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Archive for the ‘Ocean Thermal’ Category

FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, December 17, 2009

The Obama administration has launched a new “zoning” approach that puts all ocean activities under the umbrella of nine regional planning bodies.

Public comments are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 12.

The approach is more local and integrated than the current strategy, which puts separate functions under different federal agencies. But it remains to be seen how such a plan can satisfy a plethora of federal laws that now protect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

The issue of whales killed by ships (like the blue whale kill in October off Fort Bragg) is cited in the new report as an example of how the regional planning approach could solve problems that single agencies cannot.

In the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several other government agencies and stakeholders reconfigured the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme, after numerous fatal collisions between marine mammals and ships.

This kind of joint action is what the new Obama approach anticipates using nationwide.

The reconfigured shipping lanes reduced risk of collision by an estimated 81% for all baleen whales and 58% for endangered right whales, studies show.

NOAA is the lone federal agency dealing with the whale kill issue locally, working with two state agencies, which have regulations that are inconsistent. With the Fort Bragg incident highlighting weaknesses in the regulatory process, a regional board could propose solutions.

In another example of oversight conflict, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) planned and launched a policy for wave energy leasing completely without local governments’ knowledge. Other federal agencies also bombarded FERC with criticism and problems their federal fellow had failed to anticipate when FERC’s program came to light.

The Obama administration’s idea is to bring all the federal and local agencies to the table at the planning stage, not the reactive stage.

“The uses of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes have expanded exponentially over time,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who also heads the Ocean Policy Task Force. “At the same time they are facing environmental challenges, including pollution and habitat destruction, that make them increasingly vulnerable.

“Without an improved, more thoughtful approach, we risk an increase in user conflicts and the potential loss of critical economic, ecosystem, social, and cultural benefits for present and future generations,” said Sutley, in a press release.

Many scientific studies have called for ocean zoning, but this is the first effort to make the idea work.

California, Oregon and Washington would be included in a single planning area The participants in the planning process, such as Indian tribes, federal agencies, states and local entities, would be asked to sign a contract modeled on development agreements.

Development agreements are widely used by housing developers to bring all county and state permitting agencies to the table so they can get loans and prepare to launch a project.

Sutley said the administration will reconvene the National Ocean Council to work with the regional planning bodies.

While the new approach promises more locally responsive planning, the job of the National Ocean Council will be to ensure that planning is consistent from region to region. That is likely to create some conflicts with monied interests representing some uses, such as oil drilling, and leave other uses with less ability to advocate at the table.

The proposal comes from the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, established by President Obama on June 12. It is led by Sutley and consists of 24 senior-level officials from administration agencies, departments and offices.

The task force’s interim framework is available for a 60-day public review and comment period. After the close of the comment period, the task force will finalize its recommendations in both this report and the Sept. 10 interim report and provide a final report to the President in early 2010.

For more details on the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, including the interim framework, and to submit comments, visit www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

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RenewableEnergyFocus.com, November 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other key areas are:

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

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 21, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PETER ASMUS, Pike Research, June 17, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe earth is the water planet, so it should come as no great surprise that forms of water power have been one of the world’s most popular “renewable” energy sources. Yet the largest water power source of all – the ocean that covers three-quarters of earth – has yet to be tapped in any major way for power generation. There are three primary reasons for this:

  • The first is the nature of the ocean itself, a powerful resource that cannot be privately owned like land that typically serves as the foundation for site control for terrestrial power plants of all kinds;
  • The second is funding. Hydropower was heavily subsidized during the Great Depression, but little public investment has since been steered toward marine renewables with the exception of ocean thermal technologies, which were perceived to be a failure.
  • The third reason why the ocean has not yet been industrialized on behalf of energy production is that the technologies, materials and construction techniques did not exist until now to harness this renewable energy resource in any meaningful and cost effective way.

Literally hundreds of technology designs from more than 100 firms are competing for attention as they push a variety emerging ocean renewable options. Most are smaller upstart firms, but a few larger players – Scottish Power, Lockheed Martin and Pacific Gas & Electric — are engaged and seeking new business opportunities in the marine renewables space. Oil companies Chevron, BP and Shell are also investing in the sector.

In the U.S., the clear frontrunner among device developers is Ocean Power Technologies (OPT). It was the first wave power company to issue successful IPOs through the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market for approximately $40 million and then another on the U.S. Stock Exchange in 2007 for $100 million. OPT has a long list of projects in the pipeline, including the first “commercial” installation in the U.S. in Reedsport, Oregon in 2010, which could lead to the first 50 MW wave farm in the U.S. A nearby site in Coos Bay, Oregon represents another potential 100 MW deployment.

While the total installed capacity of emerging “second generation” marine hydrokinetic resources – a category that includes wave, tidal stream, ocean current, ocean thermal and river hydrokinetic resources – was less than 10 MW at the end of 2008, a recent surge in interest in these new renewable options has generated a buzz, particularly in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Portugal, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, among other countries. It is expected that within the next five to eight years, these emerging technologies will become commercialized to the point that they can begin competing for a share of the burgeoning market for carbon-free and non-polluting renewable resources.

The five technologies covered in a new report by Pike Research are the following:

  • Tidal stream turbines often look suspiciously like wind turbines placed underwater. Tidal projects comprise over 90 percent of today’s marine kinetic capacity totals, but the vast majority of this installed capacity relies upon first generation “barrage” systems still relying upon storage dams.
  • Wave energy technologies more often look more like metal snakes that can span nearly 500 feet, floating on the ocean’s surface horizontally, or generators that stand erect vertically akin to a buoy. Any western coastline in the world has wave energy potential.
  • River hydrokinetic technologies are also quite similar to tidal technologies, relying on the kinetic energy of moving water, which can be enhanced by tidal flows, particularly at the mouth of a river way interacting with a sea and/or ocean.
  • Ocean current technologies are similar to tidal energy technologies, only they can tap into deeper ocean currents that are located offshore. Less developed than either tidal or wave energy, ocean current technologies, nevertheless, are attracting more attention since the resource is 24/7.
  • Ocean thermal energy technologies take a very different approach to generating electricity, capturing energy from the differences in temperature between the ocean surface and lower depths, and can also deliver power 24/7.

While there is a common perception that the U.S. and much of the industrialized world has tapped out its hydropower resources, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) disputes this claim. According to its assessment, the U.S. has the water resources to generate from 85,000 to 95,000 more megawatts (MW) from this non-carbon energy source, with 23,000 MW available by 2025. Included in this water power assessment are new emerging marine kinetic technologies. In fact, according to EPRI, ocean energy and hydrokinetic sources (which includes river hydrokinetic technologies) will nearly match conventional new hydropower at existing sites in new capacity additions in the U.S. between 2010 and 2025.

The UN projects that the total “technically exploitable” potential for waterpower (including marine renewables) is 15 trillion kilowatt-hours, equal to half of the projected global electricity use in the year 2030. Of this vast resource potential, roughly 15% has been developed so far. The UN and World Energy Council projects 250 GW of hydropower will be developed by 2030. If marine renewables capture just 10% of this forecasted hydropower capacity, that figure represents 25 GW, a figure Pike Research believes is a valid possibility and the likely floor on market scope.

The demand for energy worldwide will continue to grow at a dramatic clip between 2009 and 2025, with renewable energy sources overtaking natural gas as the second largest source behind coal by 2015 (IEA, 2008). By 2015, the marine renewable market share of this renewable energy growth will still be all but invisible as far as the IEA statistics are concerned, but development up to that point in time will determine whether these sources will contribute any substantial capacity by 2025. By 2015, Pike Research shows a potential of over 22 GW of all five technologies profiled in this report could come on-line. Two of the largest projects – a 14 GW tidal barrage in the U.K. and a 2.2 GW tidal fence in the Philippines — may never materialize, and/or will not likely be on-line by that date, leaving a net potential of more than 14 GW.

By 2025, at least 25 GW of total marine renewables will be developed globally. If effective carbon regulations in the U.S. are in place by 2010, and marine renewable targets established by various European governments are met, marine renewables and river hydrokinetic technologies could provide as much as 200 GW by 2025: 115 GW wave; 57 GW tidal stream; 20 GW tidal barrage; 4 GW ocean current; 3 GW river hydrokinetic; 1 GW OTEC.

About the author: Peter Asmus is an industry analyst with Pike Research and has been covering the energy sector for 20 years. His recent report on the ocean energy sector for Pike Research is now available, and more information can be found at http://www.pikeresearch.com. His new book, Introduction to Energy in California, is now available from the University of California Press (www.peterasmus.com).

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DAVID FOGARTY, Reuters Climate Change Correspondent, February 5, 2009

ceto-overview1For millennia, Australia’s rugged southern coast has been carved by the relentless action of waves crashing ashore.

The same wave energy could soon be harnessed to power towns and cities and trim Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Waves are already concentrated solar energy,” says Michael Ottaviano, who leads a Western Australian firm developing a method to turn wave power into electricity.

“The earth has been heated by the Sun, creating wind, which created the swells,” he told Reuters from Perth, saying wave power had the potential to supply all of Australia’s needs many times over.

Ottaviano heads Carnegie Corp, which has developed a method of using energy captured from passing waves to generate high-pressure sea water. This is piped onshore to drive a turbine and to create desalinated water.

A series of large buoys are tethered to piston pumps anchored in waters 15 to 50 metres deep (49 to 131 feet). The rise and fall of passing waves drives the pumps, generating water pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

This drives the turbine onshore and forces the water through a membrane that strips out the salt, creating fresh water in a process that normally requires a lot of electricity.

The CETO (named after a mythical Greek sea creature) pumps and buoys are located under water, differing from some other wave power methods, for example, those that sit on the surface.

The CETO concept was invented in the 1970s by a Western Australian businessman Alan Burns and initial development began in 1999, followed by completion of a working prototype by 2005.

Ottaviano says the company, which works in partnership with British-based wind farm developer Renewable Energy Holdings and French utility EDF, is in the process of selecting a site for its first commercial demonstration plant in Australia.

The 50 megawatt plant, enough to power a large town, would cost between A$300 million to A$400 million ($193 million to $257 million) and cover about 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of seabed.

Funding could be raised from existing or new shareholders, he believes.

Several sites in Western Australia, including Albany in the south and Garden Island off Perth, looked promising.

“There’s significant interest in these sorts of projects, even in the current financial environment,” he added.

And a 50 MW plant was just a drop in the ocean.

He pointed to a study commissioned by the company that said wave power had the potential to generate up to 500,000 MW of electricity along the southern half of Australia’s coast at depths greater than 50 metres (165 feet).

At shallower depths, the potential was 170,000 MW, or about four times Australia’s installed power generation capacity.

Interest in renewable energy in Australia and elsewhere is being driven by government policies that enshrine clean energy production targets as well as state-backed funding programmes for emerging clean-tech companies.

“Australia is going to be one of those markets because of what the government is doing to drive investment in this sector. For starters, there’s quite a bit of direct government funding for projects like this,” he said.

The federal government has also set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020, which is expected to drive billions of dollars worth of investment in Australia over the next decade, with much of it going into wind farms.

A second company, BioPower Systems, is developing underwater wave and tidal power systems and expects to complete pilot projects off northern Tasmania this year.

The company’s bioWAVE system is anchored to the sea bed and generates electricity through the movement of buoyant blades as waves pass, in a swaying motion similar to the way sea plants, such as kelp, move.

Tidal power, in which electricity is generated by turbines spinning to the ebb and flow of tides, has not taken off in Australia, partly because of cost, but is expected to be a big provider of green power in Britain in coming years.

Last week, Britain announced five possible projects to generate power from a large tidal area in south-west England. The largest of the projects could generate 8,600 MW and cost 21 billion pounds ($29 billion).

CONSTANT

Ottaviano believes wave power is one of the few green technologies that can provide steady, or baseload power.

Wind and solar photovoltaic panels can only operate at 25 to 30% efficiencies because neither the wind nor the sun are permanently available.

Government policies should promote the development of technologies that delivered large-scale, high-availability clean power competitively, he said.

“If you look from an outcome point of view and leave it up to the market to work out how that is going to be achieved, it comes down to geothermal certainly being one of the potential technologies because (of) its high availability and also potentially cost-competitive and harnessable at large scale,” Ottaviano said.

Australia has large geothermal potential in remote central and northern areas.

“Wave is another logical one because it is high availability. It is 90 to 100% available in most sites around southern Australia.”

“You could power the country 10 times over.”

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RenewableEnergyWorld.com, December 12, 2008

Hawai’i Governor Linda Lingle announced a new energy partnership to develop a 10-megawatt (MW) Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) pilot plant in Hawai’i between the Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

During the Governor’s official state visit to Taiwan, the ITRI agreed to join in a feasibility study and will collaborate in the initial pilot plant in Hawai‘i. OTEC could provide renewable electricity generated from the difference in temperature between the ocean’s warm surface and its chilly depths.

The ocean temperatures and the subsea terrain make the waters surrounding both Taiwan and Hawai‘i superior locations for this technology. Lockheed Martin Corporation has developed and studied OTEC technology for over 30 years. Its plans for a 10-MW OTEC pilot plant in Hawai‘i are already underway.

“As island economies in the Pacific, Taiwan and the State of Hawai‘i share very similar challenges of overdependence on imported petroleum for their energy needs,” Governor Lingle said. “Taiwan and Hawai‘i also share a common vision and plan to increase renewable and clean energy generation based on indigenous energy resources.”

This latest agreement with Taiwan complements the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership between the State of Hawai‘i and the United States Department of Energy which will decisively move the state away from its dependence on fossil fuels and toward a clean energy driven economy that will be a model for other states and regions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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