Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, to be based at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, with a total of $13.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Oregon legislature, OSU, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, the University of Washington and other sources. A key part of this initiative will be creation of a wave energy test facility near Newport that would be available to academic researchers as well as private industry.

Experts have estimated that the electrical power available in the U.S. from wave energy might be similar to that of hydroelectric energy, and as such could become a significant part of a sustainable energy future. In Oregon, based on the amount of ocean space that is being considered for use in wave energy “parks,” it could be possible to supply as much as 10% of Oregon’s energy needs, Brekken said.

Further research is needed to address issues such as buoy spacing and placement, but a wave park that could produce 50-100 megawatts of electrical power might be about three miles long and one mile deep, Brekken said, or three square miles. It’s been suggested that Oregon might develop about seven wave parks. If buoys were placed in the areas between the offshore area from one to three miles off the state’s 300-mile-long coast, the space needed for seven energy production parks would be about one-third of 1% of this 600-square-mile area.

Continued research will further refine the optimal energy production and buoy technology, experts say, as well as methods to scale it up in size for commercial use, monitor its maintenance needs and reliability, and other issues.

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Keith Johnson, Environmental Capital in WSJ, September 15, 2008

Most of the renewable-energy business is busy fretting about the extension of federal tax credits, which expire at the end of this year. But the real story, it seems, is how clean energy’s biggest historical handicap is coming to be seen as one of its biggest selling points: its predictable cost.

Take offshore wind power, the holy grail of big renewable-energy projects. There’s lots of wind a few miles out at sea; go out far enough, and even Kennedys will stop complaining about eyesores. The U.S. Minerals Management Service, lately notorious for opening other things up, is opening up chunks of the U.S. coastline for wind-farm development.

The problem with offshore wind has always been the cost: The turbines cost more, and installing them and maintaining them costs more than their onshore cousins. That helped torpedo efforts in the U.S. to build offshore wind farms in the past. Or, as the NYT phrased it in its lengthy review of Delaware’s battle to become the first U.S. state to embrace offshore wind with the Bluewater Wind Park:

Offshore marine construction was wildly, painfully expensive — like standing in a cold shower and ripping up stacks of thousand-dollar bills.

How did a cold shower turn into an offshore wind farm blessed by same the local power company that had actively lobbied against it? Two words: energy prices.

From the NYT: “Energy markets went significantly higher — and scarily so, particularly in the last six months,” [Bluewater Wind boss Peter Mandelstam] said. Indeed, oil has skyrocketed, and the price of Appalachian coal has more than doubled this year. Tom Noyes, a Bluewater supporter, blogger, and Wilmington-based financial analyst, says that a year ago, “the numbers that both sides of this debate were throwing around were largely academic. Now, those numbers are visceral.” Against this backdrop of steadily climbing energy prices, Bluewater’s offer of stable-priced electricity — an inflation-adjusted 10 cents per kilowatt hour for the next 25 years — became something that no utility, it seems, could credibly oppose. “A few decision-makers got it early on,” Mandelstam said, “some got it slightly later and [local power company] Delmarva finally got it.”

Wind power is suddenly becoming more attractive because the fuel is free; what makes it expensive is the up-front capital costs of the turbines and wind farm installation. That’s almost the opposite case with power sources like natural gas, where the upfront costs are pretty low, and the fuel bill is the main variable.

At a time of wildly volatile oil, coal, and gas prices around the world, that kind of long-term price predictability is a big advantage. The city of Houston is saving money on its power bill after switching one-quarter of its municipal power needs to fixed-price wind-power contracts.

It worked on Delmarva, too. President Gary Stockbridge told Delaware state authorities one of the main reasons he was able to finally agree to purchase power from the Bluewater wind farm was that ratepayers wouldn’t get stuck with much higher utility bills—which is what Delmarva had initially warned about when it opposed the wind farm.

In just the last two months, though, oil prices have collapsed; crude fell below $100 Monday. So the question for Bluewater and every other embryonic offshore wind farm in the U.S. remains the same: Will fossil fuels stay pricey enough to keep renewable energy attractive, or are fresh subsidies the sector’s only hope?

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 16, 2008

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) claimed that it has jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects located on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), pointing to laws that define its role.

FERC addressed the jurisdictional question, raised by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mineral Management Service (MMS), in the context of a rehearing order on two preliminary permits issued to PG&E to study the feasibility of developing wave energy projects in the OCS off the California coast. The projects are the Humboldt Project off the coast of the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt County near Eureka, and the Mendocino Project off the coast of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.

Commissioner Philip Moeller said the development of viable hydrokinetic resources needs a streamlined process like FERC’s. “It is indisputable that renewable energy is a valuable resource and hydrokinetic projects could harness a vast resource of new hydropower,” he said. “Instead of legal battles, my preference, and this Commission’s, has been to reach out to federal agencies and states to work in a cooperative manner to the same goal: timely development of a new renewable power resource in a responsible manner after input from all affected stakeholders.”

MMS has asserted that FERC only has jurisdiction to issue licenses and preliminary permits for projects within state waters, which for most states is defined as extending three miles offshore. Projects beyond state waters are considered to be located in the OCS.

But FERC says the Federal Power Act (FPA) gives it two bases of authority to issue preliminary permits and licensees for hydroelectric projects located on the OCS. First, the law expressly grants FERC jurisdiction to license in “navigable waters” without limitation as well as in “streams or other bodies of water over which Congress has jurisdiction.” 

The second authority is for those projects located on “reservations” of the United States. FERC concludes that the OCS is land owned by the United States, qualifying it to be a “reservation” under the FPA. “The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently held that the United States owns the submerged lands off its shores, beginning from the low-water mark,” FERC said.

Finally, FERC addressed comments by MMS about the meaning of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) as it relates to the jurisdiction question for hydroelectric projects located on the OCS. MMS asserted that EPAct 2005 intended for MMS to be the lead federal regulatory authority over wave and ocean current energy projects in the OCS.

In this order, FERC notes that EPAct 2005 does not limit the scope of its authority over hydroelectric power or withdraw FERC jurisdiction over projects in the OCS. “To the contrary, Congress expressly preserved the Commission’s comprehensive hydroelectric licensing authority under the FPA by including two saving clauses….,” FERC said.

FERC Chairman Kelliher stressed today that FERC recognizes the role of Interior, which through the Minerals Management Service (MMS) manages lands on the OCS. There is no conflict with FERC’s role as the licensing agency, he said.

“We have proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MMS that carefully delineates the roles of the two agencies in a manner that respects both our licensing, and Interior’s resource, roles,” Kelliher said. “We stand ready to enter into the MOU to clarify those roles.”

A preliminary permit gives the holder of a permit priority over the site for three years while the holder studies the feasibility of developing the site. It does not authorize construction of any kind. A license authorizes construction and operation of a hydroelectric facility.

FERC’s order also finds that although two local governments, the City of Fort Bragg and Mendocino County, asserted that they did not receive personal notification from FERC of the filing of the preliminary permit applications, only Mendocino County acted in a timely manner once it received actual notice of the application in order to preserve its right to intervene. As a result, Mendocino County’s request for late intervention is granted. However, the order finds that Mendocino has not provided grounds for the Commission to revoke the Mendocino Project permit or to reopen that proceeding. The order also denies motions for late intervention in both proceedings by FISH Committee.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, September 23, 2008

For years, technological visionaries have painted a seductive vision of using ocean tides and waves to produce power. They foresee large installations off the coast and in tidal estuaries that could provide as much as 10% of the nation’s electricity.

But the technical difficulties of making such systems work are proving formidable. Last year, a wave-power machine sank off the Oregon coast. Blades have broken off experimental tidal turbines in New York’s turbulent East River. Problems with offshore moorings have slowed the deployment of snakelike generating machines in the ocean off Portugal.

Years of such problems have discouraged ocean-power visionaries, but have not stopped them. Lately, spurred by rising costs for electricity and for the coal and other fossil fuels used to produce it, they are making a new push to overcome the barriers blocking this type of renewable energy.

The Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power plans to turn on a small wave-energy farm — the world’s first — off the coast of Portugal by year’s end, after fixing the broken moorings. Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company that recently salvaged its sunken, $2.5 million Oregon wave-power machine, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to produce power off the California coast by 2012. And in the East River, just off Manhattan, two newly placed turbines with tougher blades and rotors are feeding electricity into a grocery store and parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s frustrating sometimes as an ocean energy company to say, yeah, your device sank,” said Jason Bak, chief executive of Finavera. “But that is technology development.”

Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world.

The East River — despite its name, it is really a tidal strait with powerful currents — is the site of the most advanced test project in the United States.

Verdant Power, the company that operates it, was forced to spend several years and millions of dollars mired in a slow permit process, even before its turbine blades broke off in the currents. The company believes it is getting a handle on the problems. Verdant is trying to perfect its turbines and then install 30 of them in the East River, starting no later than spring 2010, and to develop other sites in Canada and on the West Coast.

Plenty of other start-ups also plan commercial ocean-power plants, at offshore sites such as Portugal, Oregon and Wales, but none have been built.

Ocean-power technology splits into two broad categories, tidal and wave power. Wave power, of the sort Finavera is pursuing, entails using the up and down motions of the waves to generate electricity. Tidal power — Verdant’s province — involves harnessing the action of the tides with underwater turbines, which twirl like wind machines.

(Decades-old tidal technologies in France and Canada use barrage systems that trap water at high tide; they are far larger and more obtrusive than the new, below-waterline technologies.)

A third type of power, called ocean thermal, aims to exploit temperature differences between the surface and deep ocean, mainly applicable in the tropics.

Ocean power has more potential than wind power because water is about 850 times denser than air, and therefore packs far more energy. The ocean’s waves, tides and currents are also more predictable than the wind.

The drawback is that seawater can batter and corrode machinery, and costly undersea cables may be needed to bring the power to shore. And the machines are expensive to build: Pelamis has had to raise the equivalent of $77 million.

Many solar start-ups, by contrast, need as little as $5 million to build a prototype, said Martin Lagod, co-founder of Firelake Capital Management, a Silicon Valley investment firm. Mr. Lagod looked at investing in ocean power a few years ago and decided against it because of the long time horizons and large capital requirements.

General Electric, which builds wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment for virtually every other type of energy, has stayed clear of ocean energy. “At this time, these sources do not appear to be competitive with more scalable alternatives like wind and solar,” said Daniel Nelson, a G.E. spokesman, in an e-mail message. (An arm of G.E. has made a small investment in Pelamis.)

Worldwide, venture capital going to ocean-power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million last year, according to the Cleantech Group, a research firm. However, that is a tiny fraction of the money pouring into solar energy and biofuels.

This month the Energy Department doled out its first major Congressionally-funded grants since 1992 to ocean-power companies, including Verdant and Lockheed Martin, which is studying ocean thermal approaches.

Assuming that commercial ocean-power farms are eventually built, the power is likely to be costly, especially in the near term. A recent study commissioned by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission put the cost of harnessing the Golden Gate’s tides at 85 cents to $1.40 a kilowatt-hour, or roughly 10 times the cost of wind power. San Francisco plans to forge ahead regardless.

Other hurdles abound, including sticky environmental and aesthetic questions. In Oregon, crabbers worry that the wave farm proposed by Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey company, would interfere with their prime crabbing grounds.

“It’s right where every year we deploy 115,000 to 120,000 crab pots off the coast for an eight-month period to harvest crab,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The commission wants to support renewable energy, but “we’re kind of struggling with that,” Mr. Furman said

George Taylor, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, said he did not expect “there will be a problem with the crabs.”

In Washington State, where a utility is studying the possibility of installing tidal power at the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, scuba divers are worried, even as they recognize the need for clean power.

Said Mike Racine, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance: “We don’t want to be dodging turbine blades, right?”

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 19, 2008

The University of Hawaii (UH) has won an intensely sought-after award, being selected as one of two National Marine Renewable Test Centers, with Oregon State University as the other.

As a test center, UH will receive federal funding to study and encourage the implementation of wave energy systems in Hawaiian waters. The strong wave climate, combined with the highest use of fossil fuel and electricity rates in the nation, make Hawaii an ideal location for the development of lower-cost wave power.

It has been a banner year for renewable energy in Hawaii. After Congress passed the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” the U.S. Department of Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Hawaii in January, seeking to produce 70% of Hawaii’s electricity needs from renewable resources by 2030.

In February, Oceanlinx, one of the world’s leading wave energy developers, announced plans for a wave energy facility off Maui’s northern coast.

The extent to which wave energy companies are drawn to Hawaii will ultimately determine how many jobs are created by their presence. However, given the large market and available resources, the potential is tremendous. Wave energy converters require engineers, consultants, commercial divers, maintenance crews, marine transport services, technicians and shipyard services. In other words, a vibrant wave energy industry will create well-paying jobs while keeping billions of dollars in our state economy instead of shipping them primarily to foreign countries to pay for oil.

With the recent surge in oil prices, renewable energy systems have been experiencing a renaissance. Investors who wanted nothing to do with renewable energy companies a few years ago are now scrambling to get their money invested in leading technologies. Those investors now can compete to catch the wave.

While the UH’s designation as a National Marine Renewable Test Center will certainly make Hawaii a more attractive destination, it’s important to note that Hawaii lacks a mechanism to connect wave energy systems to its power grid. Enter the Wave Hub, an undersea “outlet” that enables multiple wave energy systems to hook into the grid.

Construction of a Wave Hub about 10 miles off the southwest coast of England is creating a real-world testing ground. That Wave Hub should prove a commercial success, as there is already intense competition between rival wave energy companies seeking berths allowing their systems to plug into the Wave Hub.

In conjunction with the UH Marine Test Center, we must develop a Wave Hub here in Hawaii, so wave energy systems can compete to prove their commercial viability. Once an optimal location is selected, then the state can prepare the necessary environment and permit documents and install the seabed device and cable. Wave energy companies will be able to “plug in” their devices, without each spending years in the application phase.

In addition to the vibrant wave energy climate, federal, state and academic support can make Hawaii the premier destination for wave energy development in the United States, not to mention the Pacific theater. This is an innovation economy by definition – one that will make Hawaii more secure and environmentally protected.

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Excerpts from FRANK HARTZELL’s article in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, September 18, 2008

PG&E “expects to be granted $1.2 million this week by the U.S. Department of Energy to study wave energy off Fort Bragg and Eureka” and is seeking “the new money earlier this summer to move its local wave energy study under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit to the commercial stage. In order to complete that study and get test equipment into the water, the Department of Energy grant is needed, PG&E says.”

“The most recent news of the federal Department of Energy grant will be a study undertaken by the utility as part of a team that includes Humboldt State University and the University of Texas at Austin. PG&E hopes the money will eventually make the project commercially viable.”

“PG&E believes there is potential to generate renewable, emission free, environmentally benign, and cost effective energy from wave energy at selected sites in the PG&E service territory in Northern California, and that successful wave energy demonstration may enable significant commercial development resulting in important benefits for both the Northern California region and the country,” the grant application by the utility states.”

“Clearly, PG&E needs to do in-water testing for wave energy to be viable. FERC’s preliminary permit process no longer allows for that to happen. FERC anticipates issuing a license to PG&E for wave energy off Humboldt next spring. A license would allow in-water testing and even legal power generation.”

PG&E’s objective is “to conduct in-water testing and evaluation of commercial/near-commercial WEC [wave energy converter] technology representative of what would be expected to be used in a commercial-scale power plant. This will enable PG&E to make an informed evaluation of WEC technology as to whether, and to what extent, wave energy should be included in PG&E’s energy portfolio, while simultaneously facilitating the commercial development of this new industry,” the PG&E application states.

“PG&E is the primary proposing organization and its project team includes CH2MHill, EPRI, University of Texas at Austin, Humboldt State University and other contractors to be named later.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 4, 2008

The American Wind Energy Association released today that the U.S. wind industry has surpassed the 20,000-megawatt (MW) installed capacity milestone, achieving in two years what had previously taken more than two decades (the 10,000-MW mark was reached in 2006).  Wind now provides 20,152 MW of electricity generating capacity in the U.S., producing enough electricity to serve 5.3 million American homes or power a fleet of more than 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“Wind energy installations are well ahead of the curve for contributing 20% of the U.S. electric power supply by 2030 as envisioned by the U.S. Department of Energy,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “However, the looming expiration of the federal renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) less than four months from now threatens this progress.  The PTC has been a critical factor in wind’s very rapid growth as a part of the nation’s power portfolio.”  The PTC is currently set to expire at the end of 2008.

Swisher and other wind industry leaders noted the 20,000-MW milestone from Minneapolis, where the Republican National Convention is currently being held.  Joining Swisher in Minneapolis were AWEA President Jim Walker, of enXco, as well as officials from other leading companies in the wind industry, including Xcel Energy, Vestas Americas A/S, Renewable Energy Systems Americas, and Horizon Wind Power.

Xcel Energy, the host utility for both the Republican convention and the Democratic National Convention held last week in Denver, is providing sufficient wind-generated electricity from its system to power both events.  A 131-foot wind turbine blade, which has been on display at both conventions, was manufactured by wind turbine maker Vestas at a U.S. blade factory.

The 20,000 MW of wind power installed in the U.S. today can generate as much electricity every year as 28.7 million tons of coal or 90 million barrels of oil.  Wind generation currently displaces 34 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to taking 5.8 million vehicles off the road.  A U.S. Department of Energy study released in May found that wind could provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030.  At that level, wind power would support 500,000 jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as taking 140 million vehicles off the road.

The U.S. is now the world leader in wind electricity generation.  While Germany has more generating capacity installed (about 23,000 MW), the U.S. is producing more electricity from wind because of its much stronger winds.   AWEA expects over 7,500 MW of new wind capacity to be added in 2008, expanding America’s wind energy fleet by 45% and bringing total U.S. capacity to some 24,300 MW.

Although 20,000 MW is an important milestone, wind power provides just over 1.5% of the nation’s electricity, far below the potential identified by experts. Still, it is one of the fastest-growing electricity sources today, providing 35% of the total new capacity added in 2007 (second only to natural gas). The U.S. had 1,000 MW of wind power installed by 1985; 2,000 MW installed by 1999; and 5,000 MW by 2003.  Its first 10,000 MW was installed by mid-2006.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report, wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America’s electricity supply over the next two decades.  As an inexhaustible domestic resource, wind strengthens our energy security, improves the quality of the air we breathe, slows climate change, and revitalizes rural communities.

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GLOBE-NET, August 21, 2008

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued the final Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for Round 3 of the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) which seeks to accelerate the commercial deployment of advanced coal technologies.

DOE anticipates making multiple awards under this FOA and, depending on fiscal year 2009 appropriations, may be able to provide up to $340 million to be distributed among selected recipients. The projects will be cost-shared, with the award recipient(s) providing at least 50% of funds for the project.

The solicitation contemplates cooperative agreements between the Government and industry to demonstrate, at commercial scale, new technologies that capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants and either sequester the CO2 or put it to beneficial use.

“The Department of Energy is committed to increasing the Nation’s energy security and addressing global climate change by developing the technologies that will ensure coal can be used to meet our growing energy demand in an environmentally responsible way,” Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Jim Slutz said.

“This announcement brings clean, coal-derived energy, with no greenhouse gas emissions, one step closer to the commercial market and to the consumer.”

The FOA, which is available at Grants.gov and the DOE e-Center, provides instructions for the preparation and submission of an application and outlines the mission need and background, project description, and the primary technical goals and functional performance requirements. The announcement also outlines the criteria by which applications will be evaluated, the terms and conditions of a model cooperative agreement, and the cost-sharing required for government-industry cooperation.

For Round 3, a draft FOA detailing the goals and requirements was released in October 2007 for comment. To garner input, a public workshop was held November 1, 2007, with 105 attendees representing utilities, technology vendors, and project developers. Changes to the final FOA include:

  • Carbon capture technologies must operate at 90% carbon capture efficiency.
  • At least 300,000 tons per year of CO2 must be captured and sequestered or put to beneficial use.
  • Projects must show significant progress toward carbon capture and sequestration with less than 10% increase in electricity costs.
  • Projects must use domestic mined coal or coal refuse for at least 75% of energy input.
  • Projects must produce electricity as at least 50% of the gross energy output.
  • Repayment of the Government’s share of project costs is not required.

Applications are due by January 15, 2009, and selection announcements are anticipated for July 2009.

Initiated in 2002, the CCPI is a multi-year program that demonstrates advanced coal-based power generation technology at commercial scale. Eight projects are currently active from two previous rounds of competition.

The goal of the initiative, which is being executed through a series of competitive solicitations, is to accelerate the readiness of advanced coal technologies for commercial deployment, ensuring that the United States has clean, reliable, and affordable electricity and power. Coal is the nation’s most abundant energy resource, supplying more than 50% of domestic electricity.

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