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Archive for the ‘Energy Research’ 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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The Engineer UK, July 6 2010

Aquamarine Power and AWS Ocean Energy today secured approximately £4.39m to continue development of their wave energy devices.

The WATERS fund (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support) has provided Aquamarine Power with more than £3m to develop its 2.4MW Oyster demonstration project in Scotland while AWS Ocean Energy received £1.39m to develop its AWS-III surface-floating wave power device.

Phased installation of the Oyster 2 project will begin at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in Summer 2011. In-depth coverage of Oyster from The Engineer’s 2009 Awards Supplement can be read here.

The Oyster demonstration project will consist of three 800kW hinged flaps, each measuring 26m by 16m. The flaps are moved by the motion of near shore waves, which in turn drive two hydraulic pistons that push high-pressure water onshore to drive a conventional hydro-electric turbine.

Oyster 2 Wave Energy Converter

Aquamarine Power claims each flap will deliver 250 per cent more power than the original Oyster prototype, which was successfully deployed at EMEC in 2009.

The three devices will be linked to a single onshore 2.4MW hydro-electric turbine. The new devices incorporate modifications that are expected to facilitate the production of more energy, be simpler to install and easier to maintain.

AWS Ocean Energy will use its funding to further develop the AWS-III device, a ring-shaped, multi-cell, surface-floating wave power system.

It is claimed that a single utility-scale AWS-III, measuring around 60m in diameter, will be capable of generating up to 2.5MW of continuous power.

Scale testing of the AWS-III on Loch Ness is currently being carried out to provide design data and confirm the AWS-III’s commercial potential.

The £15m WATERS scheme, which is run and administered by Scottish Enterprise, has been designed to support the construction and installation of pre-commercial full-scale wave and tidal stream device prototypes in Scottish waters.

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BBC News, June 11, 2010

A renewable energy company has gone “back to the future” to develop a device to harness power from waves.

AWS Ocean Energy chief executive Simon Grey said its prototype AWS-III on Loch Ness had evolved from “forgotten” technology first seen in 1985.

He said the device could eventually be used in the Northern Isles.

The technology was also tested on Loch Ness in the 1980s, but the Conservative government of the time suspended the wave energy programme.

Highlands Liberal Democrat MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has visited the test site.

He said the progress being made by the company was impressive.

Mr Grey said Inverness-based AWS Ocean Energy was exploring the idea of a machine which had rubber rather than steel components.

Further research led to staff uncovering the similar concept from the 1980s.

He said: “We discovered that the work done in 1985 was rated as the most promising by the Department of Energy at the time.

“We have since taken that design and evolved it further so it is more cost effective in terms of producing power.”

EIGHTIES REVISITED

  • AWS Ocean Energy is updating technology first tested in 1985
  • The Conservatives were also in government at the time
  • Government was funding “green” energy projects then as it is today
  • The film Back to the Future was released in 1985

Mr Grey said the wave energy programme in the 1980s was fully funded by the UK government but the work was later suspended.

He said: “When interest in wave energy re-emerged people assumed that because it hadn’t happened in the past then those ideas wouldn’t work and they had to find new ideas.”

The chief executive said AWS-III was a re-working of a concept people had “forgotten about”.

The ring-shaped machine on Loch Ness is one tenth of the size of the device that could eventually be generating electricity on a commercial scale.

Full-scale machines could be deployed in the sea around Orkney and Shetland following further tests in 2012.

Investment of £2.3m was secured from the Scottish government to develop the AWS-III.

In 2008, AWS Ocean Energy said it had set its sights on winning the world’s largest prize for marine energy innovation.

It said it planned to double its workforce in 12 months, in part to improve its chances of securing the Scottish government’s Saltire Prize.

Following a visit to the test site on Loch Ness, Mr Alexander said: “Power from our seas can make a significant contribution to our energy security and the future of our environment.”

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JENNIFER DART, Westerly News, June 3, 2010

Several groups working on wave energy on the British Columbia coast gathered in Ucluelet this week to discuss developments in the industry and update local projects.

Representatives from the non-profit Ocean Renewable Energy Group (OREG) chaired the community open house, held June 1 at the Ucluelet Community Centre.

Also in attendance were academics, developers, and representatives from all levels of government, including the Yuu-cluth-aht First Nation and the District of Ucluelet.

OREG executive director Chris Campbell said developing the technology to harness energy from the ocean is a “long, slow process,” but Canadian companies are active internationally, “so it’s gradually becoming more and more real.”

The Ucluelet/Tofino area has long been considered an ideal site for an ocean renewable energy project given its coastal location and proximity to the BC Hydro grid.

“Ocean renewable energy is something that’s been making rattling noises for quite a few years in our area,” said Ucluelet mayor Eric Russcher. “It would be a new and different world we live in but an exciting prospect for us all.”

According to information from OREG, preliminary studies indicate the wave energy potential off Canada’s Pacific Coast is equal to approximately half of Canada’s electricity consumption.

There seems to be a new energy behind wave power in recent months, given in part to new advances in technology, and also specifically in B.C. because of the Liberal government’s Clean Energy Act, which has been tabled in the legislature but has yet to be passed.

Jeff Turner from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources said the Act is meant to achieve energy efficiency while maintaining low rates, generate employment in the clean energy sector, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While critics of the Act say it gives the province oversight on major projects like the Site C dam on the Peace River and could be mean higher hydro rates, the announcement has helped kick start development in areas like wave energy, where researchers are currently focused on pinpointing potential outputs.

Two wave energy projects are in development on the West Coast; one for the waters off Ucluelet and one in close proximity to the Hesquiaht communities at Hesquiaht Harbour and Hot Springs Cove.

John Gunton of SyncWave Systems Inc. presented his company’s plan for the SyncWave Power Resonator, a buoy class device that would be slack moored in depths of up to 200 metres. Simply put, this device captures energy from the upward and downward motion of the wave. Gunton said the company has provincial and federal funding, but is looking for a $3 million investment to complete its first two phases of development for placement near Hesquiaht Point.

A test resonator placed eight kilometres off Ucluelet in 40 metres of waters in December was collecting data for a period of about one month until a mast on it was destroyed. It was repaired, upgraded and redeployed in late April and a website will be set up by a group called the West Coast Wave Collaboration that is comprised of academics and industry representatives to transmit power data. Local partners in this project include the Ucluth Development Corporation, the District of Ucluelet and Black Rock Resort.

The other technology is a near shore device, placed in depths of 35 to 50 metres. The CETO device is owned by Carnegie Wave Energy of Australia, and was presented by David King at the open house. Seven metre cylinders capture wave energy and pump it to an onshore turbine. A government grant will also assist in the development of this technology.

But Jessica McIvoy of OREG said there are many questions left to be answered including what are the impacts on the ocean environment and sea life of such devices, and in turn how will the devices last in the ocean?

Campbell said an adaptive management approach to the technology seems like the best option to proceed with preliminary work, taking into account “critical indicators” in the natural environment.

Yuu-cluth-aht chief councillor Vi Mundy said she’s interested in these indicators after hearing concerns from her community, from fishers for example: “I’m hearing questions like what kind of impact will there be and what kind of standards have been developed so far [in the wave energy industry].”

But she also noted young people in her community are asking for green development that will provide year round employment.

“It’s really good to see that in young people,” Mundy said.

Anyone with questions about wave technology on the coast is invited to contact OREG at questions@oreg.ca.

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NINO MARCHETTI, EarthTechling.com, May 27, 2010

A commercial wave-powered demonstration facility a mile off of Freeport, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico is on its way to being one of the first in the world to not only demonstrate the potentials of clean energy through wave power, but also showcase the desalination of salt water for clean drinking water via renewable ocean energy. The facility is to be managed by Independent Natural Resources, Inc. (INRI), through its wholly-owned subsidiary Renew Blue, Inc. (RBI)

INRI said it has gotten the go ahead from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas General Land Office for the facility. Once online later this year, INRI’s wave power facility will use the company’s SeaDog pump system to capture both kinetic and potential energy using what is described as “a simple pump design with few moving parts and no electronics.” Some of the power being generated will be diverted into the fresh water desalinating process, which reportedly will be able to produce “up to 3,000 gallons of fresh water per day as a demonstration of its ability to provide clean water on a municipal scale.” It is believed a facility such as this could be capable of producing much more than that amount of drinking water as well if needed.

“It is an exciting time for us as we move closer to demonstrating a renewable energy technology that can provide base load electricity and fresh water for municipalities, commercial business and local entities,” said Douglas Sandberg, vice president for INRI.

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UPI.com, March 9, 2010

Nanotube filaments

A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists say they’ve discovered a phenomenon that might lead to a new way of producing electricity.

The researchers, led by Associate Professor Michael Strano, said their discovery of the phenomenon that causes waves of energy to shoot through carbon nanotubes — described as thermopower waves — is similar to flotsam being propelled along the ocean’s surface by waves.

The scientists said a thermal wave — a moving pulse of heat — traveling along a submicroscopic nanotube can drive electrons along with it, creating an electrical current.

Because it is such a new discovery, Strano said it’s difficult to predict what the practical applications will be. But he suggests it might enable new kinds of ultra-small electronic devices — for example, devices the size of grains of rice, or perhaps a sensor or treatment device that could be injected into the body.

In theory, he said, such devices could maintain their power indefinitely until used, unlike batteries nicwhose charge gradually diminishes as they remain unused.

The research that included doctoral student Wonjoon Choi is reported in the journal Nature Materials.

From the peswiki @ MIT, here’s how they describe it works:

Rechargable and disposable batteries use a chemical reaction to produce energy. The problem is that after many charges and discharges the battery loses capacity to the point where the user has to discard it.

However, capacitors contain energy as an electric field of charged particles created by two metal electrodes. Capacitors charge faster and last longer than normal batteries.

The problem is that storage capacity is proportional to the surface area of the battery’s electrodes, so even today’s most powerful capacitors hold 25 times less energy than similarly sized standard chemical batteries.

MIT researchers have solved this by covering the electrodes with millions of nanotubes, which are essentially tiny filaments. The nanotube filaments increase the surface area of the electrodes and allow the capacitor to store more energy.

The MIT capacitor thus combines the strength of today’s batteries with the longevity and speed of capacitors.

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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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JOHN UPTON, San Francisco Examiner, January 28, 2010

Tracking gray whales as they migrate past the San Francisco shoreline will help provide key information for a proposed plan to for a wave energy farm.

The mammals — which can grow up to 50 feet long, weigh up to 40 tons and are considered endangered on the West Coast — migrate between the Alaskan coast to the shores off Mexico, where they give birth to their young.

During their travels, the whales pass near Ocean Beach — but there is a lack of information about exactly where.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories researchers will partner with San Francisco and track the mammals’ depth and distance from the shoreline using visual surveys and satellite tracking devices. A review of existing scientific literature will also be undertaken.

“There’s a fair amount of data on gray whales down around Monterey,” San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Project Manager Randall Smith said. “But there’s a data gap off the San Francisco coastline.”

The study will help city officials decide how and where to safely place an array of potentially-revolutionary underwater devices that might eventually deliver power as cheaply as solar panels.

The farm would capture and convert into electricity the power of arctic storm-generated waves as they pulse toward Ocean Beach.

A wide variety of devices are being developed worldwide that could help capture the wave power: Some bob near the surface, others float midwater like balloons, and a third type undulates like kelp along the seafloor.

Learning about gray whale migration patterns will help officials determine which devices would minimize the risk of whale collisions and decide where they should be located.

Research by UC Berkeley professor Ronald Yeung previously identified Ocean Beach as having strong potential for the nascent form of energy generation.

A wave study completed by San Francisco city contractors in December confirmed the site’s potential, according to Smith.

“Potentially, we could do a 30-megawatt wave farm out there,” Smith said.

The timelines and investment structure of the wave project are unclear, largely because the U.S. Minerals Management Service — which historically managed gas and oil deposits — was recently charged with regulating offshore renewable energy projects.

While the SFPUC waits for the service to finalize its permit application procedures, it’s forging ahead with an environmental review of the project required by California law, which includes the whale study.

Gray whales – the giant mammals are an endangered species.

Annual migration: 10,000 miles
Length: Up to 50 feet
Weight: Up to 80,000 pounds
Lifespan: In excess of 75 years
Maturity: Six to 12 years
Gestation: 12 to 13 months
Newborn calves: 14 to 16 feet long; 2,000 pounds

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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DAVID TOW, Future Planet, January 16, 2010

By 2015 India and China will both have outstripped the US in energy consumption by a large margin. Cap and Trade carbon markets will have been established by major developed economies, including India and China, as the most effective way to limit carbon emissions and encourage investment in renewable energy, reforestation projects etc.

There will have been a significant shift by consumers and industry to renewable energy technologies- around 25%, powered primarily by the new generation adaptive wind and solar energy mega-plants, combined with the rapid depletion of the most easily accessible oil fields. Coal and gas will continue to play a major role at around 60% useage, with clean coal and gas technologies still very expensive. Nuclear technology will remain static at 10% and hydro at 5%.

Most new vehicles and local transport systems will utilise advanced battery or hydrogen electric power technology, which will continue to improve energy density outputs.

Efficiency and recycling savings of the order of 30% on today’s levels will be available from the application of smart adaptive technologies in power grids, communication, distribution and transport networks, manufacturing plants and consumer households. This will be particularly critical for the sustainability of cities across the planet. Cities will also play a critical role in not only supporting the energy needs of at least 60% of the planet’s population through solar, wind, water and waste energy capture but will feed excess capacity to the major power grids, providing a constant re-balancing of energy supply across the world.

By 2025 a global Cap and Trade regime will be mandatory and operational worldwide. Current oil sources will be largely exhausted but the remaining new fields will be exploited in the Arctic, Antarctic and deep ocean locations.  Renewable energy will account for 40% of useage, including baseload power generation. Solar and wind power will dominate in the form of huge desert solar and coastal and inland wind farms; but all alternate forms- wave, geothermal, secondary biomass, algael etc will begin to play a significant role.

Safer helium-cooled and fast breeder fourth generation modular nuclear power reactors will replace many of the older water-cooled and risk-prone plants, eventually  accounting for around 15% of energy production; with significant advances in the storage of existing waste in stable ceramic materials.

By 2035 global warming will reach a critical threshold with energy useage tripling from levels in 2015, despite conservation and efficiency advances. Renewables will account for 60% of the world’s power supply, nuclear 15% and fossils 25%. Technologies to convert CO2 to hydocarbon fuel together with more efficient recycling and sequestration, will allow coal and gas to continue to play a significant role.

By 2045-50 renewables will be at 75-80% levels, nuclear 12% and clean fossil fuels 10-15%. The first Hydrogen and Helium3 pilot fusion energy plants will be commissioned, with large-scale generators expected to come on stream in the latter part of the century, eventually reducing carbon emissions to close to zero.

However the above advances will still be insufficient to prevent the runaway effects of global warming. These long-term impacts will raise temperatures well beyond the additional two-three degrees centigrade critical limit.

Despite reduction in emissions by up to 85%, irreversible and chaotic feedback impacts on the global biosphere will be apparent. These will be triggered by massive releases of methane from permafrost and ocean deposits, fresh water flows from melting ice causing disruptions to ocean currents and weather patterns.

These will affect populations beyond the levels of ferocity of the recent Arctic freeze, causing chaos in the northern hemisphere and reaching into India and China and the droughts and heat waves of Africa, the Middle East and Australia.

The cycle of extreme weather events and rising oceans that threaten to destroy many major coastal cities will continue to increase, compounded by major loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and food capacity. This will force a major rethink of the management of energy and climate change as global catastrophe threatens.

Increasingly desperate measures will be canvassed and tested, including the design of major geo-engineering projects aimed at reducing the amount of sunlight reaching earth and reversal of the acidity of the oceans. These massive infrastructure projects would have potentially enormous ripple-on effects on all social, industrial and economic systems. They are eventually assessed to be largely ineffective, unpredictable and unsustainable.

As forecasts confirm that carbon levels in the atmosphere will remain high for the next 1,000 years, regardless of mitigating measures, priorities shift urgently to the need to minimise risk to life on a global scale, while protecting civilisation’s core infrastructure, social, knowledge and cultural assets.

Preserving the surviving natural ecosystem environment and the critical infrastructure of the built environment, particularly the Internet and Web, will now be vital. The sustainability of human life on planet Earth, in the face of overwhelming catastrophe, will be dependent to a critical degree on the power of the intelligent Web 4.0, combining human and artificial intelligence to manage food, water, energy and human resources.

Only the enormous problem-solving capacity of this human-engineered entity, will be capable of ensuring the continuing survival of civilisation as we know it.

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TAYLOR JOHNSON, SmallWindTips, December 16, 2009

I have been somewhat intrigued by the topic of wind power charging the electric cars of the future as of late. After reading through a number of blogs and different Q&A areas on the internet, I decided to take the question of feasibility into my own hands, so that I can calculate the outcome and offer you the facts.

The first production scale electric vehicle will be the Nissan Leaf, which will hold a charge of up to 24 kilowatt hours. According to Nissan, this 24 kilowatt hour battery can be changed fully in approximately 4-8 hours, and during a quick charge can be 80% charged in only 26 minutes. Wouldn’t that be great, or I guess I should say “won’t that be great” because it is already set for production. It seems that if I were to install a 1.5 kilowatt turbine on my house it should theoretically charge my car over night so it will be ready for me when I head off to work the next day. That’s what I thought too, but the calculations just don’t support it.

Let me first start out by explaining a kilowatt hour and how it differs from the 1.5 kilowatt output of our turbine. So, we have this 1.5 kilowatt turbine on our house, how much power is that really producing? Well, when wind speeds are ideal (usually around 12 mph) your wind turbine will be producing 1.5 kilowatt hours each and every hour, or at least until the wind dies down. As the wind dies down, the power output exponentially decreases until the wind reaches a low speed (generally around 4-6 mph). At this low wind speed no power production will occur, the wind just does not have enough energy to spin the blades on the home wind turbine. Since, the wind doesn’t always blow at 12 mph or higher, scientists have calculated averages for actual wind power production from a turbine. Now I won’t get into all the details, but 40% peak production is very good and we will use that for the calculations to follow.

So now that we know that we have a 1.5 kilowatt small wind turbine and we know that 40% annual power production is near the best we could ever hope for, we can calculate a best case scenario for power output. Simply multiply your turbine’s rated output by the number of hours in a year as well as the 40% annual production statistic.

1.5 x 8,760 x 0.40 = 5,256 kWh’s

This gives us a theoretical annual output of 5,256 kilowatt hours. Now from here, we go back to the car. The Nissan Leaf can store up to 24 kilowatt hours of energy and can travel approximately 100 miles per charge. Since we know that the average American travels 12,000 miles per year, we can accurately deduce that in order to drive the Nissan Leaf as we would like to, we will need to charge it a minimum of 120 times. So, since we are considering best case scenarios, let assume that every time your car is plugged in you will be producing energy at the constant 40%. If that were the case, the Nissan leaf would require 2,880 kilowatt hours (or 120 x 24 kilowatt hours) of energy per year, and that is very do-able.

Now this is where I see a lot of analysis stop. People simply assume that that should work and life should be peachy, however that isn’t the case. As mentioned above and further explained in Understanding the Basics of Windpower, a wind turbine can only produce it’s capacity (in this case 1.5 kilowatts) once each hour. So in the 4-8 hours of charging time for your Nissan Leaf, your 1.5 kilowatt turbine will only produce a maximum of 6-12 kilowatt hours, while the car requires 24 kilowatt hours. And just to emphasize the 6-12 kilowatt hours is a maximum, when output is full and the winds are howling.

I just want to close by saying that in no way am I saying small wind and residential wind systems are not the future of America’s energy policy, nor am I saying that they will not have a large part in powering the cars of tomorrow. I simply wanted to dispell any misconceptions concerning the feasibility of residential wind equipment charging the electric cars of tomorrow.

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DAVID R. BAKER, San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2009

The waves off of Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast could one day generate electricity, if Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has its way.

The utility reported Friday that it has signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to study the area’s potential for a wave power project. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the project could one day generate as much as 100 megawatts of electricity. A megawatt is a snapshot figure, roughly equal to the amount of electricity used by 750 average homes at any given instant.

Wave power technologies have the potential to provide large amounts of electricity. But they have been slow to leave the lab.

The typical wave power system consists of buoys that generate electricity as they bob up and down on the ocean’s surface. But the ocean has proven tougher than some of the systems.

PG&E two years ago agreed to buy electricity from a proposed “wave park” near Eureka to be built by Canadian company Finavera. But Finavera’s prototype buoy sank during a test, and California energy regulators killed the deal.

Under its $6 million WaveConnect program, PG&E is still studying potential wave park sites off Humboldt County. The utility, based in San Francisco, also examined the Mendocino County coast before ruling it out.

Vandenberg makes an attractive test site. It occupies a bend in the coast of Santa Barbara County where some of the beaches face west, some face southwest and others face south. PG&E in particular wants to study the area between Point Arguello and Point Conception.

“Generally, that piece of the coast is very active for waves,” said PG&E spokesman Kory Raftery. “It picks up swells from different directions.”

If the company wins federal approval, it will study the area for three years before making a decision on whether to test wave power devices there. The company wants to test several different devices but has not yet picked which ones, Raftery said.

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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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Scientific Computing, Advantage Business Media, November 2009

The ocean is a potentially vast source of electric power, yet as engineers test new technologies for capturing it, the devices are plagued by battering storms, limited efficiency and the need to be tethered to the seafloor. Now, a team of aerospace engineers is applying the principles that keep airplanes aloft to create a new wave energy system that is durable, extremely efficient and can be placed anywhere in the ocean, regardless of depth.

While still in early design stages, computer and scale model tests of the system suggest higher efficiencies than wind turbines. The system is designed to effectively cancel incoming waves, capturing their energy while flattening them out, providing an added application as a storm wave breaker.

The researchers, from the U.S. Air Force Academy, presented their design at the 62nd annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics on November 24, 2009.

“Our group was working on very basic research on feedback flow control for years,” says lead researcher Stefan Siegel, referring to efforts to use sensors and adjustable parts to control how fluids flow around airfoils like wings. “For an airplane, when you control that flow, you better control flight — for example, enabling you to land a plane on a shorter runway.”

A colleague had read an article on wave energy in a magazine and mentioned it to Siegel and the other team members, and they realized they could operate a wave energy device using the same feedback control concepts they had been developing.

Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the researchers developed a system that uses lift instead of drag to cause the propeller blades to move.

“Every airplane flies with lift, not with drag,” says Siegel. “Compare an old style windmill with a modern one. The new style uses lift and is what made wind energy viable — and it doesn’t get shredded in a storm like an old windmill. Fluid dynamics fixed the issue for windmills, and can do the same for wave energy.”

Windmills have active controls that turn the blades to compensate for storm winds, eliminating lift when it is a risk, and preventing damage. The Air Force Academy researchers used the same approach with a hydrofoil (equivalent to an airfoil, but for water) and built it into a cycloidal propeller, a design that emerged in the 1930s and currently propels tugboats, ferries and other highly maneuverable ships.

The researchers changed the propeller orientation from horizontal to vertical, allowing direct interaction with the cyclic, up and down motion of wave energy. The researchers also developed individual control systems for each propeller blade, allowing sophisticated manipulations that maximize (or minimize, in the case of storms) interaction with wave energy.

Ultimately, the goal is to keep the flow direction and blade direction constant, cancelling the incoming wave and using standard gear-driven or direct-drive generators to convert the wave energy into electric energy. A propeller that is exactly out of phase with a wave will cancel that wave and maximize energy output. The cancellation also will allow the float-mounted devices to function without the need of mooring, important for deep sea locations that hold tremendous wave energy potential and are currently out of reach for many existing wave energy designs.

While the final device may be as large as 40 meters across, laboratory models are currently less than a meter in diameter. A larger version of the system will be tested next year at NSF’s Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) tsunami wave basin at Oregon State University, an important experiment for proving the efficacy of the design.

Compelling images of the cycloidal turbine:

The view from the far downstream end into the test section of the U.S. Air Force Academy water tunnel. Three blades of the cycloidal turbine are visible at the far end. Engineer Stefan Siegel and his colleagues test the turbine using the tunnel, with both steady and oscillating flow conditions simulating a shallow-water wave-flow field. Courtesy of SSgt Danny Washburn, U.S. Air Force Academy, Department of Aeronautics

 

A cycloidal turbine is installed on top of the test section of the U.S. Air Force Academy water tunnel. In the background, Manfred Meid (left) and Stefan Siegel (right) operate the turbine. Courtesy of SSgt Danny Washburn, US Air Force Academy, Department of Aeronautics

 

 

 

A cycloidal turbine prototype with three blades (translucent, at bottom of image), is shown lifted out of the tunnel. One of the blade pitch control servo amplifiers is visible in the foreground, and the servo motors can be seen in the top portion of the image. Courtesy of SSgt Danny Washburn, US Air Force Academy, Department of Aeronautics

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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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JESSICA MARSHALL, Discovery.com News, November 30, 2009

The patterns that schooling fish form to save energy while swimming have inspired a new wind farm design that researchers say will increase the amount of power produced per acre by at least tenfold.

“For the fish, they are trying to minimize the energy that they consume to swim from Point A to Point B,” said John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who led the study. “In our case, we’re looking at the opposite problem: How to we maximize the amount of energy that we collect?”

“Because both of these problems involve optimizing energy, it turns out that the model that’s useful for one is also useful for the other problem.”

Both designs rely on individuals capturing energy from their neighbors to operate more efficiently.”If there was just one fish swimming, it kicks off energy into the water, and it just gets wasted,” Dabiri said, “but if there’s another fish behind, it can actually use that kinetic energy and help it propel itself forward.”

The wind turbines can do the same thing. Dabiri’s wind farm design uses wind turbines that are oriented to rotate around the support pole like a carousel, instead of twirling like a pinwheel the way typical wind turbines do.

Like the fish, these spinning turbines generate a swirling wake. The energy in this flow can be gathered by neighboring turbines if they are placed close enough together and in the right position. By capturing this wake, two turbines close together can generate more power than each acting alone.

This contrasts with common, pinwheel-style wind turbines where the wake from one interferes with its neighbors, reducing the neighbors’ efficiency. The vortexes occur in the wrong orientation for the neighboring turbines to capture them.

For this reason, such turbines must be spaced at least three diameters to either side and 10 diameters up — or downwind of another, which requires a lot of land.

Although individual carousel-style turbines are less efficient than their pinwheel-style counterparts, the close spacing that enhances their performance means that the amount of power output per acre is much greater for the carousel-style turbines.

Dabiri and graduate student Robert Whittlesey calculated that their best design would generate 100 times more power per acre than a conventional wind farm.

The model required some simplifications, however, so it remains to be seen whether tests of an actual wind farm produce such large gains. That will be the team’s next step. “Even if we’re off by a factor of 10, that’s still a game changer for the technology,” Dabiri noted.

In the end, schooling fish may not have the perfect arrangement. The pair found that the best arrangement of wind turbines did not match the spacing used by schooling fish.

“If we just mimic the fish wake, we can do pretty well,” Dabiri said. “But, as engineers, maybe we’re smarter than fish. It turns out that for this application there is even better performance to be had.”

This may be because fish have other needs to balance in their schooling behavior besides maximizing swimming efficiency. They seek food, avoid predators and reproduce, for example.

“I think that this is a very interesting possibility,” said Alexander Smits of Princeton University, who attended a presentation of the findings at a meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics in Minneapolis last week.

But a field test will show the idea’s real potential, he noted: “You have to go try these things. You can do a calculation like that and it might not work out. But it seemed like there was a very large reduction in the land usage, and even if you got one half of that, that would be pretty good.”

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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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WENDEE HOLTCAMP, National Wildlife, December/January 2010

Frank Fish was browsing in a Boston sculpture shop a few years ago when he noticed a whale figurine. His first thought was, “This isn’t right. It’s got bumps on the leading edge of its flipper. It’s always a straight edge.”

Fish, a West Chester University professor specializing in the dynamics of locomotion, was surprised because all flippers he knew of had straight edges—including those of dolphins, penguins and even most whales. The straight-edge blade is also shared by ceiling fans and most industrial blades and rotors. But the store manager showed him a photo of a humpback whale, and sure enough, it had tubercles on its flippers. Humpbacks have a unique habit of catching fish in a bubble net that they create by diving deep and swimming in a spiraling circle, and Fish speculated that the tubercles may somehow give them a hydrodynamic advantage.

Turns out he was right. After testing a scaled-down flipper replica in a wind tunnel, Fish and colleagues Loren Howle and Mark Murray found the tubercles reduced drag by 32% and increased lift by 6% compared with a smooth-edge flipper. The bumps have the same effect on rotors and blades in air—a revolutionary discovery in aerodynamics. Fish co-patented so-called “Tubercle Technology” and in 2005 he helped found Whale Power, a company that is building energy-efficient windmills using scalloped-edge blades. The technology could eventually improve energy-efficiency for any machine that uses turbines, fans or pumps.

Fish is among an increasing number of scientists, inventors and companies turning to the natural world to help them create better, more sustainable products and to find solutions to some of humanity’s most vexing problems. The concept is called biomimicry and the idea behind it is simple: Over the millennia, living organisms in the natural world already have tested and solved many of the challenges humans are grappling with today.

“People are looking for ways to reduce material use, get away from toxic substances and reduce energy use. When they hear about biomimicry, they realize it’s an R&D program that’s been going on for 3.8 billion years,” says biologist Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Guild, a Montana-based consulting firm that provides research and guidance on natural solutions for some of the country’s largest companies and government agencies.

In her landmark 1997 book Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Benyus issued a call to action, urging people to engage not just in shallow biomimicry—copying nature’s forms—but to push for deep biomimicry where manufacturing processes follow nature’s lead of sustainability. The ideal industrial loop, she says, would work as seamlessly as a redwood forest, where one’s processed wastes become food or input for another and nothing is wasted. In the book, Benyus also compiled dozens of examples of how people are emulating natural processes.

Velcro, for example, one of the most famous products to come from mimicking nature, was created by a Swiss engineer in the 1940s after observing how cockleburs got stuck in his dog’s fur. Three decades later, a German botanist discovered that lotus leaves contain tiny waxy bumps that cause water to bead up and run off the surface, washing and cleaning the leaves in the process. The discovery has since inspired a number of waterproof products including Lotusan, a self-cleaning paint that keeps the outsides of buildings free of algae and fungi.

More recently, scientists from the University of New South Wales discovered a revolutionary antibacterial compound in a type of red algal seaweed that lives off the coast of Australia. Bacteria form slimy biofilms but require a “quorum” to congregate, and so they constantly communicate with one another. The seaweed stays bacteria-free by emitting the compound furanone, which jams the bacteria’s communication sensors. Mimicking that natural action, the Australian company Biosignal created cleaning fluids that keep surfaces bacteria-free without killing them, which is a breakthrough because its use does not lead to the evolution of antibiotic resistance, as has happened with the proliferation of so many antibacterial cleaning compounds. So far, furanone works on various bacteria, including staphylococcus and vibrio, which causes cholera. It also works on the bacteria that corrode pipes, leading to oil spills.

In another flip on tradition, Mercedes-Benz recently modeled an ecologically friendly, fuel-efficient concept vehicle called the Bionic Car after the yellow boxfish, a squarish tropical creature found in reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Traditionally, aerodynamic cars have been built long and lean, but it turns out the boxfish has a drag coefficient nearly equal to that of a drop of water, which has one of the lowest drags possible. The automobile company not only borrowed from the boxfish’s boxy but aerodynamic shape but also from its unique skeletal structure that protects the animal from injury, making the car safer by putting extra material in certain parts of its frame and economizing by lightening up the load elsewhere.

Another product, the UltraCane, was developed not long ago as a result of research at the University of Leeds in Great Britain to help the blind “see” by utilizing the echolocation systems of bats. The cane emits an ultrasonic sound that bounces off objects, allowing vision-impaired people to develop a mental picture of where and how far away objects are—and hence better navigate around them.

In Zimbabwe, the architectural design firm Arup Associates modeled the country’s largest office complex, Eastgate Centre, after the passive cooling system used by African termites in their mounds. Termites farm fungus that they must keep at a precise 87 degrees F, while outside air varies from 35 degrees at night to 104 by day. To accomplish this amazing feat, termites constantly plug and unplug cooling vents that create convection currents, drawing air through the mound as needed. The Eastgate Centre builders copied this model, using fans and chimneys to shunt hot air out, and ground-level cavities to allow cooler air in—a concept known as passive cooling. Without any modern heating or air conditioning, the facility uses only 10% of the electricity of a conventional building its size. The energy-cost savings trickle down to tenants, who pay 20% lower rent than in neighboring buildings.

Elsewhere, scientists are turning to Mother Nature for inspiration for other energy-related materials. To increase the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by solar panels, for instance, a University of Florida researcher is developing a coating for the panels based on the structure of moth eyes, which reflect little light. In China and Japan, scientists are modeling more efficient solar cells after the scales on butterfly wings, which serve as highly effective, microscopic solar collectors.

The benefits humans gain as a result of such research provide a strong argument for conserving wildlife. “Protecting plant and animal habitats means also preserving the wellspring of ideas for the next industrial revolution,” says Benyus, who in 2007 was named by Time magazine as one of its “International Heroes of the Environment.”

That same year, she also founded the nonprofit Biomimicry Institute, which urges companies to donate a percentage of their profits to the habitat from which their biomimicry-inspired products come from. “We must become nature’s apprentice at this point,” she says, “and part of that path has to be preserving the wild places we now realize are the homes of geniuses.”

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CASSANDRA SWEET, Dow Jones Newswires, November 20, 2009

California regulators have proposed approving a long-term contract between PG&E and Solaren, developers of a speculative technology that would beam 200 megawatts of solar power to earth from outer space.

Under the 15-year contract, Solaren Corp., of Manhattan Beach, Calif., would ship 850 gigawatt-hours of solar power a year starting in 2016, doubling that amount in later years. The power would be sent by radio frequency from an earth-orbiting satellite to a receiving station in Fresno, California. The energy-conversion technology has been used by communications satellites for 45 years on a much smaller scale, Solaren said.

PG&E wouldn’t disclose the cost of the proposed 15-year contract but said it would be above-market, more than 12.9 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC.

PG&E among other California utilities are required to use renewable sources for a fifth of the power they sell by 2010, ramping up to one-third of their retail power by 2020. The requirements are part of the state’s 2006 plan to combat climate change.

Because Solaren’s technology is untested, raising “concerns regarding the viability of the project,” PG&E can’t rely on the contract to comply with its renewable energy requirements until construction begins on the project and the CPUC gives additional approval, the agency said in a proposed decision.

The CPUC could make a decision as early as December 3, 2009.

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MendoCoastCurrent, November 16, 2009

For centuries humanity has gazed at the sea, rivers and rambling brooks in awe of water currents and the energy potential they hold. With increasingly critical demand for safe renewable energy solutions, our ability to capture water power has been an abstruse, distant choice for mitigating our dependence on fossil fuels.

Now with Peak Oil and Climate Change concerns igniting our interest in renewable energies, our brightest, most creative thinkers the world-over turn their attention and intention toward creating efficient, sustainable and safe renewable energy capture devices. It’s understood best bets for generating constant electricity straddle natural energy sources: the sun, the wind and the tides, with the energy captured from water and the tides currently garnering longest odds.

Water power, known more formally as hydrokinetic energy, is based on hydro, meaning water, and kinetic with roots in Greek, κίνηση, or kinesis, meaning motion. The motion of water and study of it includes capturing its power. At the heart of this energy is spinning and flowing, ironically a strikingly dissimilar concept from capture.

Whether extracted, converted, captured or transformed, hydrokinetic energy may well be the ‘holy grail’ of renewable energy, especially when considering the math:

  • ‘One foot of tidal change, when funneled through the natural orifices of the coastal inlets, has the potential to generate pure, clean, green energy and all with absolutely no carbon footprint.’
  • Thus, as an example, one Florida inlet having an average tidal change between 2” up to 1’ carries 75 trillion Cu-Ft of fast moving water every tide.

Furthermore, hydrokinetic energy offers consistent yields and potentials unknown and possibly undiscoverable from other naturally-sourced energy. Wind power faces insufficient, constant wind to return the capital investment, even with government subsidies, and robust solar energy opportunities are mostly located in far, off grid locales.

Traditional hydrokinetic solutions include tidal turbines, wave buoys, wave hubs, tethered ocean, buoyant/flexible wave snakes and tidal stream machines that generate electricity yet also create gross negative impacts on marine wildlife and the environment.

These solutions must overcome fundamental issues like potential fish or turtle kill, corrosion and tethering issues, repair distance and processes, long-term durability in water/weather, noise pollution and super expensive grid connections that are also environmentally damaging.

Seems that when we embrace and mimic nature in creating organically-derived energy capture tools, the harmonious capacity of the design inherently overcomes the problems of other inelegant hydrokinetic systems.

Over the last two years, W. S. “Scotty” Anderson, Jr. may have either consciously or unconsciously designed along these lines as he victoriously led his team to invent and build the ECO-Auger™. You’ll find information on this and other cool inventions at Anderson’s laboratory, www.smartproductinnovations.com.

As a lifelong fisherman, Anderson designed his hydrokinetic system to convert energy from moving water, delivering renewable, sustainable energy, while completely safe for fish and marine wildlife.

The tapered helix permits fish and other marine life to pass through with absolutely no sharp edges to injure them. Even turtles can swim through or are gently pushed aside as the ECO-Auger generally rotates under 100 rpm. The tapered design also permits debris to pass.

First thoughts of the ECO-Auger came to Anderson in 2008 as he was fishing the waters of the fast-moving Kenai River in Alaska. His mind focused on capturing the river’s energy; here are his notes: “I got the vision of a screw turning in the river current and generating electricity on the river bank. The screw would turn a flexible shaft and drive an electric generator outside the water.”

The ECO-Auger is a double-helix, auger-shaped spinner regulated by the size of the radius and the strength of the water current. “It’s easy to array, bi-directional and housed in an individual, streamlined single form,” Anderson points out.

Anderson originally envisioned the ECO-Auger “simply installed under bridges between the arches of bridges, housed on the ECO-Sled, a sort of a pontoon boat like a floating dry-dock.” This permits easy launch and retrieval for maintenance or if/when the ice gets too thick.

Over the next year Anderson built and tested prototypes, refining his hydrokinetic system completely from U.S. materials, requiring that each generation of the ECO-Auger be “very reasonable to build, deploy, easy to service and inexpensive to array.”

In describing his invention, Anderson said, “the ECO-Auger does not have blades, straight or twisted like other devices, and is environmentally-friendly to all marine wildlife. The fish are not harmed and swim through the organic design. With no electrical generation under or in water, there also is no danger to transmitting vibrations or naval sonar to whales and dolphins.”

This novel approach is so very different to existing technology. So very different and innovative that in late September 2009 Anderson’s team won First Place in the ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, a joint initiative of ConocoPhillips and Penn State University recognizing new ideas and original, actionable solutions that help improve the way the US develops and uses energy.

The prize-winning ECO-Auger was described as “a hydrokinetic energy capturing device that converts moving water from river and ocean currents to renewable electric energy using the constant hydraulic pressure and storage to maintain continuous energy output regardless of tidal current strength.”

How the ECO-Auger Works:

The ECO-Auger rotates in either direction from the moving water and current and is directly transferred through planetary gears to a high-pressure hydraulic pump located in the machine’s nose cone. The nose cone, which is physically tethered to bridges by cables, or anchored in moving water, stabilizes the torque generated from the rotation and transfers it to a hydraulic pump. The pump supplies variable volumes of high-pressure fluid at controlled, set pressure, regardless of the direction or speed of rotations. This pressure turns an oil-driven electric generator that delivers stable electrical current. Thus, constant power is generated through the ECO-Auger’s unique hydraulic circuit.

As the ECO-Auger rotates, the high-pressure oil flows through check valves to an array of standard air oil accumulators that are connected directly in line to the oil motor driving the electric generator. The oil to the electric generator is sized below the maximum gallons per minute of the ECO-Auger’s hydraulic pump, allowing the pumped oil to be supplied to the motor, while the excess volume is stored in the accumulator. A computer-monitored storage system assures maximum energy stability, storing energy and supplying the generators during the slow down of tidal flow.

Guide for Installation Opportunities:

Since the ECO-Auger is bi-directional, it is well-suited for high velocity, coastal ocean and bay locations. Near the ocean, the generation hydraulic system uses nitrogen-over-oil accumulators to maintain power generation during ebb tides or slack tidal movement under 1 knot (0.5m/s).

Each potential installation of the ECO-Auger is unique, requiring the water velocity and profile or depth of the installed area to be fully studied and documented. Anderson recommends a month-long study to support 30-year energy capture forecasts and projections.

River installations of the ECO-Auger are successful when current is in excess of 3 kts (1.5 meters/sec). The accumulators mentioned above are not required in mono-flow installations and installation reflects this cost savings. With the mono-directional ECO-Auger, electricity can be generated already existing power dams, downstream in any dam outlet, discharge from municipal water treatment facility, cooling water discharge and many river bridge options.

The ECO-Auger in its recent First Place win in the 2009 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize, a joint initiative of ConocoPhillips and Penn State University — won specifically for its new, original idea improving the way the U.S. creates and uses energy.

Anderson and his team are up to this important challenge and set their sights on installing this remarkable fish-friendly, economical, high-yielding hydrokinetic solution in a river, alongside a bridge or coastal inlet near you.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 30, 2009

oyster_prototype_device_aquamarine_powerJust last week in Scotland the Oyster from Aquamarine Power passed a crucial test and is no longer in locked-down position on the seabed. Now the Oyster moves back and forth in the ocean waves, pumping high-pressure water to its onshore hydro-electric turbine as it readies for full-commissioning.

The Oyster captures energy found in near-shore waves up to depths of 10 to 12 metres and consists of a hinged flap connected to the seabed at around 10m depth. Each passing wave moves the flap which drives a hydraulic piston to deliver high-pressure water to an onshore turbine which generates electricity. The Oyster now goes through commissioning in advance of grid connection as the official switch on by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond is set for on November 20, 2009.

Martin McAdam, Aquamarine Power chief executive said: “We are delighted to have passed this crucial stage in commissioning the world’s very first Oyster wave energy convertor. This major milestone shows that the Oyster does what we have always believed it will do, and we look forward to completing commissioning and producing clean, green energy from Scotland’s waves in the coming months.”

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Endangered species’ communication critical to survival

ARIEL DAVID, Seattle Post Intelligence, December 8, 2008

Whale-460_980418cThe songs that whales and dolphins use to communicate, orient themselves and find mates are being drowned out by human-made noises in the world’s oceans, U.N. officials and environmental groups said Wednesday.

That sound pollution — everything from increasing commercial shipping and seismic surveys to a new generation of military sonar — is not only confounding the mammals, it also is further threatening the survival of these endangered animals.

Studies show that these cetaceans, which once communicated over thousands of miles to forage and mate, are losing touch with each other, the experts said at a U.N. wildlife conference in Rome.

“Call it a cocktail-party effect,” said Mark Simmonds, director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, a Britain-based NGO. “You have to speak louder and louder until no one can hear each other anymore.”

An indirect source of noise pollution may also be coming from climate change, which is altering the chemistry of the oceans and making sound travel farther through sea water, the experts said.

Representatives of more than 100 governments are gathered in Rome for a meeting of the U.N.-backed Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

The agenda of the conference, which ends Friday, includes ways to increase protection for endangered species, including measures to mitigate underwater noise.

Environmental groups also are increasingly finding cases of beached whales and dolphins that can be linked to sound pollution, Simmonds said.

Marine mammals are turning up on the world’s beaches with tissue damage similar to that found in divers suffering from decompression sickness. The condition, known as the bends, causes gas bubbles to form in the bloodstream upon surfacing too quickly.

Scientists say the use of military sonar or seismic testing may have scared the animals into diving and surfacing beyond their physical limits, Simmonds said.

Several species of cetaceans are already listed as endangered or critically endangered from other causes, including hunting, chemical pollution, collisions with boats and entanglements with fishing equipment. Though it is not yet known precisely how many animals are affected, sound pollution is increasingly being recognized as a serious factor, the experts said.

As an example, Simmonds offered two incidents this year that, though still under study, could be linked to noise pollution: the beaching of more than 100 melon-headed whales in Madagascar and that of two dozen common dolphins on the southern British coast.

The sound of a seismic test, used to locate hydrocarbons beneath the seabed, can spread 1,800 miles under water, said Veronica Frank, an official with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. A study by her group found that the blue whale, which used to communicate across entire oceans, has lost 90 percent of its range over the past 40 years.

Despite being the largest mammal ever to inhabit Earth, the endangered blue whale still holds mysteries for scientists.

“We don’t even know where their breeding grounds are,” Simmonds said. “But what’s most important is that they need to know where they are.”

Other research suggests that rising levels of carbon dioxide are increasing the acidity of the Earth’s oceans, making sound travel farther through sea water.

The study by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in the United States shows the changes may mean some sound frequencies are traveling 10% farther than a few centuries ago. That could increase to 70% by 2050 if greenhouse gases are not cut.

However, governments seem ready to take action, said Nick Nutall, a spokesman for the U.N. Environment Program, which administers the convention being discussed in Rome. The conference is discussing a resolution that would oblige countries to reduce sound pollution, he said.

Measures suggested include rerouting shipping and installing quieter engines as well as cutting speed and banning tests and sonar use in areas known to be inhabited by the animals.

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Globe.Net, October 27, 2009

President Barack Obama has announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that will create tens of thousands of jobs, save energy and allow consumers to cut their electric bills.

Speaking at Florida Power and Light’s (FPL) DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, President Barack Obama today announced the largest single energy grid modernization investment in U.S. history, funding a broad range of technologies that will spur the nation’s transition to a smarter, stronger, more efficient and reliable electric system.

The $3.4 billion in grant awards – part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act – will be matched by industry funding for a total public-private investment worth over $8 billion. Full listings of the grant awards by category and state are available here and a map of the awards is available here.

An analysis by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that the implementation of smart grid technologies could reduce electricity use by more than 4% by 2030.  That would mean a savings of $20.4 billion for businesses and consumers around the country. One-hundred private companies, utilities, manufacturers, cities and other partners received Smart Grid Investment Grant awards today, including FPL, which will use its $200 million in funding to install over 2.5 million smart meters and other technologies that will cut energy costs for its customers.

The awards announced represent the largest group of Recovery Act awards ever made in a single day and the largest batch of Recovery Act clean energy grant awards to-date. The announcements include:

  • Empowering Consumers to Save Energy and Cut Utility Bills — $1 billion. These investments will create the infrastructure and expand access to smart meters and customer systems so that consumers will be able to access dynamic pricing information and have the ability to save money by programming smart appliances and equipment to run when rates are lowest.
  • Making Electricity Distribution and Transmission More Efficient — $400 million. The Administration is funding several grid modernization projects across the country that will significantly reduce the amount of power that is wasted from the time it is produced at a power plant to the time it gets to your house.  By deploying digital monitoring devices and increasing grid automation, these awards will increase the efficiency, reliability and security of the system, and will help link up renewable energy resources with the electric grid.
  • Integrating and Crosscutting Across Different “Smart” Components of a Smart Grid — $2 billion. Much like electronic banking, the Smart Grid is not the sum total of its components but how those components work together.  The range of projects funded will incorporate various components into one system – including smart meters, smart thermostats and appliances, syncrophasors, automated substations, plug in hybrid electric vehicles, renewable energy sources, etc.
  • Building a Smart Grid Manufacturing Industry — $25 million. These investments will help expand our manufacturing base of companies that can produce the smart meters, smart appliances, synchrophasors, smart transformers, and other components for smart grid systems in the United States and around the world – representing a significant and growing export opportunity for our country and new jobs for American workers.

More details on the proposed projects are available here. Click here for the full test of remarks by President Obama on Recovery Act Funding for Smart Grid Technology.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 27, 2009

Editor’s Note: Over the past few weeks there have been numerous Blue Whales showing up dead on the coast of California and a cause of the recent Blue Whale washing up on the Mendocino coast has been the topic of great discussion and mystery here. Actual cause of death has been identified by propeller of a NOAA research ship. Additionally, here’s a new theory based on noise pollution and new research: Blue whales are forced to make more noise to compete with man-made noise pollution like ship sounds and sonar. More specifically: Blue whales increase their ‘singing’ to cope with noise pollution. And: Man-made noise such as ships’ engines has caused hearing loss in whales.

LOUISE GRAY, Telegraph UK, September 23, 2009

Whale-460_980418cIt has also caused other behavioural changes, including forcing the creatures to strand on beaches because they are unable to navigate.

The endangered blue whale uses sonar to navigate, locate prey, avoid predators and communicate.

However in recent years the increasing use of hi-tech sonar by ships, the noise of propellers, seismic surveys, sea-floor drilling, and low-frequency radio transmissions have made oceans noisier.

New research has shown that the whales are having to ‘chatter’ more often and for longer periods to communicate the location of prey and to mate.

Zoologist Lucia Di Iorio, of the University of Zurich, analysed the song of blue whales recorded by microphones during seismic explorations in the St Lawrence estuary off Canada’s north east coast over an eleven day period in August 2004.

“We found that blue whales called consistently more on seismic exploration days than on non-exploration days as well as during periods within a seismic survey day when the sparker was operating,” she said.

“This increase was observed for the discrete, audible calls that are emitted during social encounters and feeding.”

The study, published in Biology Letters, provides the first evidence that blue whales change their calling behaviour when exposed to sounds from seismic surveys.

“This study suggests careful reconsideration of the potential behavioural impacts of even low source level seismic survey sounds on large whales. This is particularly relevant when the species is at high risk of extinction as is the blue whale,” added Dr Di Iorio.

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EMILY AVILES, Ode Magazine, October 26, 2009

mainLately, the shores of San Francisco, California have been attracting more than wet-suit clad surfers and their boards.

A site five miles off the city’s western beach is being considered for a new Oceanside Wave Energy project.

Australian energy company BioPower Systems is collaborating with the City of San Francisco to investigate wave energy generation from the Pacific Ocean.

Wave power, not to be confused with tidal power, takes advantage of energy from the actual surface waves of the ocean. People have attempted to harness this power since 1890, but with little success. However, that may change thanks to BioPower Systems application of biomimicry.

The ideas underlying the company’s novel technologies reap the full benefit of billions of years of underwater evolution. The proposed bioWAVE ocean wave power system will sway like sea plants in ocean waves. Each lightweight unit—developed for 250kW, 500kW, 1000kW capacities—will then connect to a utility-size power grid via subsea cables. It’s now predicted that the same Californian waves that propel sundry surfers could generate between 10MW and 100MW of power. That’s enough energy to power between 3,000 to 30,000 homes annually.

If this project is indeed determined feasible—and it does look hopeful—BioPower Systems and the City of San Francisco will begin to develop a way to deliver clean renewable electricity to the city’s power grid. By 2012 that “hella rad swell” could be something electrifying.

Click here to view a full animation of the bioWAVE farm in action.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOcean Power Technologies Inc. has signed an exclusive agreement with three Japanese companies to develop a demonstration wave energy station in Japan. Idemitsu Kosan Co., Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. and Japan Wind Development Co. comprise this consortium and have invited OPT to become a member of this Tokyo Wave Power Initiative.

This is OPT’s first venue in Japan and complements OPT’s global strategy to form alliances with strategic partners in key markets. OPT now has a range of power generation projects globally, including those in Oregon and Hawaii in the U.S., Scotland and Southwest England in the U.K., Spain, Australia and now Japan.

Under the anticipated agreement to build the demonstration plant, OPT said it will sell the equipment for the power station to the The companies in Initiative. And they will provide manufacturing and maintenance of the power stations and on-going plant operations, while OPT will provide its PowerBuoy technology and appropriate subsystems.

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NAO NAKANISHI, Reuters, October 5, 2009

PelamisWaveFarm_PelamisWavePowerA first attempt fell victim to the crisis: now in the docks of Scotland’s ancient capital, a second-generation scarlet Sea Snake is being prepared to harness the waves of Britain’s northern islands to generate electricity.

Dwarfed by 180 metres of tubing, scores of engineers clamber over the device, which is designed to dip and ride the swelling sea with each move being converted into power to be channelled through subsea cables.

Due to be installed next spring at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, northern Scotland, the wave power generator was ordered by German power company E.ON, reflecting serious interest in an emerging technology which is much more expensive than offshore wind.

Interest from the utility companies is driven by regulatory requirements to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation, and it helps in a capital-intensive sector.

Venture capitalists interested in clean tech projects typically have shorter horizons for required returns than the 10-20 years such projects can take, so the utilities’ deeper pockets and solid capital base are useful.

“Our view … is this is a 2020 market place,” said Amaan Lafayette, E.ON’s marine development manager. “We would like to see a small-scale plant of our own in water in 2015-2017, built on what we are doing here. It’s a kind of generation we haven’t done before.”

The World Energy Council has estimated the market potential for wave energy at more than 2,000 terawatt hours a year — or about 10% of world electricity consumption — representing capital expenditure of more than 500 billion pounds ($790 billion).

Island nation Britain has a leading role in developing the technology for marine power, which government advisor the Carbon Trust says could in future account for 20% of the country’s electricity. The government is stepping up support as part of a 405 million pound investment in renewable energy to help its ambition of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels, while securing energy supply. (The challenge is more about getting to a place where we are comparable with other renewable technologies… We want to get somewhere around offshore wind,” said Lafayette.)

Britain’s Crown Estate, which owns the seabed within 12 nautical miles of the coast, is also holding a competition for a commercial marine energy project in Pentland Firth in northern Scotland.

Besides wave power, Britain is testing systems to extract the energy from tides: private company Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) last year opened the world’s first large-scale tidal turbine SeaGen in Northern Ireland.

DEVELOPING LIKE WIND

wave_power_pelamis“We are often compared to the wind industry 20 years ago,” said Andrew Scott, project development manager at Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, which is developing the Sea Snake system, known as P2. Standing beside the train-sized serpent, Pelamis’ Scott said wave power projects are taking a variety of forms, which he said was similar to the development of the wind turbine. “You had vertical axis, horizontal axis and every kind of shapes before the industry consolidated on what you know as acceptable average modern day turbines.”

The Edinburgh Snake follows a pioneering commercial wave power project the company set up in Portugal last September, out of action since the collapse of Australian-based infrastructure group Babcock & Brown which held a majority share. “It’s easy to develop your prototypes and models in the lab, but as soon as you put them in water, it swallows capital,” said John Liljelund, CEO of Finnish wave energy firm AW-Energy, which just received $4.4 million from the European Union to develop its WaveRoller concept in Portugal.

At present, industry executives say marine power costs about double that from offshore wind farms, which require investment of around 2-3 million euros per megawatt. Solar panels cost about 3-4 million per megawatt, and solar thermal mirror power about 5 million.

UTILITY ACTION

Other utility companies involved in wave power trials include Spain’s Iberdrola, which has a small experimental wave farm using floating buoys called “Power Take- offs” off the coast of northern Spain. It is examining sites for a subsea tidal turbine project made by Norwegian company Hammerfest Strom.

Countries developing the technology besides Britain include Portugal, Ireland, Spain, South Korea and the United States: about 100 companies are vying for a share of the market, but only a handful have tested their work in the ocean.

Privately owned Pelamis has focussed on wave energy since 1998, has its own full-scale factory in Leith dock and sees more orders for the second generation in prospect.

Lafayette said E.ON examined more than 100 devices since 2001 before picking Sea Snake for its first ocean project, a three-year test: “They have a demonstrable track record … and commercial focus and business focus.”

A single Sea Snake has capacity of 750 kilowatts: by around 2015, Pelamis hopes each unit will have capacity of 20 megawatts, or enough to power about 30,000 homes.

Neither Pelamis nor E.ON would elaborate on the cost of the Sea Snake, but they said the goal is to bring it down to the level of offshore wind farms.

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TODD WOODY, The New York Times, September 30, 2009

brightsourceIn a rural corner of Nevada reeling from the recession, a bit of salvation seemed to arrive last year. A German developer, Solar Millennium, announced plans to build two large solar farms here that would harness the sun to generate electricity, creating hundreds of jobs.

But then things got messy. The company revealed that its preferred method of cooling the power plants would consume 1.3 billion gallons of water a year, about 20% of this desert valley’s available water.

Now Solar Millennium finds itself in the midst of a new-age version of a Western water war. The public is divided, pitting some people who hope to make money selling water rights to the company against others concerned about the project’s impact on the community and the environment.

“I’m worried about my well and the wells of my neighbors,” George Tucker, a retired chemical engineer, said on a blazing afternoon.

Here is an inconvenient truth about renewable energy: It can sometimes demand a huge amount of water. Many of the proposed solutions to the nation’s energy problems, from certain types of solar farms to biofuel refineries to cleaner coal plants, could consume billions of gallons of water every year.

“When push comes to shove, water could become the real throttle on renewable energy,” said Michael E. Webber, an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies the relationship between energy and water.

Conflicts over water could shape the future of many energy technologies. The most water-efficient renewable technologies are not necessarily the most economical, but water shortages could give them a competitive edge.

In California, solar developers have already been forced to switch to less water-intensive technologies when local officials have refused to turn on the tap. Other big solar projects are mired in disputes with state regulators over water consumption.

To date, the flashpoint for such conflicts has been the Southwest, where dozens of multibillion-dollar solar power plants are planned for thousands of acres of desert. While most forms of energy production consume water, its availability is especially limited in the sunny areas that are otherwise well suited for solar farms.

At public hearings from Albuquerque to San Luis Obispo, Calif., local residents have sounded alarms over the impact that this industrialization will have on wildlife, their desert solitude and, most of all, their water.

Joni Eastley, chairwoman of the county commission in Nye County, Nev., which includes Amargosa Valley, said at one hearing that her area had been “inundated” with requests from renewable energy developers that “far exceed the amount of available water.”

Many projects involve building solar thermal plants, which use cheaper technology than the solar panels often seen on roofs. In such plants, mirrors heat a liquid to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. As in a fossil fuel power plant, that steam must be condensed back to water and cooled for reuse.

The conventional method is called wet cooling. Hot water flows through a cooling tower where the excess heat evaporates along with some of the water, which must be replenished constantly. An alternative, dry cooling, uses fans and heat exchangers, much like a car’s radiator. Far less water is consumed, but dry cooling adds costs and reduces efficiency — and profits.

The efficiency problem is especially acute with the most tried-and-proven technique, using mirrors arrayed in long troughs. “Trough technology has been more financeable, but now trough presents a separate risk — water,” said Nathaniel Bullard, a solar analyst with New Energy Finance, a London research firm.

That could provide opportunities for developers of photovoltaic power plants, which take the type of solar panels found on residential rooftops and mount them on the ground in huge arrays. They are typically more expensive and less efficient than solar thermal farms but require a relatively small amount of water, mainly to wash the panels.

In California alone, plans are under way for 35 large-scale solar projects that, in bright sunshine, would generate 12,000 megawatts of electricity, equal to the output of about 10 nuclear power plants.

Their water use would vary widely. BrightSource Energy’s dry-cooled Ivanpah project in Southern California would consume an estimated 25 million gallons a year, mainly to wash mirrors. But a wet-cooled solar trough power plant barely half Ivanpah’s size proposed by the Spanish developer Abengoa Solar would draw 705 million gallons of water in an area of the Mojave Desert that receives scant rainfall.

One of the most contentious disputes is over a proposed wet-cooled trough plant that NextEra Energy Resources, a subsidiary of the utility giant FPL Group, plans to build in a dry area east of Bakersfield, Calif.

NextEra wants to tap freshwater wells to supply the 521 million gallons of cooling water the plant, the Beacon Solar Energy Project, would consume in a year, despite a state policy against the use of drinking-quality water for power plant cooling.

Mike Edminston, a city council member from nearby California City, warned at a hearing that groundwater recharge was already “not keeping up with the utilization we have.”

The fight over water has moved into the California Legislature, where a bill has been introduced to allow renewable energy power plants to use drinking water for cooling if certain conditions are met.

“By allowing projects to use fresh water, the bill would remove any incentives that developers have to use technologies that minimize water use,” said Terry O’Brien, a California Energy Commission deputy director.

NextEra has resisted using dry cooling but is considering the feasibility of piping in reclaimed water. “At some point if costs are just layered on, a project becomes uncompetitive,” said Michael O’Sullivan, a senior vice president at NextEra.

Water disputes forced Solar Millennium to abandon wet cooling for a proposed solar trough power plant in Ridgecrest, Calif., after the water district refused to supply the 815 million gallons of water a year the project would need. The company subsequently proposed to dry cool two other massive Southern California solar trough farms it wants to build in the Mojave Desert.

“We will not do any wet cooling in California,” said Rainer Aringhoff, president of Solar Millennium’s American operations. “There are simply no plants being permitted here with wet cooling.”

One solar developer, BrightSource Energy, hopes to capitalize on the water problem with a technology that focuses mirrors on a tower, producing higher-temperature steam than trough systems. The system can use dry cooling without suffering a prohibitive decline in power output, said Tom Doyle, an executive vice president at BrightSource.

The greater water efficiency was one factor that led VantagePoint Venture Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, to invest in BrightSource. “Our approach is high sensitivity to water use,” said Alan E. Salzman, VantagePoint’s chief executive. “We thought that was going to be huge differentiator.”

Even solar projects with low water consumption face hurdles, however. Tessera Solar is planning a large project in the California desert that would use only 12 million gallons annually, mostly to wash mirrors. But because it would draw upon a severely depleted aquifer, Tessera may have to buy rights to 10 times that amount of water and then retire the pumping rights to the water it does not use. For a second big solar farm, Tessera has agreed to fund improvements to a local irrigation district in exchange for access to reclaimed water.

“We have a challenge in finding water even though we’re low water use,” said Sean Gallagher, a Tessera executive. “It forces you to do some creative deals.”

In the Amargosa Valley, Solar Millennium may have to negotiate access to water with scores of individuals and companies who own the right to stick a straw in the aquifer, so to speak, and withdraw a prescribed amount of water each year.

“There are a lot of people out here for whom their water rights are their life savings, their retirement,” said Ed Goedhart, a local farmer and state legislator, as he drove past pockets of sun-beaten mobile homes and luminescent patches of irrigated alfalfa. Farmers will be growing less of the crop, he said, if they decide to sell their water rights to Solar Millennium.

“We’ll be growing megawatts instead of alfalfa,” Mr. Goedhart said.

While water is particularly scarce in the West, it is becoming a problem all over the country as the population grows. Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, predicted that as intensive renewable energy development spreads, water issues will follow.

“When we start getting 20%, 30% or 40% of our power from renewables,” Mr. Kammen said, “water will be a key issue.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 2, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoAW-Energy, a Finnish renewable energy company developer of WaveRoller, a patented wave energy technology, has signed a $4.4M (3 million euros) contract with the European Union to demonstrate its technology.

The contract between AW-Energy and the EU is the first one under the “CALL FP7 – Demonstration of the innovative full size systems.” Several leading wave energy companies competed in the CALL. The contract includes a 3 million euro or $4.4M US grant agreement, providing financial backing for the demonstration project.

The project goal is to manufacture and deploy the first grid-connected WaveRoller unit in Portuguese waters. The exact installation site is located near the town of Peniche, which is famous for its strong waves and known as “Capital of the waves.” The nominal capacity of the WaveRoller is 300 kW and the project will be testing for one year.

The ‘Dream Team’ consortium is led by AW-Energy and includes companies from Finland, Portugal, Germany and Belgium. Large industrial participants include Bosch-Rexroth and ABB, together with renewable energy operator Eneolica and wave energy specialist Wave Energy Center, supporting with their experience to ensure successful implementation of the project.

“The experience of our dream team consortium is a significant asset to the project, and we are thrilled about this real pan-European co-operation. AW-Energy has been working hard the last three years with two sea installed prototypes, tank testing and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations. Now we have the site, grid connection permission, installation license and the technology ready for the demonstration phase,” says John Liljelund, CEO at AW-Energy.

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PODESTA, GORDON, HENDRICKS & GOLDSTEIN, Center for American Progress, September 21, 2009

ctr-4-american-progressWith unemployment at 9.5%, and oil and energy price volatility driving businesses into the ground, we cannot afford to wait any longer. It is time for a legislative debate over a comprehensive clean energy investment plan. We need far more than cap and trade alone.

The United States is having the wrong public debate about global warming. We are asking important questions about pollution caps and timetables, carbon markets and allocations, but we have lost sight of our principal objective: building a robust and prosperous clean energy economy. This is a fundamentally affirmative agenda, rather than a restrictive one. Moving beyond pollution from fossil fuels will involve exciting work, new opportunities, new products and innovation, and stronger communities. Our current national discussion about constraints, limits, and the costs of transition misses the real excitement in this proposition. It is as if, on the cusp of an Internet and telecommunications revolution, debate centered only on the cost of fiber optic cable. We are missing the big picture here.

Let’s be clear: Solving global warming means investment. Retooling the energy systems that fuel our economy will involve rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. We will create millions of middle-class jobs along the way, revitalize our manufacturing sector, increase American competitiveness, reduce our dependence on oil, and boost technological innovation. These investments in the foundation of our economy can also provide an opportunity for more broadly shared prosperity through better training, stronger local economies, and new career ladders into the middle class. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution is critical to solving global warming, but it is only one part of the work ahead. Building a robust economy that grows more vibrant as we move beyond the Carbon Age is the greater and more inspiring challenge.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avert dangerous global warming is a moral challenge, but it is also an economic, national security, social, and environmental imperative. The “cap and trade” provisions, which will set limits on pollution and create a market for emissions reductions that will ultimately drive down the cost of renewable energy and fuel, represent a very important first step and a major component in the mix of policies that will help build the coming low-carbon economy. But limiting emissions and establishing a price on pollution is not the goal in itself, and we will fall short if that is all we set out to do. Rather, cap and trade is one key step to reach the broader goal of catalyzing the transformation to an efficient and sustainable low-carbon economy. With unemployment at 9.5%, and oil and energy price volatility driving businesses into the ground, we cannot afford to wait any longer. It is time for a legislative debate over a comprehensive clean energy investment plan. We need far more than cap and trade alone.

This is not just an exercise in rhetoric. Articulating and elevating a comprehensive plan to invest in clean energy systems and more efficient energy use will affect policy development and the politics surrounding legislation now moving through the Senate, as well as international negotiations underway around the globe. The current debate, which splits the issue into the two buckets of “cap and trade” and “complementary policies,” has missed the comprehensive nature of the challenge and its solutions. It also emphasizes the challenge of pollution control instead of organizing policy for increased development, market growth, reinvestment in infrastructure, and job creation through the transition to a more prosperous, clean energy economy.

This paper lays out the framework for just such an investment-driven energy policy, the pieces of which work together to level the playing field for clean energy and drive a transformation of the economy. Importantly, many elements of this positive clean-energy investment framework are already codified within existing legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by House of Representatives earlier this year. But with all the attention given to limiting carbon, too little attention has been placed on what will replace it. These critical pieces of America’s clean energy strategy should be elevated in the policy agenda and political debate as we move forward into the Senate, and used to help move legislation forward that advances a proactive investment and economic revitalization strategy for the nation.

Read the full report here.

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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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MARK CLAYTON, The Christian Science Monitor, September 17, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoWith demands on US ocean resources control growing quickly, the Obama administration today outlined a new comprehensive ocean management plan to guide federal agencies in restoring and protecting a badly stressed US coastal and ocean environment.

Today’s policy shift proposed by the president’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force holds enormous potential for sweeping changes in how the nation’s oceans are managed, including energy development, experts say.

At its core, the plan would set up a new National Ocean Council to guide a holistic “ecosystem-based” approach intended to elevate and unify what has long been a piecemeal approach by US agencies toward ocean policy and development — from oil and gas exploration to fisheries management to ship transportation to recreation.

The proposal would include “a more balanced, productive, and sustainable approach to using managing and conserving ocean resources,” Nancy Sutley, chairman of the president’s Council on Environmental Quality told reporters in a teleconference unveiling the plan. It would also set up “a comprehensive national approach to uphold our stewardship responsibilities and ensure accountability for our actions.”

Dr. Sutley, who also chaired the interagency task force, appeared alongside representatives from the Department of Interior, the Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But the proposal would apply to 24 agencies.

“This will be the first time we have ever had this kind of action for healthy oceans from any president in US history,” Sarah Chasis, director of the ocean initiative at Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in her blog. She called it the “most progressive, comprehensive national action for our oceans that we have ever seen.”

The changes could affect new offshore wind energy proposals as well as oil and natural gas exploration. “We haven’t fully looked at all aspects of the report,” says Laurie Jodziewicz, manager of siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association. “The one concern we have is we don’t want to stop the momentum of offshore wind projects we’re already seeing. So while we’re certainly not opposed to marine spatial planning, we would like to see projects already in the pipeline move ahead and start getting some offshore projects going in the US.”

One senior official of the American Petroleum Institute said he had not yet seen the proposal and could not comment on it.

The new push comes at a time when major decisions will be needed about whether and how to explore or develop oil and gas in now-thawing areas of the Arctic Ocean near Alaska. Policy changes could also affect deep-water regions in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the siting of wave power and renewable offshore wind turbines off the East Coast.

At the same time, desalination plants, offshore aquaculture, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals are clamoring for space along coastal areas where existing requirements by commercial shipping and commercial fishing are already in place.

All of that – set against a backdrop of existing and continuing damage to fisheries, coral, coastal wetlands, beaches, and deteriorating water quality – has America’s oceans “in crisis,” in the words of a landmark Pew Oceans Commission report issued in 2003. More than 20,000 acres of wetlands and other sensitive habitat disappear annually, while nutrient runoff creates “dead zones” and harmful algal blooms. Some 30% of US fish populations are overfished or fished unsustainably, the report found.

Among the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force’s national objectives were:

  1. Ecosystem-based management as a foundational principle for comprehensive management of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes.
  2. Coastal and marine spatial planning to resolve emerging conflicts to ensure that shipping lanes and wind, wave, and oil and gas energy development do not harm fisheries and water quality.
  3. Improved coordination of policy development among federal state, tribal, local, and regional managers of ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes.
  4. Focus on resiliency and adaptation to climate change and ocean acidification.
  5. Pay special attention to policies needed to deal with changing arctic conditions.

Experts said that the new, unified policy was timely, after decades of hit-or-miss development policies.

“We have been managing bits and pieces of the ocean for a long time, but while some good has been done on pollution and resource management, it hasn’t been sufficient.” says Andrew Rosenberg, professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire and an adviser to the president’s ocean task force.”This policy shift comes at a critical time for our oceans for so many reasons.”

The new proposal won’t be finalized until next year, after a 30-day comment period that begins now. Still, environmentalists were quick to hail the plan as a critical and timely step to begin healing disintegrating environmental conditions in US coastal waters and in the US exclusive economic zone that extends 200 miles beyond its territorial waters.

In June, President Obama set up the commission to develop: “a national policy that ensures the protection, maintenance, and restoration of the health of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes ecosystems and resources, enhances the sustainability of ocean and coastal economies.”

It must also, he wrote, “preserve our maritime heritage, provides for adaptive management to enhance our understanding of and capacity to respond to climate change, and is coordinated with our national security and foreign policy interests.”

“It’s the first time the federal government has put out a decent paper that proposes what a national policy and attitude toward our oceans should be,” says Christopher Mann, senior officer Pew Environment Group, the environmental arm of the Pew Charitable Trust.

In one of the more telling passages buried down in its interim report, the task force called for decisions guided by “best available science” as well as a “precautionary approach” that reflects the Rio Declaration of 1992, which states: “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environment degradation.”

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Hydro Review, August 18, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69Off the north coast of Scotland in waters 10 to 12 meters deep, ocean energy developer Aquamarine Power Ltd. has bolted its Oyster wave energy converter to the ocean floor and expects to be generating power by year’s end.

A team of offshore professionals eased the 194-ton converter into the sea at the European Marine Energy Center in the Orkney Islands. “Getting Oyster into the water and connected to the seabed was always going to be the most difficult step,” said Aquamarine CEO Martin McAdam. “Its completion is a real credit to everyone who has worked hard on planning and executing this major engineering feat on schedule.”

The Oyster is designed to capture energy from near-shore waves. The system includes an oscillating pump fitted with double-acting water pistons. Each wave activates the pump, delivering high-pressure water by pipeline to an onshore turbine that generates electricity. All electrical components of the Oyster are onshore, making it durable enough to withstand Scotland’s rough seas, McAdam said.

Marine constructor Fugro Seacore installed the Oyster converter under a $2.9 million contract.

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TODD WOODY, The New York Times, August 12, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPacific Gas & Electric has quietly dropped one of two planned 40-megawatt wave-farm projects.
Stroll through San Francisco and you can’t miss California utility Pacific Gas & Electric’s latest ad campaign. Posters plastered around town read: “Wave Power: Bad for sandcastles. Good for you.”

But PG&E recently dropped one of its two 40-megawatt wave-farm projects planned for the Northern California coast, according to documents filed with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission.

“During the past year, PG&E undertook agency consultation and public outreach and commenced an examination of the technical and environmental feasibility of the proposed project,” wrote utility attorney Annette Faraglia in a June 9 letter to the commission. “Based on the results of this examination, PG&E has concluded that the harbor at Fort Bragg, Noyo Harbor, is not suitable for certain aspects of the project.”

In 2007, the utility had applied for federal permits to explore the feasibility of placing wave energy generators in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

The scuttling of the project is just the latest setback for wave energy. Last year, California regulators also declined to approve a PG&E contract to buy a small amount of electricity from a Northern California wave farm to be built by Finavera Renewables, on the grounds the project was not viable.

Despite the difficulties, PG&E is pushing forward with a similar wave project in Humboldt county. The utility has cut that project’s size from 136 square miles to 18 square miles as it zeroes in on the most productive areas of the ocean. Ms. Morris said that the utility expects to file a license application for the pilot project in the spring of 2010.

However, the National Marine Fisheries Service has identified a plethora of protected species that may be affected by the Humboldt project, ranging from endangered coho salmon to the northern elephant seal and long-beaked common dolphin.

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KIMBERLY S. JOHNSON, Huffington Post, August 11, 2009

GM Chevy Volt MileageGeneral Motors said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt electric car could get 230 mpg in city driving, making it the first American vehicle to achieve triple-digit fuel economy if that figure is confirmed by federal regulators.

But when the four-door family sedan hits showrooms late next year, its efficiency will come with a steep sticker price: $40,000.

Still, the Volt’s fuel efficiency in the city would be four times more than the popular Toyota Prius hybrid, the most efficient car now sold in the U.S.

Most automakers are working on similar designs, but GM would offer the first mainstream plug-in with the Volt, which seats four and was introduced at the 2007 Detroit auto show.

The Volt will join a growing fleet of cars and trucks powered by systems other than internal combustion engines.

Unlike the Prius and other traditional hybrids, the Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles. The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.

Hybrids use a small internal combustion engine combined with a high-powered battery to boost fuel efficiency. Toyota’s Prius – which starts at about $22,000 – gets 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway. The number of all-electric vehicles available to U.S. consumers remains limited. The Tesla Roadster, a high-end sports car with a range of 224 miles, is perhaps the best known. But its $100,000-plus price tag keeps it out of reach of all but the wealthiest drivers.

The company is working on an electric family sedan that will be priced considerably less.

Nissan Motor Co. unveiled its first electric car, the Leaf, earlier this month. Nissan said the vehicle will go on sale in Japan, the U.S. and Europe next year.

Edmunds.com, an auto Web site, cast doubt on whether drivers can expect 230 mpg from the Volt since fuel efficiency also depends on driving style.

Volt drivers who cruise sensibly on smooth roads without much cargo – and who avoid exceeding 20 or 30 miles between charges – might fill up only rarely. But “for most people, it is not realistic to expect that kind of mileage in real-world driving,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with the Web site.

General Motors Co. is touting the 230 mpg figure following early tests that used draft guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended-range electric vehicles.

The EPA guidelines, developed with help from automakers, figure that cars such as the Volt will travel more on straight electricity in the city than on the highway. If drivers operate the Volt for less than 40 miles, in theory they could do so without using a drop of gasoline.

Highway mileage estimates for the Volt based on the EPA’s methodology have yet to be released.

“We are confident the highway (mileage) will be a triple-digit,” GM CEO Fritz Henderson said.

The EPA conducts testing to determine the mileage posted on new car stickers. The agency said in a statement Tuesday that it has not tested a Volt “and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.”

The EPA is working with the Society of Automotive Engineers and state and federal officials to develop testing procedures to measure the fuel efficiency of advanced vehicles, according to a draft outline of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The plan could be released later this year.

It was not immediately clear how GM reached the 230 mpg in city driving, but industry officials estimated the automaker’s calculation took into consideration the Volt traveling 40 miles on the electric battery and then achieving about 50 mpg when the engine kicked in.

Although Henderson would not give details on pricing, the first-generation Volt is expected to cost nearly $40,000, making it cost-prohibitive to many people even if gasoline returns to $4 per gallon.

The price of the sporty-looking sedan is expected to drop with future generations of the Volt, but GM has said government tax credits of up to $7,500 and the savings on fuel could make it more affordable, especially at 230 mpg.

“We get a little cautious about trying to forecast what fuel prices will do,” said Tony Posawatz, GM’s vehicle line director for the Volt. “We achieved this number, and if fuel prices go up, it certainly does get more attractive even in the near-term generation.”

The mileage figure could vary as the guidelines are refined and the Volt gets further along in the manufacturing process, Posawatz said.

Chrysler Group, Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG are all developing plug-ins and electric cars, and Toyota Motor Corp. is working on a plug-in version of its gas-electric hybrid system.

GM has produced about 30 test Volts so far and is making 10 a week, Henderson said during a presentation at the company’s technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren.

Henderson said charging the Volt will cost about 40 cents a day, at about 5 cents per kilowatt hour.

GM is nearly halfway through building about 80 test Volts that will look and behave like the production model, and testing is running on schedule, Posawatz said.

Two critical areas – battery life and the electronic switching between battery and engine power – are still being refined, but the car is on schedule to reach showrooms late in 2010, he said.

GM is simulating tests to make sure the new lithium-ion batteries last 10 years, Posawatz said, as well as testing battery performance in extremely hot and cold climates.

“We’re further along, but we’re still quite a ways from home,” he said. “We’re developing quite a knowledge base on all this stuff. Our confidence is growing.”

The other area of new technology, switching between battery and engine power, is proceeding well, he said, with engineers just fine-tuning the operations.

“We’re very pleased with the transition from when it’s driving EV (electric vehicle) to when the engine and generator kick in,” he said.

GM also is finishing work on the power cord, which will be durable enough that it can survive being run over by the car. The Volt, he said, will have software on board so it can be programmed to begin and end charging during off-peak electrical use hours.

It will be easy for future Volt owners living in rural and suburban areas to plug in their cars at night, but even Henderson recognized the challenge urban, apartment dwellers, or those who park their cars on the street might have recharging the Volt. There could eventually be charging stations set up by a third-party to meet such a demand, Henderson said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, August 4, 2009

oyster_prototype_device_aquamarine_powerOyster nearshore wave energy technology from Aquamarine Power is in the process of being placed on the seabed in the Atlantic off the coast of the Orkney Islands, Scotland for trials in autumn 2009.

The Oyster is based on a large, hydraulic oscillator fitted with pistons and activated by waves.  The oscillation pumps pressurized water through a pipeline to the shore.  Onshore, conventional hydro-electric generators convert the high-pressure water into electricity.

The concept is based on research from Queen’s University in Belfast. “Oyster’s technology is highly innovative because it relies on simplicity,” says Ronan Doherty, CTO at Aquamarine Power.

“Its offshore component – a highly reliable flap with minimal submerged moving parts – is the key to its success when operating in seas vulnerable to bad weather where maintenance can be very difficult.”  Doherty adds that as there is no underwater generator, electronics or gearbox and all the power generation equipment in onshore, where it is easily accessible.

Oyster technology is best deployed in near-shore regions at depths of 26-52 feet, where wave action tends to be more consistent and less variable in direction. The smaller size of waves near the shore also maximizes the lifetime of the device and the consistency of power generation. Each Oyster has a peak capacity of 300-600 kW but is designed to be deployed in multiple arrays.

Although still in the early stages of development, Aquamarine Power believes Oyster has great potential. “Our computer modeling of coastlines suitable for this technology shows that Spain, Portugal, Ireland and the UK are ideal candidates in Europe,” says Doherty. “But globally there is huge scope in areas like the Northwest coast of the U.S. and coastlines off South Africa, Australia and Chile.”

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CATHY PROCTOR, Denver Business Journal, July 31, 2009

SmartGrid-graphicWind farms and solar power plants may offer free fuel costs and no carbon-dioxide emissions, but don’t assume there’s universal support from environmentalists, according to industry observers.

“The world is changing,” said Andrew Spielman, a partner at the Denver office of Hogan & Hartson LLC who works on renewable energy projects.

Spielman was part of a panel discussing issues in the renewable energy sector at the Colorado Oil & Gas Association’s annual natural gas strategy conference. “There are more complexities with renewable projects,” he said, “and it’s no longer an assumption that the environmental community will approve and support renewable projects.”

Among the larger considerations of renewable energy:

  • Big wind farms and solar power plants take up a lot of land. Whether it’s for towering wind turbines or acres of solar panels, additional land is needed for construction areas and support services such as workers and storage yards.
  • Rural roads accustomed to a few cars and tractor traffic often need upgrades to handle heavy construction trucks and semis laden with towers, nacelles and turbine blades.
  • Often, the remote new wind farms and solar power plants need a new transmission line — with its own set of construction impacts — to get the renewable power to cities and towns, the panelists said.

For example, the Peetz Table Wind Farm in northeastern Colorado, owned by a subsidiary of big energy company FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL) of Juno Beach, Fla., generates 400 megawatts of power from 267 wind turbines that sprawl across 80 square miles.

The wind farm, which started operating in 2007, also required the construction of a 78-mile transmission line to connect it to the grid and get power to the wind farm’s sole client, Xcel Energy Inc.

It’s called “energy sprawl,” akin to the idea of “urban sprawl,” said Tim Sullivan, panelist and acting state director for the Colorado Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

“All energy has a footprint, and renewable energy has to be a concern for anyone concerned about land-based habitat,” he said. “We need to treat renewables and oil and gas equally on their footprints.”

That doesn’t mean, Sullivan said, that every square inch of ground in Colorado should be off-limits to energy development. “We don’t have to protect every inch of ground,” he said.

“We can make trade-offs.”

One area of land good for wind energy might be “traded” for another piece that’s good for wetlands or grasslands where birds flourish, he said.

People who live near wind farms also are growing more aware of their impacts, Spielman said.

There’s the height issue. A wind turbine can soar 400 feet from the base to the top of the blade, he said. That’s about the height of the Tabor Center’s office building.

Also, there are new “flicker” problems — stemming from light flashing off the rotating blades as they go around about once a second. Turbines also make a repetitive, low-key “vrroomp” noise as they rotate, he said.

State regulators are becoming more aware of the impacts from renewable and alternative energy projects, said Kate Fay, energy manager at the Colorado Department of Health & Environment.

“All energy projects have impacts,” she said. “There is no free ride. The impacts from renewables may be small now, but there’s not that many of them out there.”

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ELIZABETH RUSCH, Smithsonian Magazine, July 2009

von-Jouanne-Oregon-Otter-Rock-BeachShe was in the water when the epiphany struck. Of course, Annette von Jouanne was always in the water, swimming in lakes and pools as she was growing up around Seattle, and swimming distance freestyle competitively in high school and college meets. There’s even an exercise pool in her basement, where she and her husband (a former Olympic swimmer for Portugal) and their three kids have spent a great deal of time…swimming.

But in December 1995 she was bodysurfing in Hawaii over the holidays. She’d just begun working as an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Oregon State University. She was 26 years old and eager to make a difference—to find or improve upon a useful source of energy, preferably one that wasn’t scarce or fleeting or unpredictable or dirty. The sun was going down. The wind was dying. She was bobbing in the swells.

“As the sun set, it hit me: I could ride waves all day and all night, all year long,” says von Jouanne. “Wave power is always there. It never stops. I began thinking that there’s got to be a way to harness all the energy of an ocean swell, in a practical and efficient way, in a responsible way.”

Today, von Jouanne is one of the driving forces in the fast-growing field of wave energy—as well as its leading proponent. She will explain to anyone who will listen that unlike wind and solar energy, wave energy is always available. Even when the ocean seems calm, swells are moving water up and down sufficiently to generate electricity. And an apparatus to generate kilowatts of power from a wave can be much smaller than what’s needed to harness kilowatts from wind or sunshine because water is dense and the energy it imparts is concentrated.

All that energy is also, of course, destructive, and for decades the challenge has been to build a device that can withstand monster waves and gale-force winds, not to mention corrosive saltwater, seaweed, floating debris and curious marine mammals. And the device must also be efficient and require little maintenance.

Still, the allure is irresistible. A machine that could harness an inexhaustible, nonpolluting source of energy and be deployed economically in sufficient numbers to generate significant amounts of electricity—that would be a feat for the ages.

Engineers have built dozens of the machines, called wave energy converters, and tested some on a small scale. In the United States, waves could fuel about 6.5% of today’s electricity needs, says Roger Bedard of the Electric Power Research Institute, an energy think tank in Palo Alto, California. That’s the equivalent of the energy in 150 million barrels of oil—about the same amount of power that is produced by all U.S. hydroelectric dams combined—enough to power 23 million typical American homes. The most powerful waves occur on western coasts, because of strong west-to-east global winds, so Great Britain, Portugal and the West Coast of the United States are among the sites where wave energy is being developed.

Aside from swimming, von Jouanne’s other passion as a youngster was learning how things work. It started with small appliances. An alarm clock broke. She unscrewed the back, fixed the mechanism and put it back together. She was about 8 years old. “That was so exciting for me,” she says. She moved on to calculators and then to a computer she bought with money from her paper route. One day, she waited for her parents to leave the house so she could take apart the television and reassemble it before they returned. (Von Jouanne cautions kids not to do as she did: “there is a high-voltage component.”)

When her brothers, older by eight and ten years, came home for college breaks, she pored over their engineering textbooks. (An older sister pursued a business degree.) “Reading them confirmed that, yup, this is what I want to do,” she recalls.

She studied electrical engineering as an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University and for her doctorate at Texas A&M University. She was often one of the few women in a class. “I never saw myself as a woman engineer,” she says. “I saw myself as an engineer trying to make things better for the world.”

At Oregon State University, she related her wave-tossed epiphany to Alan Wallace, a professor of electrical engineering who shared her fascination with the ocean’s power. “We started saying, there’s got to be a way to harness this energy,” she recalls. They studied the wave energy converters then being produced and looked up centuries-old patents for contraptions to extract power from waves. Some resembled windmills, animal cages or ship propellers. A modern one looked like a huge whale. The gadgets all had one problem in common: they were too complicated.

Take, for example, a device called the Pelamis Attenuator, which was recently deployed for four months off the coast of Portugal by Pelamis Wave Power. It looks like a 500-foot-long red snake. As waves travel its length, the machine bends up and down. The bending pumps hydraulic fluid through a motor, which generates electricity. Complex machines like this are riddled with valves, filters, tubes, hoses, couplings, bearings, switches, gauges, meters and sensors. The intermediate stages reduce efficiency, and if one component breaks, the whole device goes kaput.

After analyzing the field, von Jouanne says, “I knew we needed a simpler design.”

Von Jouanne’s lab is named in memory of Wallace, who died in 2006, but the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility (WESRF) is familiarly known as “We Surf.” Painted in deep blues and grays and bearing murals of curling waves, the lab has been a research facility and testing ground for such innovative products as an all-electric naval ship, a hovercraft and the Ford Escape Hybrid engine. In one corner is a tall buoy that resembles a huge copper-top battery. Beside it another buoy looks like two cross-country skis with wire strung between them. The designs were among von Jouanne’s earliest. “Breakthroughs are almost always born of failures,” she says.

Her breakthrough was to conceive of a device that has just two main components. In the most recent prototypes, a thick coil of copper wire is inside the first component, which is anchored to the seafloor. The second component is a magnet attached to a float that moves up and down freely with the waves. As the magnet is heaved by the waves, its magnetic field moves along the stationary coil of copper wire. This motion induces a current in the wire—electricity. It’s that simple.

By early 2005, von Jouanne had engineered one of her prototypes and wanted to test whether it was waterproof. She hauled the wave energy converter to her basement, into a flume that circulates water to let her swim in place. Her daughter Sydney, then 6, sat on the prototype, much as a seal might cling to a real buoy. It floated.

Next she phoned a nearby wave pool, where people go to play in simulated waves.

“Do you rent out your pool?” she said.

“For how many people?” the attendant asked.

“Not many people—one wave energy buoy.”

The park donated two early mornings to her venture. Von Jouanne anchored the machine with ten 45-pound weights from a health club. It performed well in the playful waves, bobbing up and down without sinking.

Then came the real test, at one of the longest wave simulators in North America.

At the west end of the leafy Oregon State University campus, past the scholarly red-brick buildings, is a massive T-shaped steel shed in a giant paved lot. Though the building is 50 miles from the Pacific Ocean and well beyond the reach of killer tidal waves, a blue and white metal sign at its entrance says “Entering Tsunami Hazard Zone.”

When von Jouanne first brought a buoy to test in the 342-foot-long concrete flume at Oregon State’s Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory, “things didn’t go as planned,” says Dan Cox, the facility’s director, with a laugh. Von Jouanne and co-workers plopped the buoy in the 15-foot-deep channel and buffeted it with two-, three- and four-foot waves. The first five-foot wave tipped it over.

“We had a ballast problem,” von Jouanne says somewhat sheepishly. She goes on, “We’re electrical engineers, and we really needed more help from ocean engineers, but to get them we needed more funding, and to get more funding we needed to show some success.”

Von Jouanne kept refining her buoys. A small group watched as a five-foot wave headed for one of her latest versions. As the buoy lifted with the surge, a 40-watt light bulb on top of it, powered by wave energy, lighted up. “We all cheered,” Cox recalls.

Route 20 winds from Oregon State to the coast though cedar and fir trees, following the Yaquina River. Near the mouth of the river is a sandy spit with low buildings decorated with oyster shells and gnarly driftwood. Breezes set halyards from the nearby marina clanking against metal masts. This is the home of Oregon State’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, devoted to research about marine ecosystems and ocean energy.

George Boehlert, a marine scientist and director of the center, looks out of his office at a field of undulating sea grass. “What we know now is what we don’t know,” says Boehlert, whose dirty blond curls resemble ocean waves. “Ocean energy is a fast-moving field and environmental researchers have a lot of questions.”

For instance, the buoys absorb energy from waves, reducing their size and power. Would shrunken swells affect sand movement and currents near shore, perhaps contributing to erosion?

Buoys, as well as the power cables that would connect to the electrical grid on-shore, emit electromagnetic fields. And mooring cables would thrum in the currents, like a guitar string. Might these disturbances confuse whales, sharks, dolphins, salmon, rays, crabs and other marine animals that use electromagnetism and sound for feeding, mating or navigation?

Would birds collide with the buoys or turtles become entangled in the cables?

Would anchors create artificial reefs that attract fish not normally found in that habitat?

Would deploying, maintaining and removing buoys disturb the seafloor or otherwise change the ocean environment?

“I want to know the answers to these questions, too,” von Jouanne says. “The last thing I want to do is harm the ocean and its beautiful creatures.” To study the environmental risks and allow wave energy engineers to test their inventions, she and colleagues at Oregon State, including Boehlert, are building a floating test berth nearby. It is scheduled to open next year and at its center will be a buoy full of instruments to collect data on how well wave energy converters are performing.

The test berth is part of a massive effort to move wave energy out of the lab and onto the electrical power grid. Through a new Energy Department-funded national marine renewable energy center, researchers from all over the country will have the chance to refine their inventions in the WESRF energy lab, test them in the Hinsdale wave flume and perfect them in the ocean. “This is what we need to do to fully explore wave energy as part of a renewable energy portfolio, for the state, the nation and the world,” von Jouanne says.

Boehlert and others say that even if wave energy has some local environmental impacts, it would likely be far less harmful than coal- and oil-fired power plants. “The effects of continuing to pump carbon into the atmosphere could be much worse for marine life than buoys bobbing in the waves,” he says. “We want ocean energy to work.”

Von Jouanne recently towed her best-performing buoy—her 11th prototype—out through Yaquina Bay and one and a half miles offshore. The buoy, which resembles a giant yellow flying saucer with a black tube sticking through the middle, was anchored in 140 feet of water. For five days it rose and fell with swells and generated around 10 kilowatts of power. In the next two to three years, Columbia Power Technologies, a renewable energy company that has supported von Jouanne’s research, plans to install a buoy generating between 100 and 500 kilowatts of electricity in the test berth off the coast of Oregon. See video of the device here.

“A few years ago,” Cox says of von Jouanne, “she was working on a shoestring. Now she has government getting behind her work and companies knocking at her door. That’s incredibly fast advancement that bodes well for the future of wave energy.”

Another of Von Jouanne’s inventions, the first of its kind, is a machine that tests wave energy converters without having to get them wet. A prototype buoy is secured inside a metal carriage that mimics the up-and-down motion of ocean waves. Electrical equipment monitors the power the buoy generates. The test bed looks like an elevator car in the middle of her lab.

Wave energy researchers from other institutions will be welcome to use von Jouanne’s test bed, but at the moment, it holds one of her own energy-converter buoys. A student sitting at a nearby computer commands the device to simulate waves 1 meter high traveling 0.6 meters per second with 6-second intervals between wave peaks.

“That’s a small summer wave,” von Jouanne says.

The machine hums, lurches and heaves like an amusement park ride.

As the buoy moves up and down, a gauge registers the juice it produces. The needle moves. One kilowatt, two, then three.

“That’s enough to power two houses,” says von Jouanne.

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Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, July 26, 2009

Ken SalazarJust north of the Colorado-New Mexico border, in the sunny expanses of my native San Luis Valley, America’s clean energy future is taking root.

Under President Obama’s leadership, four tracts of land in southern Colorado and two dozen tracts across six Western states may soon be supplying American homes with clean, renewable electricity from the first large-scale solar power projects on our nation’s public lands.

The 24 Solar Energy Study Areas that Interior is evaluating for environmentally appropriate solar energy development could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power more than 29 million American homes.

The West’s vast solar energy potential – along with wind, geothermal and other renewables – can power our economy with affordable energy, create thousands of new jobs and reduce the carbon emissions that are warming our planet.

As President Obama has said, we can remain the world’s largest importer of oil or we can become the world’s largest exporter of clean energy. The choice is clear, and the economic opportunities too great to miss. Will we rise to the challenge?

It is time that Washington step up to the plate, just as states like Colorado and local governments are already doing. Congress must pass strong and effective legislation that will steer our nation toward a clean energy economy that creates new jobs and improves our energy security.

We will not fully unleash the potential of the clean energy economy unless Congress puts an upper limit on the emissions of heat-trapping gases that are damaging our environment. Doing so will level the playing field for new technologies by allowing the market to put a price on carbon, and will trigger massive investment in renewable energy projects across the country.

We are also seeing the dangerous consequences of climate change: longer and hotter fire seasons, reduced snow packs, rising sea levels and declines of wildlife. Farmers, ranchers, municipalities and other water users in Colorado and across the West are facing the possibility of a grim future in which there is less water to go around.

But with comprehensive clean energy legislation from Congress, sound policies and wise management of our nation’s lands and oceans, we can change the equation.

That is why I am changing how the federal government does business on the 20% of the nation’s land mass and 1.75 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf that we oversee. We are now managing these lands not just for balanced oil, natural gas, and coal development, but also – for the first time ever – to allow environmentally responsible renewable energy projects that can help power President Obama’s vision for our clean energy future.

American business is responding to these new opportunities. Companies are investing in wind farms off the Atlantic seacoast, solar facilities in the Southwest and geothermal energy projects throughout the West. We need comprehensive legislation that will create new jobs, promote investment in a new generation of energy technology, break our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Let us rise to the energy challenges of our time.

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EMMA WOOLLACOTT, TG Daily, July 15, 2009

rda-wave-hub-graphicThe world’s largest wave farm is to be built off the coast of south-west England under plans announced today. Pledging an investment of £9.5 million ($15.6 million), Business Secretary Lord Mandelson dubbed the region the first “Low Carbon Economic Area”.

The Wave Hub project – a giant, grid-connected socket on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall for wave energy devices to be tested on a huge scale – will be commissioned next summer.

Renewable energy company Ocean Power Technologies will take the first “berth” at Wave Hub, and has placed its first equipment order – for 16.5 miles of subsea cable – this week.

The project is being led by the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), and also includes plans to evaluate schemes for generating tidal power from the river Severn estuary. “Bristol already boats world-leading expertise, especially around tidal stream technology,” said Stephen Peacock, Enterprise and Innovation Executive Director at the South West RDA.

This is a rather more controversial project, however, as locals and environmentalist groups fear its effect on wildlife habitats. The South West RDA is pledging to look at three embryonic Severn proposals that have “potentially less impact on the estuary environment than conventional technologies”.

What with government, RDA, European and private sector funding, total investment in the South West’s marine energy programme in the next two years is expected to top £100 million.

Regional Minister for the South West, Jim Knight, said: “We are a region that is rich in natural renewable energy resources such as wind, wave, tidal and solar and this makes us well positioned to capitalise on this great opportunity.”

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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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UCILIA WANG, GreenTechMeida, July 1, 2009

The draft plan covers how the state would plan and oversee all sorts of projects located within the state waters, including wind, tidal and wave farms.

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoMassachusetts released a draft of a plan Wednesday that would govern the permitting and management of projects such as tidal and wave energy farms.

Touted by the state as the first comprehensive ocean management plan in the country, it aims to support renewable energy and other industrial operations in the state waters while taking care to protect marine resources, the state said.

But creating a management plan would help to ensure a more careful planning and permitting process. Other states might follow Massachusetts’ step as more renewable energy project developers express an interest in building wind and ocean power farms up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The federal government also has taken steps to set up the regulatory framework, especially because the current administration is keen on promoting renewable energy production and job creation.

Earlier this year, the Department of Interior and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission settled a dispute over their authorities to permit and oversee energy projects on the outer continental shelf.

Last week, the Interior Department issued the first ever leases for wind energy exploration on the outer continental shelf.

Generating energy from ocean currents holds a lot of promise, but it also faces many technical and financing challenges. Companies that are developing ocean power technologies are largely in the pre-commercial stage.

Creating the management plan would yield maps and studies showing sensitive habitats that would require protection, as well as sites that are suitable for energy projects.

The state is now collecting public comments on the plan, and hopes to finalize it by the end of the year.

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STEPHEN IVALL, Falmouth Packet UK, June 27, 2009

SWMTF-wave-energy-buoyThe ambition for Cornwall to become a world-leading centre for wave energy has moved a step closer to reality with the launch of a two-tonne (2000kg) buoy off the coast of Falmouth.

Developed by a team at the University of Exeter, the South Western Mooring Test Facility (SWMTF) buoy is a world first. It will gather detailed information to help inform the future design and development of moorings for marine energy devices.

It will complement the South West RDA’s (Regional Development Agency) Wave Hub project, which will create the world’s largest wave energy farm off the north coast of Cornwall. It also supports wider ambitions to make the South West a global centre of excellence for marine renewables.

The SWMTF is the latest development from PRIMaRE (the Peninsula Research Institute for Marine Renewable Energy), a joint £15 million institute for research into harnessing the energy from the sea bringing together the technology and marine expertise of the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

Led by Dr Lars Johanning, the PRIMaRE mooring research group at the University of Exeter successfully developed the £305,000 SWMTF with capital investment from the ERDF Convergence programme matched with funds from the South West RDA. The research team is part of the University of Exeter’s Camborne School of Mines, based on the Tremough Campus, Penryn.

The SWMTF buoy has been designed with unique features so it can obtain very detailed data in actual sea conditions to show how moored structures respond to changes in wind, wave, current and tide. Using this information, developers will be able to model and test mooring designs and components for their marine energy devices as they convert wave movement into energy. The SWMTF will also provide data for a wide range of other marine devices.

The SWMTF buoy has a simple, circular design, with specialised sensors and other instruments built into its structure, enabling it to record data to a high degree of accuracy and allow real time data communication to shore. It has taken a year to develop the buoy and its instruments. Most of the components were manufactured by companies in the South West, many of which are in Cornwall.

Dr Lars Johanning of the University of Exeter said: “This is a major milestone in PRIMaRE’s research and we are excited about the potential this might have for the development of the Wave Hub project. It has been a huge challenge to build something that can function in the unpredictable environment of the open sea. This would not have been achieved without the design effort provided by the PRIMaRE project engineers Dave Parish and Thomas Clifford, and the many companies who have risen to the challenge to manufacture the buoy and its instruments. We look forward to announcing the results of our tests after the first set of sea trials.”

Nick Harrington, head of marine energy at the South West RDA, said: “We are investing £7.3 million in PRIMaRE to create a world-class marine renewables research base as part of our drive towards a low-carbon economy in the South West, and this buoy will help technology developers design safe but cost-effective moorings. Our groundbreaking Wave Hub project which is on course for construction next year will further cement our region’s reputation for being at the cutting edge of renewable energy development.”

Now that the buoy has been launched, the team will conduct the first tests, within the secure location of Falmouth Harbour. The buoy will then be moved to its mooring position in Falmouth Bay. Once moored at this location, data will be transmitted in real time to a shore station for analysis. A surveillance camera will transmit images to the PRIMaRE web page, allowing the team to continually monitor activities around the buoy.

The SWMTF buoy also has the potential to support other offshore industries, including oil and gas or floating wind installations, in the design of mooring systems. Discussions are already underway with instrumentation developers to develop specific underwater communication systems. In addition the development of the SWMTF buoy has helped secure funding for a collaborative European FP7-CORES (Components for Ocean Renewable Energy Systems) programme, taking the University of Exeter to the forefront of European wave energy converter research.

PRIMaRE will also play a strategic role in the Environmental and Sustainable Institute (ESI), which the University of Exeter aims to develop at the Tremough Campus.

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GRANT WELKER, Herald News, June 25, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoA renewable energy consortium based at the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center has received a $950,000 federal grant to study the potential for a tidal-energy project between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, among other projects.

The New England Marine Renewable Energy Center, which includes professors and students from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is developing a test site between the two islands that will determine the potential for a project that could power much of Martha’s Vineyard. Partners from other universities, including the University of Rhode Island, are researching other potential sites in New England for clean energy. The federal Department of Energy grant will mostly go toward the Nantucket Sound project but will also benefit other MREC efforts.

The ATMC founded the Marine Renewable Energy Center in spring 2008 through funding from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative based on the ATMC’s proposal with officials from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The partnership was hailed by UMass Dartmouth officials as an extension of the university’s outreach to Cape Cod and the islands. Creation of the tidal-energy project itself is still years off, said Maggie L. Merrill, MREC’s consortium coordinator. But the site, Muskeget Channel, has “a lot of potential,” she said.

UMass Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology scientists are conducting the oceanographic surveys to locate what MREC calls “sweet spots,” where the currents run the fastest for the longest period of time. The test site will also be available to other clean energy developers to test their systems without needing to create costly test systems themselves, MREC said in announcing the grant.

Besides the federal grant, the MREC consortium is funded by UMass and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. “While New England suffers from energy shortages and high prices, there is tremendous energy available in the ocean at our doorstep,” MREC Director John Miller said in the announcement. “MREC is here to open that door bringing electricity and jobs to our region.” Miller was given a Pioneer Award last week in Maine at the Energy Ocean Conference for MREC’s work. The conference, which bills itself as the world’s leading renewable ocean energy event, recognized MREC for developing technology, coordinating funding, publicizing development efforts and planning an open-ocean test facility.

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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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Electric Light & Power, June 11, 2009

menu01onAs the Obama administration shapes its policy on transmission planning, siting and cost allocation, the Large Public Power Council (LPPC) has sent a joint letter voicing its transmission policy views and concerns to Energy Secretary Chu, Interior Secretary Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, FERC Chairman Wellinghoff, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Sutley and Presidential Energy Advisor Carol Browner.

The letter was sent to the Obama policy makers by Bob Johnston, Chair of the 23 member not-for-profit utility organization. Members of the LPPC own and operate nearly 90% of the transmission investment owned by non-federal public power entities in the United States.

The LPPC told the Obama Administration that it is “most supportive of a framework for interconnection-wide planning that addresses the growing need to interconnect renewable resources to the grid.”

“Many of our members are leaders in renewable deployment and energy efficiency. We are committed to these policy goals and closely tied to the values of our local communities,” the LPPC emphasized. “But we also believe that creating a new planning bureaucracy could be costly and counterproductive in achieving needed infrastructure development.”

The LPPC voiced strong support for the region-wide planning process recently mandated by FERC Order 890 that directed implementation of new region-wide planning processes that the LPPC claims “require an unprecedented level of regional coordination, transparency and federal oversight.”

“It seems quite clear that federal climate legislation and a national renewable portfolio standard will further focus these planning processes, the LPPC asserted. “LPPC fully expects that the regional processes to which parties have recently committed will take on new urgency and purpose. Adding a planning bureaucracy to that mix will be time consuming and will likely delay rather than expedite transmission development.”

The LPPC also told the Obama policy makers that, “it would be unnecessary, inequitable and counterproductive to allocate the cost of a new transmission superhighway to all load serving entities without regard to their ability to use the facilities or their ability to rely on more economical alternatives to meet environmental goals.”

The LPPC contended, “that certain proposals it has reviewed to allocate the cost of new transmission on an interconnection-wide basis would provide an enormous and unnecessary subsidy to large scale renewable generation located far from load centers, at the expense of other, potentially more economical alternatives. Utilities, state regulators, and regional transmission organizations should determine how to meet the environmental goals established by Congress most effectively by making economic choices among the array of available options, without subsidy of one technology or market segment over others.”

The LPPC letter further claimed that the cost of a massive transmission build-out will be substantial and that cost estimates they had reviewed “appear to be meaningfully understated.” The LPPC estimates that nationwide costs for such a build-out “may range between $135 billion and $325 billion, equating to a monthly per customer cost between $14 and $35.  This is a critical matter for LPPC members, as advocates for the consumers we serve.”

The Large Public Power Council letter concluded by offering its support for additional federal siting authority for multi-state transmission facilities “in order to overcome the limited ability of individual states to address multi-state transmission projects to meet regional needs. LPPC is confident that such new authority can be undertaken in consultation with existing state siting authorities in a manner that capitalizes on existing expertise and ensures that state and local concerns are addressed in the siting process.”

The LPPC’s membership includes 23 of the nation’s largest publicly owned, not-for-profit energy systems. Members are located in 10 states and provide reliable, electricity to some of the largest cities in the U.S. including Los Angeles, Seattle, Omaha, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, Jacksonville, Orlando and Austin.

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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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The mineral is a key part of a Santa Monica firm’s proposed alternative energy project in the desert. The technology was proven workable in a pilot project near Barstow in the 1990s.
PETER PAE, The Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2009

47183323Just past Barstow on Interstate 15, Las Vegas-bound travelers can eye a tower resembling a lighthouse rising out of the desert encircled by more than 1,800 mirrors the size of billboards.

The complex is often mistaken for a science fiction movie set, but it is actually a power plant that once used molten salt, water and the sun’s heat to produce electricity.

Now a storied rocket maker in Canoga Park and a renewable energy company in Santa Monica are hoping to take what they learned at the long-closed desert facility to build a much larger plant that could power 100,000 homes — all from a mix of sun, salt and rocket science once believed too futuristic to succeed.

The Santa Monica-based energy firm SolarReserve has licensed the technology, developed by engineers at Rocketdyne.

“Molten salt is the secret sauce,” said SolarReserve President Terry Murphy.

It is one of at least 80 large solar projects on the drawing board in California, but the molten salt technology is considered one of the more unusual and — to some energy analysts — one of the more promising in the latest rush to build clean electricity generation.

“It’s actually something we’ll likely see in a few years,” said Nathaniel Bullard, a solar energy analyst with New Energy Finance in Alexandria, Va. “It’s moving along in a nice way, and they have good capital behind it.”

SolarReserve, which is financing and marketing the project, said it is working on agreements with several utilities to buy electricity generated from the plant. It hopes to have several announcements in a few months that could help jump-start construction of the first plant, which would probably be on private land in the Southwest, Murphy said.

The company last fall secured $140 million in venture capital.

The plant could begin operating by early 2013. It would use an array of 15,000 heliostats, or large tilting mirrors about 25 feet wide, to direct sunlight to a solar collector atop a 600-foot-tall tower — somewhat like a lighthouse in reverse.

The mirrors would heat up molten salt flowing through the receiver to more than 1,000 degrees, hot enough to turn water into powerful steam in a device called a heat exchanger. The steam, like that coming out of a nozzle of a boiling tea kettle, would drive a turbine to create electricity.

The molten salt, once cooled, would then be pumped back through the solar collector to start the process all over again. “The plant has no emissions, and if you have a leak or something, you can just shovel it up and take it home with you to use for your barbecue,” Murphy said.

The molten salt can be stored for days if not weeks and then used to generate electricity at any time. Many other solar technologies work only when the sun is shining. Storing electricity in a battery works for cars and homes but not on a massive scale that would be needed to power thousands of homes.

“You can put that into a storage tank that would look much like a tank at an oil refinery,” Murphy said. “We can store that energy almost indefinitely.”

While there are high hopes for the technology, some environmentalists have criticized solar-thermal plants for requiring vast tracts of land as well as precious water for generating steam and for cooling the turbines.

The array of the mirrored heliostats for the SolarReserve plant would take up about two square miles. Transmission lines would also be needed to transport the power where it’s needed. With dozens of solar, wind and geothermal projects planned for California’s deserts, some fear that this unique habitat will be destroyed.

But SolarReserve officials said that the plant would use one-tenth the amount of water required by a conventional plant and that mirrors will be “benign” to the environment.

The technology, with the exception of using salt, is similar to those that Rocketdyne engineers developed for the nation’s more notable space programs.

At the sprawling Canoga Park facility, the engineers who came up with the SolarReserve technology also developed the power system for the International Space Station, the rocket engine for the space shuttle, and the propulsion system for the Apollo lunar module.

Rocketdyne’s aerospace heritage stretches back to the earliest years of rocket development, when it was founded shortly after World War II to study German V-2 rocket technology. After becoming part of Rockwell International in the late 1960s, the company was sold to Boeing Co. in 1996.

United Technologies bought the Rocketdyne unit from Boeing for $700 million in 2005 primarily for its expertise in rocket engines. It didn’t know about the solar project until after the acquisition.

Now Rocketdyne believes it can generate $1 billion in revenue from making the components for the plant, including the tower that would collect the sun’s concentrated heat from thousands of mirrors.

The solar collector in many ways is similar to the inside of a rocket nozzle that has to withstand thousands of degrees of heat, said Rick Howerton, Rocketdyne’s program manager for concentrated solar power who previously worked on the space station program.

The solar-thermal technology was proved workable more than a decade ago at the Barstow pilot plant. But the complex was shuttered in 1999 when the cost of natural gas fell to one-tenth of what it is today.

Also there wasn’t as much concern for the environment then, Murphy said. “It was ahead of its time. The market hadn’t caught up to it.”

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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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MARK CLAYTON, The Christian Science Monitor, April 24, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThree miles off the craggy, wave-crashing coastline near Humboldt Bay, California, deep ocean swells roll through a swath of ocean that is soon to be the site of the nation’s first major wave energy project.

Like other renewable energy technology, ocean energy generated by waves, tidal currents or steady offshore winds has been considered full of promise yet perennially years from reaching full-blown commercial development.

That’s still true – commercial-scale deployment is at least five years away. Yet there are fresh signs that ocean power is surging. And if all goes well, WaveConnect, the wave energy pilot project at Humboldt that’s being developed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), could by next year deploy five commercial-scale wave systems, each putting 1 megawatt of ocean-generated power onto the electric grid.

At less than 1% of the capacity of a big coal-fired power plant, that might seem a pittance. Yet studies show that wave energy could one day produce enough power to supply 17% of California’s electric needs – and make a sizable dent in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nationwide, ocean power’s potential is far larger. Waves alone could produce 10,000 megawatts of power, about 6.5% of US electricity demand – or as much as produced by conventional hydropower dam generators, estimated the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the research arm of the public utility industry based in Palo Alto, California, in 2007. All together, offshore wind, tidal power, and waves could meet 10% of US electricity needs.

That potential hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Obama administration. After years of jurisdictional bickering, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Department of Interior — MMS last month moved to clarify permitting requirements that have long slowed ocean energy development.

While the Bush administration requested zero for its Department of Energy ocean power R&D budget a few years ago, the agency has reversed course and now plans to quadruple funding to $40 million in the next fiscal year.

If the WaveConnect pilot project succeeds, experts say that the Humboldt site, along with another off Mendocino County to the south, could expand to 80 megawatts. Success there could fling open the door to commercial-scale projects not only along California’s surf-pounding coast but prompt a bicoastal US wave power development surge.

“Even without much support, ocean power has proliferated in the last two to three years, with many more companies trying new and different technology,” says George Hagerman, an ocean energy researcher at the Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute in Arlington, Va.

Wave and tidal current energy are today at about the same stage as land-based wind power was in the early 1980s, he says, but with “a lot more development just waiting to see that first commercial success.”

More than 50 companies worldwide and 17 US-based companies are now developing ocean power prototypes, an EPRI survey shows. As of last fall, FERC tallied 34 tidal power and nine wave power permits with another 20 tidal current, four wave energy, and three ocean current applications pending.

Some of those permits are held by Christopher Sauer’s company, Ocean Renewable Power of Portland, Maine, which expects to deploy an underwater tidal current generator in a channel near Eastport, Maine, later this year.

After testing a prototype since December 2007, Mr. Sauer is now ready to deploy a far more powerful series of turbines using “foils” – not unlike an airplane propeller – to efficiently convert water current that’s around six knots into as much as 100,000 watts of power. To do that requires a series of “stacked” turbines totaling 52 feet wide by 14 feet high.

“This is definitely not a tinkertoy,” Sauer says.

Tidal energy, as demonstrated by Verdant Power’s efforts in New York City’s East River, could one day provide the US with 3,000 megawatts of power, EPRI says. Yet a limited number of appropriate sites with fast current means that wave and offshore wind energy have the largest potential.

“Wave energy technology is still very much in emerging pre-commercial stage,” says Roger Bedard, ocean technology leader for EPRI. “But what we’re seeing with the PG&E WaveConnect is an important project that could have a significant impact.”

Funding is a problem. As with most renewable power, financing for ocean power has been becalmed by the nation’s financial crisis. Some 17 Wall Street finance companies that had funded renewables, including ocean power, are now down to about seven, says John Miller, director of the Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Even so, entrepreneurs like Sauer aren’t close to giving up – and even believe that the funding tide may have turned. Private equity and the state of Maine provided funding at a critical time, he says.

“It’s really been a struggle, particularly since mid-September when Bear Sterns went down,” Sauers says. “We worked without pay for a while, but we made it through.”

Venture capitalists are not involved in ocean energy right now, he admits. Yet he does get his phone calls returned. “They’re not writing checks yet, but they’re talking more,” he says.

When they do start writing checks, it may be to propel devices such as the Pelamis and the PowerBuoy. Makers of those devices, and more than a dozen wave energy companies worldwide, will soon vie to be among five businesses selected to send their machines to the ocean off Humboldt.

One of the major challenges they will face is “survivability” in the face of towering winter waves. By that measure, one of the more successful generators – success defined by time at sea without breaking or sinking – is the Pelamis, a series of red metal cylinders connected by hinges and hydraulic pistons.

Looking a bit like a red bullet train, several of the units were until recently floating on the undulating sea surface off the coast of Portugal. The Pelamis coverts waves to electric power as hydraulic cylinders connecting its floating cylinders expand and contract thereby squeezing fluid through a power unit that extracts energy.

An evaluation of a Pelamis unit installed off the coast of Massachusetts a few years ago found that for $273 million, a wave farm with 206 of the devices could produce energy at a cost of about 13.4 cents a kilowatt hours. Such costs would drop sharply and be competitive with onshore wind energy if the industry settled on a technology and mass-produced it.

“Even with worst-case assumptions, the economics of wave energy compares favorably to wind energy,” the 2004 study conducted for EPRI found.

One US-based contestant for a WaveConnect slot is likely to be the PowerBuoy, a 135-five-foot-long steel cylinder made by Ocean Power Technology (OPT) of Pennington, N.J. Inside the cylinder that is suspended by a float, a pistonlike structure moves up and down with the bobbing of the waves. That drives a generator, sending up to 150 kilowatts of power to a cable on the ocean bottom. A dozen or more buoys tethered to the ocean floor make a power plant.

“Survivability” is a critical concern for all ocean power systems. Constant battering by waves has sunk more than one wave generator. But one of PowerBuoy’s main claims is that its 56-foot-long prototype unit operated continuously for two years before being pulled for inspection.

“The ability to ride out passing huge waves is a very important part of our system,” says Charles Dunleavy, OPT’s chief financial officer. “Right now, the industry is basically just trying to assimilate and deal with many different technologies as well as the cost of putting structures out there in the ocean.”

Beside survivability and economics, though, the critical question of impact on the environment remains.

“We think they’re benign,” EPRI’s Mr. Bedard says. “But we’ve never put large arrays of energy devices in the ocean before. If you make these things big enough, they would have a negative impact.”

Mr. Dunleavy is optimistic that OPT’s technology is “not efficient enough to rob coastlines and their ecosystems of needed waves. A formal evaluation found the company’s PowerBuoy installed near a Navy base in Hawaii as having “no significant impact,” he says.

Gauging the environmental impacts of various systems will be studied closely in the WaveConnect program, along with observations gathered from fishermen, surfers, and coastal-impact groups, says David Eisenhauer, a PG&E spokesman, says.

“There’s definitely good potential for this project,” says Mr. Eisenhauer. “It’s our responsibility to explore any renewable energy we can bring to our customers – but only if it can be done in an economically and environmentally feasible way.”

Offshore wind is getting a boost, too. On April 22, the Obama administration laid out new rules on offshore leases, royalty payments, and easement that are designed to pave the way for investors.

Offshore wind energy is a commercially ready technology, with 10,000 megawatts of wind energy already deployed off European shores. Studies have shown that the US has about 500,000 megawatts of potential offshore energy. Across 10 to 11 East Coast states, offshore wind could supply as much as 20% of the states’ electricity demand without the need for long transmission lines, Hagerman notes.

But development has lagged, thanks to political opposition and regulatory hurdles. So the US remains about five years behind Europe on wave and tidal and farther than that on offshore wind, Bedard says. “They have 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind and we have zero.”

While more costly than land-based wind power, new offshore wind projects have been shown in some studies to have a lower cost of energy than coal projects of the same size and closer to the cost of energy of a new natural-gas fired power plant, Hagerman says.

Offshore wind is the only ocean energy technology ready to be deployed in gigawatt quantities in the next decade, Bedard says. Beyond that, wave and tidal will play important roles.

For offshore wind developers, that means federal efforts to clarify the rules on developing ocean wind energy can’t come soon enough. Burt Hamner plans a hybrid approach to ocean energy – using platforms that produce 10% wave energy and 90% wind energy.

But Mr. Hamner’s dual-power system has run into a bureaucratic tangle – with the Minerals Management Service and FERC both wanting his company to meet widely divergent permit requirements, he says.

“What the public has to understand is that we are faced with a flat-out energy crisis,” Hamner says. “We have to change the regulatory system to develop a structure that’s realistic for what we’re doing.”

To be feasible, costs for offshore wind systems must come down. But even so, a big offshore wind farm with hundreds of turbines might cost $4 billion – while a larger coal-fired power plant is just as much and a nuclear power even more, he contends.

“There is no cheap solution,” Hamner says. “But if we’re successful, the prize could be a big one.”

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JEFF QUACKENBUSH, North Bay Business Journal, October 6, 2008

Santa Rosa – Sonoma County governments have aggressive goals and strategies for curbing gases blamed for climate change, and they now have a new tool for enticing owners of existing commercial and residential structures into reducing emissions via energy-efficient upgrades.

Several North Bay local governments have put in place green-building standards to encourage or require green building practices and materials on new construction. Green-building standards are gelling in St. Helena, Napa and Napa County.

Yet cutting emissions attributed to existing homes and commercial buildings has been one of the biggest challenges toward the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. 

Assembly Bill 811, signed in July, gives cities and counties authority to create benefit assessment districts in which property owners can decide to “finance” energy upgrades. Owners would enter a “loan” contract with a local government and pay it back via an item on their property-tax bills that would be passed from one owner to the next over 10 or 20 years. It would be senior to any other debt.

Sonoma County is one of the first governments statewide to pursue such districts. 

Sustainable Napa County has been holding workshops with solar-energy vendors on innovative financing programs, and the group is in early talks with local lawmakers about implementing financing akin to the AB 811-like Berkeley First effort, according to program manager Sally Seymour.

Go Solar Marin early 2008 offered assistance for residential photovoltaic systems. The Marin Clean Energy community choice aggregation program for creating renewable-energy power stations and selling electricity to residents is in development.

Last September, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors opted to explore an AB 811 district. The concept will be tested with Sonoma County Water Agency efforts in the Airport Business Center business park near the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, along Eighth Street East near Sonoma and with homes around the community of Geyserville.

An Airport Green Business Community has formed to increase energy and water efficiency, and businesses representing about two-thirds of the business park’s square footage are participating. The effort is seen as a model for such parks nationwide. Highly treated recycled wastewater from a water agency plant in the park would be used for heating and cooling buildings – saving businesses up to half on utility rates – and irrigating landscapes.

The water agency is exploring a similar use of recycled wastewater from its Sonoma Valley plant for wine-related industrial operations along Eighth Street East and potentially in the Geyserville area from a small treatment plant there. 

One of the prime movers for the county’s AB 811 and other greenhouse gas-fighting efforts is water agency General Manager Randy Poole. The water agency committed to offsetting all carbon dioxide emissions connected to its operations by 2015. “If this program is successful this could be an economic stimulus package not only for the county but also for the country,” Mr. Poole said.

Sonoma County governments signed onto the Climate Action Campaign to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 25% below 1990 levels by 2015, 10 years sooner than the state’s goal under AB 32. Other municipalities in the county have expressed interest in joining the district, and airport-area businesses have too.

“We’re hoping that interest converts into dollars,” said county Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector Rod Dole. 

County government is moving methodically toward implementing AB 811 because costs to the cash-cautious county could be considerable to get the program started. For example, the city of Palm Desert, an AB 811 leader, has put $2.5 million in city money toward lowering interest rates for property owners to 7% from 8 % the county is paying for the financing.

Mr. Dole thinks the county may not have to dip into its coffers for initial projects. One possible source is bank lines of credit to local government, through which a bank would buy a note, say, for $4 million to cover 100 $40,000 private solar projects.

Average funding per project in Palm Desert for replacement of pool pumps and air-conditioners was $40,000. Mr. Dole anticipates similar per-project averages locally.

Another source would be issuance of private-active bonds after enough proposed projects are amassed. Mr. Dole estimates that $10 million to $15 million in total projects would be enough to spur that effort. In either case, the county would have to offer property owners financing at interest rates, with a margin to cover financing and administrative costs, comparable to home-equity or construction loans, according to Mr. Dole.

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MendoCoastCurrent, April 17, 2009

space-solar-energy-jj-001San Francisco — PG&E has begun exploring renewable energy from space as it seeks approval from California state regulators, the CPUC, to purchase power from Solaren Corporation offering 200 megawatts over 15 years.

Solaren’s technology uses solar panels in Earth orbit, converting the energy to radio frequency for transmission to an Earth-based receiving station. The received radio frequency is converted into electricity and fed into the power grid. 

Solaren envisions deploying a solar array into space to beam an average of 850 gigawatt hours the first year of the term and 1,700 gigawatts per year over the remaining term according to their filing to the CPUC.

A clear advantage of solar in space is efficiency. From space, solar energy is converted into radio frequency waves, which are then beamed to Earth. The conversion rate of the RF waves to electricity is in the area of 90%, said Solaren CEO Gary Spirnak, citing U.S. government research. The conversion rate for a typical Earth-bound nuclear or coal-fired plant, meanwhile, is in the area of 33%. And space solar arrays are also 8-10 times more efficient than terrestrial solar arrays as there’s no atmospheric or cloud interference, no loss of sun at night and no seasons.

So space solar energy is a baseload resource, as opposed to Earth-based intermittent sources of solar power. Spirnak claims that space real estate is still free although hard to reach. Solaren seeks only land only for an Earth-based energy receiving station and may locate the station near existing transmission lines, greatly reducing costs.

While the concept of space solar power makes sense on white boards, making it all work affordably is a major challenge. Solar energy from space have a long history of research to draw upon. The U.S. Department of Energy and NASA began seriously studying the concept of solar power satellites in the 1970s, followed by a major “fresh look” in the Clinton administration.

The closest comparison to the proposed Fresno, California deployment is DirecTV, the satellite TV provider, Spirnak explained. DirecTV sends TV signals down to earth on solar-powered RF waves. However, when they reach the Earth, the solar energy is wasted, he said, as all the receivers pick up is the TV programming. 

Solaren claims they’ll be working with citizen groups and government agencies to support the project’s development. Solaren is required to get  all necessary permits and approvals from federal, state and local agencies.

At onset, in exploring space solar energy as in exploring all nascent technologies, explorers shall have to show and prove their renewable technology safe.

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