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Archive for the ‘Wave Farm’ Category

MendoCoastCurrent, July 26, 2010

The Technology Strategy Board funding follows the support given earlier this month to AWS Ocean Energy by the Scottish Government’s WATERS programme (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support).

Funding will further develop AWS Ocean Energy’s AWS-III, a ring-shaped multi-cell surface-floating wave power system.

The funding from the Technology Strategy Board is part of a £7m million funding package awarded to 9 wave and tidal stream research and development projects.

Simon Grey, Chief Executive of AWS Ocean Energy, says: “This latest funding is very welcome as we continue to develop our AWS-III wave energy device.

“Our trials on Loch Ness will restart in September for a 6 week period and thereafter a detailed assessment of the trial results will be undertaken before we start building and then deploy a full-scale version of one of the wave absorption cells.”

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

AWS Ocean Energy says it is seeking industrial and utility partners to enable the launching of a 12-cell, 2.5 MW pre-commercial demonstrator in 2012 and subsequent commercialisation of the technology.

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FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, June 24, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told the Southern California partnership planning to develop wave energy off Mendocino that the firm’s permit will probably be canceled

Kenneth Hogan of FERC wrote that GreenWave Energy Solutions had failed to file both a required notice of intent and a pre-application document (PAD), in a letter sent Monday.

Both documents were due in early May for GreenWave’s two proposed wave energy farms off San Luis Obispo and Mendocino. Both documents are intended to determine the scale of the projects now being considered and the “probable revocation” applies to both projects.

Earlier this year, GreenWave announced they had entered into an agreement with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) of New Jersey, one of the world’s top companies in the field to get the two projects going.

GreenWave has so far pushed the biggest wave energy project idea of all, one that would generate a whopping 100 megawatts of power off Mendocino.

GreenWave was granted a preliminary permit in May 2009, after FERC had sent the permit back for more details and deliberated for nearly a year. A preliminary permit is an exclusive right to study an area of the ocean.

At the end of a successful preliminary permit process, that developer gets first right to install wave energy devices, by virtue of being the first to file for the preliminary permit.

The area now claimed by GreenWave had previously been claimed by Chevron.

But GreenWave is now told they will probably lose their claim to that area.

“The failure to timely file a [Notice of Intent] and PAD warrants the cancellation of a preliminary permit,” Hogan wrote. “This letter constitutes notice under section 5 of the Federal Power Act of the probable cancellation of both preliminary permits no less than 30 days from the date of this letter.”

The cancellation would be bad news for Tony Strickland, a Southern California Republican who made his work as one of the four GreenWave Partners a key plank in the campaign with which won his state Senate seat by the narrowest of margins two years ago. He lists “alternative energy executive” as his occupation.

Now, Strickland is using his status as a green energy businessman in his campaign to be state controller. He won the Republican nomination last month by a wide margin.

“Tony serves as Vice President of GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC, a company that seeks to harness the power of ocean waves to provide energy to Californians,” his campaign website states.

GreenWave has never held a single local meeting to introduce or explain its claim of the waters off Mendocino village. Some locals are amazed at how much Strickland makes of a project that exists only on paper.

“GreenWave Energy Solutions was the recipient of the United Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award for 2008 and Tony has been featured on CNBC for his work with the company,” the Controller 2010 campaign website states.

On the other hand, the permit termination would be good news for the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative. According to a California Attorney General opinion, the MLPAI is banned from putting any new marine parks (of any of the three kinds) in areas where there are pre-existing ocean leases, which includes the GreenWave lease off Mendocino and the PG&E lease off Eureka. Thus, a big area of ocean real estate is currently off limits to creation of new protected areas by the MLPAI.

Earlier this year, GreenWave promised FERC several rounds of local meetings for March and April, which failed to materialize. And the company has filed other documents late during its FERC process.

But FERC’s revocation threats may be premature. A review of the FERC lease documents shows GreenWave may have a valid reason why they didn’t file the documents that resulted in this week’s letter from Hogan.

The FERC lease gives GreenWave the option of filing a Notice of Intent and Draft License in two years, instead of the one-year filing requirement for the NOI and PAD. However, to further complicate matters, GreenWave actually promised the NOI and PAD would be done in June 2010. That promise was made in GreenWave’s 45-day filing in June 2009.

GreenWave Energy Solutions is described as a limited liability company with five members, President Wayne Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante and prominent Southern California housing developers Dean Kunicki and Gary Gorian.

Attempts to reach GreenWave president Burkamp or FERC’s Hogan weren’t successful by press time.

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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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MARSHA WALTON, MNN.com, June 8, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, February 25, 2010

The Southern California investment company with a federal permit to develop wave energy in waters off Mendocino has entered into a partnership with one of the world’s top companies in the field.

GreenWave Energy Solutions recently entered into a memo of understanding, or MOU, with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) of New Jersey, a move which makes wave energy off the village of Mendocino much more likely than ever.

Earlier this month, Ocean Power Technologies earned a federal license to develop wave energy off Reedsport, Ore., a groundbreaking move in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process.

Ocean Power Technologies had its own FERC wave energy preliminary permit off Cape Mendocino but last year gave up on that site as impractical. OPT, which has since eclipsed many of its hydrokinetics competitors, plans to bring its experience to developing waters off Mendocino, the FERC permit states.

OPT recently deployed one of its Power Buoys off Hawaii, where it is also developing wave energy. OPT has been granted the exclusive right to sell their patented WEC devices to GreenWave for the generation of electrical power off Mendocino.

The existence of GreenWave’s FERC preliminary permit already spells doom for the creation of any new Marine Life Protection Act (MLPAI) Initiative protection of the claimed area.

GreenWave told FERC in its latest progress report that the firm has a target date of April 2012 for filing a license to actually develop electricity off Mendocino.

A preliminary permit gives exclusive study rights to an area to the applicant and also provides automatic preference to a license to actually produce power in the ocean.

“The proposed 100 megawatt GreenWave Mendocino Wave Park is estimated to generate an average of 250 GigaWatt-hours annually. GreenWave has contacted most or all of the stakeholders … and will continue to conduct community outreach and informational efforts to keep all stakeholders apprised of progress and plans related to the environmental studies and development of this proposed wave energy project,” the FERC filing by GreenWave President Wayne Burkamp states.

GreenWave and Ocean Power Technologies plan joint meetings locally beginning in March, the filing states. The two firms plan to file full details of the wave energy project with FERC by March and then discuss those plans in public meetings with locals.

Wave energy has generated substantial local opposition led by local fishermen. The environmental community in Mendocino has also opposed wave energy. Environmentalists in Humboldt County have not been involved in the issue.

PG&E, faced with local opposition, withdrew its Fort Bragg wave energy development application and continued its effort in friendlier Humboldt County, then added a second site in Southern California.

National environmental groups signed off on wave energy in a letter to president Obama. But the Obama administration studied the issue and, like Fort Bragg residents, learned the technology raised serious environmental issues and was too theoretical to help with the nation’s energy needs in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, fishing and civic groups have been seeking to construct a public process that protects the ocean.

A group formed in Fort Bragg, Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH) is the lead plaintiff on a lawsuit against FERC challenging FERC’s issuance of the exclusive development rights to waters off Mendocino to GreenWave. The city of Fort Bragg, County of Mendocino, the Ocean Protection Council, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen and the Recreational Fishing Alliance are also part of the challenge.

The lawsuit, with filings due in federal court this spring and summer, asserts that FERC failed to follow environmental laws or create a comprehensive plan before issuing wave energy permits.

“GreenWave has reviewed the allegations contained in the complaint and believes the allegations are without merit. GreenWave is monitoring this litigation and will provide any support that FERC believes necessary,” GreenWave’s recent filing states.

PG&E said the reason it abandoned its Fort Bragg development site was Noyo Harbor is unsuitable. That hasn’t discouraged GreenWave so far.

Background

The exclusive three-year preliminary permit granted in May 2009 to GreenWave stretches from just north of Albion to off Point Cabrillo, about a half-mile to three miles offshore.

Five men from the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California, including Tony Strickland, a Republican state senator, formed GreenWave Energy Solutions about two years ago.

Strickland, one of the state’s most ardent deregulators and anti-tax advocates, won the state Legislature’s closest race last November by a handful of votes, California’s closest major race. He made his involvement in alternative energy a key part of his campaign.

Green Wave Energy Solutions when formed was composed of Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante and prominent housing developers Dean Kunicki and Gary Gorian.

Calls to GreenWave’s message phone number revealed Strickland and the others are still involved.

GreenWave does not mention Strickland, or any local members of the California Legislature among its communications with the Legislature in its report to FERC.

“GreenWave has participated in numerous meetings with California state government officials regarding various aspects of the permitting process and the political dynamics of development of a wave farm, in this district. GreenWave has met with various legislative personnel including California State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (39th District). Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (75th District), and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Chief Deputy Legislative Assistant, John Moffatt.

“These meetings involved discussions regarding the future of wave energy in California, working to streamline the permitting process in California and questions related to legislation which would assist in wave energy development,” the FERC filing states.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process has concentrated solely on restricting and banning fishing, despite broader general ocean protection goals in the act. An opinion issued by the California Attorney General’s office states that any prior legal claim (such as a preliminary permit for wave energy) precludes the establishment of any type of new marine protected area. However, that fact has not yet been introduced into the discussions of creation of “arrays” or fishing restricted areas, despite large areas off limits in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties due to permits granted to PG&E and GreenWave.

Editor’s Note: Phenomenal reporting by Frank Hartzell, thank you!

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PennWell Publishing, February 22, 2010

Construction has begun off Oregon’s coast on a commercial U.S. wave energy farm, which is being developed by Ocean Power Technologies and is planned to supply power to about 400 homes, according to national media reports.

The system will be installed off the Oregon coast near Reedsport, and it will represent the first phase of an expected 10-PowerBuoy Reedsport wave power station with a generating capacity of about 1.5 MW. The development would be the first commercial-scale wave power farm in the United States.

The first buoy will measure 150 feet tall by 40 feet wide, weigh 200 tons and cost $4 million, according to Phil Pellegrino, spokesman for New Jersey-based developer Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. OPT has chosen Oregon Iron Works to construct its first commercial wave energy PowerBuoy system in North America.

Nine additional PowerBuoys will be constructed and installed under the second phase of the project. The additional buoys are scheduled to be deployed by 2012 at a total cost of about $60 million.

Ocean Power Technologies recently received an A$66.5 million (US$61 million) grant from the Australian government to build a 19-MW wave power project off the coast of Victoria, Australia.

Ocean Power Technologies plans to complete its first PB150 wave energy device in the UK for deployment in Scotland in mid 2010.

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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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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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UPI, October 23, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoAustralian ocean energy company BioPower Systems announced it reached an agreement with the city of San Francisco to explore wave energy technology.

“The feasibility of ocean waves as an energy source is being considered and this could lead to further project development,” said John Doyle, acting manager of infrastructure at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

BioPower will work with the San Francisco utility to examine the feasibility of a project site 5 miles off the coast of California. The project could generate between 10MW and 100MW of power, the company said.

The BioPower wave system, bioWAVE, generates 1MW of energy per unit. The company said it would install several units at an undersea wave energy farm that is out of view and environmentally friendly.

San Francisco and BioPower are working to bring wave energy to the power grid by 2012 pending results from a feasibility study.

“We have already assessed the potential for economic energy production using bioWAVE at the proposed project site, and the results are very promising,” said Tim Finnigan, chief executive officer at BioPower.

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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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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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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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EnergyCurrent, June 11, 2009

13298_DIA_0_opt picOcean Power Technologies Inc. (OPT) has reached two major manufacturing milestones in the development of the company’s PB150 PowerBuoy, a wave energy converter that is to be ready for deployment at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Scotland by the end of 2009.

The mechanical elements of the power take-off system of the PB150 have been completed. OPT has also awarded Isleburn Ltd. the steel fabrication contract for the PowerBuoy structure. Isleburn is an Inverness, Scotland-based fabrication and engineering company for offshore structures.

Once the steel fabrication is complete, the 150-kW PowerBuoy will be fully assembled and ready for deployment by the end of 2009 at EMEC, where OPT has already secured a 2-MW berth.

When the PowerBuoy has been fully demonstrated at EMEC, OPT intends to deploy further PB150 PowerBuoys in projects around the world at locations including Reedsport, Oregon; Victoria, Australia and Cornwall, U.K.

OPT CEO Mark R. Draper said, “These two milestones demonstrate significant progress towards the deployment of OPT’s first PB150. This achievement represents a pivotal stage in the company’s development and that we are on track to achieve our objective of utilizing wave power as an economically-viable source of renewable energy.”

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Editors Note:  On June 9, 2009, PG&E filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) a petition to release the Mendocino WaveConnect preliminary permit.

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoMendoCoastCurrent, May 11, 2009

In early May 2009, PG&E’s WaveConnect team decided to cancel the Mendocino WaveConnect project because the Noyo Harbor didn’t pass muster and was deemed insufficient in several engineering aspects, therefore unable to support PG&E’s Mendocino WaveConnect pilot wave energy program offshore.

PG&E summarily rejected re-situating the launch site to the Fort Bragg Mill Site, only a short distance from the Noyo Harbor, where PG&E could construct a state-of-the-art launch for Mendocino WaveConnect.

PG&E plans to report their decision to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and anticipates surrendering the Mendocino WaveConnect FERC pilot wave energy permit. The City of Fort Bragg, County of Mendocino and the FISH Committee were brought up to speed by PG&E on May 11th.

PG&E had raised $6mm in funding from CPUC and DOE for WaveConnect, allocated to both Mendocino and Humboldt projects. This remaining funds will now be directed to only Humboldt WaveConnect.

And PG&E notes that Humboldt WaveConnect, at Humboldt Bay and its harbor, offers WaveConnect the required spaciousness and the industrial infrastructure as well as a welcoming, interested community.

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Excerpts of FRANK HARTZELL’s article, Mendocino Beacon, May 7, 2009

gweclogo1GreenWave Energy Solutions, an “alternative energy startup has been granted a three-year preliminary permit to study wave energy off Mendocino.

It’s locals’ first look at action by a newly recast Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is tasked by the Obama Administration to make a greater push to develop alternative energy.

On May 1, FERC issued an exclusive preliminary permit to GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC. The permit’s area stretches from just north of Albion to off Point Cabrillo, about a half-mile from shore to three miles offshore.

Five men from the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California, including Tony Strickland, a Republican state senator, formed GreenWave Energy Solutions about two years ago.

Strickland, one of the state’s most ardent deregulators and anti-tax advocates, won the state Legislature’s closest race last November by a handful of votes. He made his involvement in alternative energy a key part of his campaign.

Green Wave Energy Solutions is composed of president Wayne Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante, developer Dean Kunicki and developer Gary Gorian. Kunicki and Gorian are major real estate developers in Southern California.

The preliminary permit reserves that area solely for GreenWave and also gives the company first rights to apply for a long-term power license in state waters.”

“The GreenWave proposal envisions eventual construction of a power plant with more than twice the capacity of that planned by PG&E. GreenWave’s Burkamp said the firm is not a shell corporation or a subsidiary of any other company.

GreenWave hopes to someday install 10 to 100 Pelamis or OPT hydrokinetic devices capable of producing 100 megawatts, with a 2- to 3-mile long powerline running to shore, the permit application states.

FERC’s permit conditions for GreenWave don’t vary much from those imposed by FERC under the former Bush Administration.

But locals made this preliminary permit one of the longest ever. And the application has more interveners and more people commenting than any other “hydrokinetic” project in the nation. FERC has issued and is considering hydrokinetic permits from the Yukon River to the Florida Keys for wave, tidal, ocean current and river flow power.

While issuing the permit, FERC briefly responds to each point raised by locals.

“As for the concerns raised by Mendocino County and Laurel Krause regarding the financial capability and experience of the applicant, it has been the Commission’s policy for some time that, at least where there is no competition for a permit, the Commission will not base grant of the permit on proof of an applicant’s ability to finance or perform studies under the permit,” FERC wrote. “However, as discussed below, application of the Commission’s strict scrutiny policy may include cancellation of the permit if the applicant is unable to demonstrate, for financial or other reasons, adequate progress toward the possible development of a license application.”

Although FERC is an independent agency, President Obama appointed Jon Wellinghoff as chairman of the five-member commission after the chairman under President Bush resigned and left FERC. With the commission now split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats, Obama now has the opportunity to change its direction with his appointment of a new fifth member.

FERC also recently accepted three preliminary permit applications from Sonoma County to study wave energy off its shores, a nod to local government that signals a change of direction for the independent federal commission.

That change began when Mendocino County and the City of Fort Bragg protested exclusion from the process and a lawsuit was threatened.

The permit is the first wave energy permit since the Obama Administration released new standards for the process of generating alternative energy on the outer continental shelf.

Under that plan, FERC has complete control of the wave energy process inside three miles. For projects like PG&E’s wave energy proposal, which extends on both sides of the three-mile line, a Minerals Management Service lease is required past state waters. PG&E withdrew from its efforts to get a MMS lease last year.

GreenWave’s permit area appears to extend just beyond the three-mile limit. John Romero of MMS said neither PG&E or GreenWave has sought a lease from MMS.

GreenWave’s application says the initial phase will involve spending between $1 million and $2 million and will be financed entirely through private equity.

“The estimated cost of the second phase (the actual installation of wave energy devices in the water and the generation of power from these devices) will be $20 million to $40 million,” the application states.

Burkamp told the newspaper that GreenWave’s application is different from PG&E’s in that GreenWave will focus on solving environmental issues, while PG&E Wave Connect is set up to test rival technologies.

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EMMA JACKSON, UniversityWorldNews, March 15, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69A research team at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland has renewed a relationship with Aquamarine Power, a leading marine technology energy company. Together they may create the next generation of wave power converters that could some day be an alternative source of power for European maritime states. 

This five-year deal will focus on perfecting a so-called ‘Oyster’ wave power device which the university’s Wave Power Research Team and Aquamarine Power created between 2005 and 2008. 

Professor Trevor Whittaker, who leads the research team at Queen’s, says the next generation of Oyster would be the precursor to a commercially -viable model that could produce alternative power for much of the UK with its long coastline. 

The Oyster device is designed to capture the energy found in near-shore waves, which is then sent to a seaside converter to be made into hydroelectric power. 

Whittaker said the deal would be indispensable for both partners. While Aquamarine Power would have the benefit of using some of the field”s leading experts and their research, the university would benefit from financial support and hands-on experience for its PhD students.

Whittaker said the team from Aquamarine would rent the university’s state-of-the-art wave tanks to test several models, creating income for the university. Aquamarine also agreed to provide funding for two full-time staff members at the research facility: a senior research fellow, and a technician. 

He said the programme’s PhD students would be able to see their research, their academic work, being used for something. “When they write their theses, they don’t just sit on a shelf. We’re doing applied research that is benefiting humanity directly.”

The team will monitor survivability and watch how the devices interact with each other to guarantee continuous power output in all sea states. Whittaker said commercial wave power was still “in its infancy,” but Oyster Two, which would form the basis of any commercial model, would be ready by 2011.

Its predecessor, Oyster One, will be launched at sea for testing this summer at the European Marine Energy Centre off the coast of north-east Scotland’s Orkney Isles. 

Dr Ronan Doherty, Aquamarine’s Chief Technical Officer, said the UK Carbon Trust had estimated that up to 20% of current UK electricity demand could be met by wave and tidal stream energy, with the majority being in coastal communities.

“World leading facilities and researchers at Queen’s enable Aquamarine Power to not only peruse the industrial design of our products in a detailed way, but it is also the source of constant innovation and challenge resulting from their blue sky thinking and fundamental research,” Doherty said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 17, 2009

Here’s a map indicating the measurement of wave energy flux around the world:  

Average Annual Wave Energy Flux (kW/m)

Average Annual Wave Energy Flux (kW/m)

From March 2009 Greentech Innovations Report.

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wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoMendoCoastCurrent, February 14, 2009

Acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellinghoff recently published Facilitating Hydrokinetic Energy Development Through Regulatory Innovation

Consider it required reading as a backgrounder on US wave energy policy development, FERC’s position on the MMS in renewables and FERC’s perceived role as a government agency in renewable energy, specifically marine energy, development.

Missing from this key document are the environmental and socio-economic-geographic elements and the related approval process and regulations for:

  • environmental exposure, noting pre/during/post impact studies and mitigation elements at each and every marine energy location;
  • socio-economic factors at each and every marine location (including a community plan with local/state/federal levels of participation).

Approaching the marine renewable energy frontier with a gestalt view toward technology, policy and environmental concerns is a recommended path for safe exploration and development of new renewable energy solutions.  

It has been FERC’s position that energy regulatory measures and policies must precede before serious launch of US projects and other documents by Wellinghoff have noted a six month lead time for policy development alone.

MendoCoastCurrent sees all elements fast-tracked in tandem.  Environmental studies/impact statements are gathered as communities gear up to support the project(s) while technology and funding partners consider siting with best practices and cost-efficient deployment of safe marine energy generation.  All of these elements happen concurrently while FERC, DOI/MMS, DOE local and state governments explore, structure and build our required, new paradigm for safe and harmonious ocean energy policies.

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PETER BROWN, EnergyCurrent.com, February 16, 2009

stromnessOn a Monday morning in May last year, the Atlantic tide set a turbine in motion on the seabed off Orkney, and the energy captured was connected to the national grid. It was, said Jim Mather, Scotland’s Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, a “massive step forward”.

The amount of electricity generated may have been tiny, but for marine engineers the significance was huge. Their industry had stopped paddling and started to swim.

For small companies trying to get wave or tide devices off the drawing board and into the sea, many problems lie in wait. All turbines, whether they sit on the seabed or float, must withstand that once-in-a-century wave that could be a thousand times more powerful than the average. Conditions vary with the seasons and the seabed. A device that works in a fjord might not function in a firth. Rigorous, long-term testing is therefore vital.

“There are parallels with wind,” says Alan Mortimer, head of renewables policy at Scottish Power. “Many different types of turbine were proposed in the early Eighties. They boiled down to a small number of successful concepts. The same needs to happen with marine devices, but the difference is that they need to be full- size just to be tested.

“To get a reasonable number of prototypes into the water costs millions. What these small companies need is capital support.”

That, however, is hard to find. The Wave and Tidal Energy Support Scheme (Wates), which put GBP13.5 million into promising technologies, is now closed. Last year the Scottish Government offered the 10m Saltire Prize for a commercially viable scheme, but the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), in its recent report Marine Energy: More Than Just a Drop in the Ocean?, called on the Government to provide another 40m.

This would go towards schemes to be tested at EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre, which has two supported sites, with grid access, at Orkney. It was there that an Irish company, OpenHydro, made the grid breakthrough last year. “It’s desperately important that we grasp the nettle now,” says William Banks, IMechE’s president. “We have the micro-systems in place and I’d like to see them developed to the macro stage. However, unless we do that step by step, we’ll be in trouble.”

An estimated 50 teams are working around the world on marine energy. The danger is that Britain, and Scotland in particular, could lose the race, even though, as Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, says, “Scotland has a marine energy resource which is unrivalled in Europe.”

Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s tidal resources and a tenth of its wave potential.

Around 1,000 people work in Scottish marine energy, but that figure could billow. “You’re talking about an exercise that could transform the marine industry into something equivalent to oil and gas,” says Martin McAdam, whose company, Aquamarine Power, is growing fast.

Among his rivals in Scotland are AWS Ocean Energy, based near Inverness, with Archimedes, a submerged wave machine; Hammerfest UK, which wants to develop three 60MW tidal sites and is working with Scottish Power; Pelamis Wave Power, who are based in Edinburgh; and Scotrenewables, based in Orkney, who are currently developing a floating tidal turbine.

Politicians need to be educated about marine energy’s potential, says Banks. Indeed, IMechE has highlighted the need for sustained political leadership if what many see as the biggest problem – that of the grid – is to be solved. Why bring energy onshore if it can’t then reach homes?

“Grids were built to connect large power stations to cities. Now you’re going to have electricity generated all over the countryside. It’s a huge challenge,” says McAdam.

“We have had meetings with Ofgen and the national grid companies and we’re outlining the need to have grids to support at least 3,000MW of energy by 2020. That is definitely possible.” McAdam adds: “A European undersea grid is also being promoted and we’re very supportive of that.”

Such a system would help to overcome a frequent objection to renewables – their fickleness. If waves were strong in Scotland, Finland or France could benefit, and vice versa.

Another challenge is the cost of installation. “At the moment we’re competing with oil and gas for boats,” says McAdam. “We need to move away from using heavy-lift, jack-up vessels.” The answer might be devices that can be floated into position and then weighted down.

The race between suppliers is speeding up. Permission for a 4MW station at Siadar, off Lewis in the Western Isles, has just been granted to Wavegen, based in Inverness, and Npower Renewables. It could power about 1,500 homes, creating 70 jobs.

Among the success stories are the three 140-metre, red tubes developed by Pelamis (named after a sea serpent) which already float off the northern Portuguese coast at Aguadoura. More Pelamis turbines are to be installed at EMEC, along with Aquamarine’s wave device Oyster.

Oyster is basically a giant flap which feeds wave energy onshore to be converted to electricity. It has already been made, at a former oil and gas plant at Nigg, north of Inverness. A high- pressure pipeline was completed in December and a hydro-electric station will be installed this spring. In the summer, Oyster will finally be bolted to piles hammered into the seabed.

Unlike wave energy, tidal power needs a channel between two land masses – and in the roaring Pentland Firth, between Caithness and Orkney, Scotland has what has been called “the Saudi Arabia of marine power”, Europe’s largest tidal resource. To exploit it, a GBP2 million contract to build Aquamarine’s tidal power device, Neptune, was awarded last month. It will be tested at EMEC.

Elsewhere, SeaGen, an “underwater windmill” developed by a Bristol company, has just generated 1.2MW near the mouth of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland.
But the most controversial of Britain’s tidal energy schemes is, of course, in the Severn Estuary, where a barrage could provide around 5% of Britain’s energy. Environmentalists fear irreparable damage to marshes and mudflats, but the Government is known to prefer the barrage to other, smaller options. The decision it takes next year is sure to be eagerly watched in Scotland.

Somewhat overshadowed by the Severn plan is Wave Hub, a project to build a wave-power station 10 miles off St Ives, on Cornwall’s north coast, using both Pelamis and a sea-bed device developed by ORECon of Plymouth. An application to create a safety area around it has just been submitted, part of the meticulous planning that precedes any marine trial.

“We have to have environmentalists looking at the impact on fisheries, flora and fauna,” says McAdam. “And we have to be completely open with the communities we’re going into. But most people realise that climate change and energy security are real things. We want to minimalise our environmental impact and give the country a means of isolating itself from the volatility of oil and gas.”

In theory, marine energy could generate a fifth of the UK’s electricity needs, but that would require a multitude of stations. Bill Banks believes nuclear power will be needed. “But we also need a variety of renewables,” he says. “Marine will take its place along with bio, hydro and wind energy. It’s available, it’s there at the moment, and if we get our act together I think we can lead Europe. We need a synergy of activity.”

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MaritimeJournal.com, February 12, 2009

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisEdinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power has won an order from UK renewable energy generator E.On for the next generation Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, known as the P2.

The P2 will be built at the Pelamis Leith Docks facility and trialed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. This is the first time a major utility has ordered a wave energy converter for installation in the UK and the first time the Pelamis P2 machine will be tested anywhere in the world.

Pelamis already has the world’s first multi-unit wave farm operational some 5km off the north coast of Portugal at Agucadora, where three 750kW machines deliver 2.25MW of electricity to the Portuguese grid. Operator Enersis has issued a letter of intent to Pelamis for a further 20MW of capacity to expand the successful project.

Licenses, consents and funding have been granted for the Orcadian Wave Farm, which will consist of four Pelamis generators supplied to ScottishPower Renewables. This installation, also at EMEC, will utilise existing electrical subsea cables, substation and grid connection.

Funding and consent has also been granted for Wave Hub, a wave energy test facility 15km off the north coast of Cornwall UK which is expected to be commissioned this year. It will consist of four separate berths, each capable of exporting 5MW of wave generated electricity. Ocean Prospect has secured exclusive access to one of the Wave Hub berths for the connection of multiple Pelamis devices.

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JENNY HAWORTH, Scotman.com, February 12, 2009

na910MORE than three dozen energy companies from across the world are hoping to install wave energy devices in a stretch of sea off the north of Scotland. The renewable energy firms all have their sights on the Pentland Firth, which is considered one of the best locations in the world for generating electricity from the power of the tides.

Yesterday, the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed and will authorize any offshore  wave energy project, announced it had invited 38 companies to submit detailed plans for schemes in the Pentland Firth.

This is the first stretch of water off the UK to be opened up for development of marine renewables, meaning successful companies will be building among the first marine wave energy projects in the world.

Each company hopes to install dozens, or even hundreds of wave energy devices, such as tidal turbines, in the ocean.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, hopes it will help Scotland become a world leader in renewable energy, saying “the fact that so many companies have already registered their interest in developing wave and tidal energy projects in the Pentland Firth and surrounding waters is extremely encouraging.”

“The Scottish Government has recently launched the world’s greatest-ever single prize for innovation in marine energy, the £10 million Saltire Prize, and the opening of the Pentland Firth for development is a timely and crucial move.”

The Crown Estate invited initial expressions of interest in the Pentland Firth from renewables firms in November 2008. A spokeswoman said she could not reveal how many companies had shown an interest because of competition rules, but she confirmed 38 firms would be invited to the next stage – to tender for sites in the Pentland Firth.

They must now submit detailed applications, spelling out how many devices they want to install in the water, by the end of May.

The Crown Estate will decide which are suitable, and the companies will then have to apply for planning permission from the Scottish Government.

Calum Duncan, Scottish conservation manager for the Marine Conservation Society, welcomed renewable technologies, but said the possible impact of the devices on sensitive seabed habitats must be considered, including the likely affect on mussel beds and feeding areas for fish, basking sharks and seabirds.

Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson and MSP for Orkney, also welcomed the strong interest but had reservations. “This energetic stretch of water will be a challenging resource to tame,” he said.

“We still know relatively little about the Pentland Firth and what will happen when we start putting devices in the water there.

“While the Pentland Firth is often described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power, the challenges it presents also make it the Mount Everest.”

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CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL, The Advertiser, February 11, 2009

images3Wave energy company Carnegie Corporation has been licensed by the Australian state government to explore the seabed off the southeast coast. It is the first license issued in South Australia for a company to search for suitable sites for wave-harnessing technology.

Carnegie Corporation, which has demonstration wave energy projects operating in Western Australia, has been licensed to search an area covering 17,000ha adjacent to Port MacDonnell.

The South Australia (SA) “coast receives a world class wave energy resource and further adds to SA’s leadership in developing renewable energy including wind, solar and geothermal,” Carnegie Corporation managing director Michael Ottaviano said.

In an announcement this morning to the Australian Securities Exchange, Carnegie noted any successful site in the Southeast would be near existing power infrastructure, enabling the company to tap into the national electricity market.

Australian Premier Mike Rann welcomed the company’s investment. “Wave power – like geothermal power – has the potential to provide a huge base load of sustainable energy in the future,” Mr Rann said.

The license, signed today, also allows Carnegie to investigate building a 50MW wave power station. Carnegie’s CETO system operates by using an array of submerged buoys tethered to seabed pumps and anchored to the ocean floor.

Mr Rann said whether Carnegie determines that Port MacDonnell is a suitable site will depend on its tests. “But Carnegie is one of several emerging companies taking up the challenge of providing a new form of base-load sustainable energy,” he said. “It is one of two companies looking to SA to trial its wave power technology along our coastline – and we want to encourage others to do the same.”

Mr Rann said SA was the “most attractive in Australia” for investors in renewable energy. “SA now has 58% of the nation’s installed wind generation capacity and more than 70% of the geothermal exploration activity,” he said. “I have directed my department to prepare a similar framework specifically for the wave and tidal sector.”

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Publisher’s Note:  Feb 09, 2009 – Not only has Finavera surrendered their Makah Bay license noted below, they also announced surrendering the Humboldt County, California Preliminary Permit to explore wave energy:

“Finavera Renewables has filed applications to surrender its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for the Makah Bay Wave Energy Pilot Project in Washington and the Humboldt County Preliminary Permit for a proposed wave energy project in California.”

MendoCoastCurrent readers may recall Finavera’s inability to secure CPUC funding for the Humboldt project; noted below capitalization, financial climate as key reasons in these actions.

MendoCoastCurrent, February 6, 2009

finavera-wavepark-graphicToday Finavera Renewables surrendered their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Makah Bay, Washington wave energy project license, commenting that the Makah Bay Finavera project “never emerged from the planning stages.”

And “due to the current economic climate and the restrictions on capital necessary to continue development of this early-stage experimental Project, the Project has become uneconomic.  Efforts by Finavera to transfer the license were not successful.  Therefore, Finavera respectfully requests that the <FERC> Commission allow it to surrender its license for the Project. ”

Back in early 2007, Finavera’s Makah Bay project looked like it would become the first U.S. and west coast project deployment of wave energy devices.  And this project also had a unique status based on Native American Indian land/coastal waters, so the rules of FERC, MMS were different due to sovereign status.

Then AquaBuoy, Finavera’s premier wave energy device, sank off the Oregon coast due to a bilge pump failure in late October 2007.  

Recently noted was Finavera’s comment that they are currently focusing their renewable energy efforts toward wind energy projects closer to their homebase in British Columbia, Canada and in Ireland.

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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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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 3, 2009

Coos Bay — The announcement came as a surprise to everyone.

beachpThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday order issuing a preliminary permit for a 200- to 400-buoy wave energy project off of Newport shocked Ocean Power Technologies leaders as well as the public.

“It’s a project, a site that is not on our priority list right now,” OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said. “It was a little bit of a surprise to us in terms of timing.”

What’s different about this project is that FERC’s approval stirs up a hornet’s nest at the time OPT is trying to work with residents on the South Coast for community approval of two sites: a 10-buoy project off of Gardiner and a 200-buoy project off of the North Spit.

It also calls into question FERC’s intentions of adhering to a memorandum of understanding previously negotiated with Oregon to give the state greater siting power over wave energy projects in the territorial sea.

The approval also seems to be designed for FERC to flex authority over territory traditionally overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Both agencies have claimed the area outside of Oregon’s territorial sea, beyond three nautical miles.

Mixed Messages

As the FERC notice of approval hit residents’ e-mail inboxes late Thursday, outrage began to build.

“My concern is this sends the wrong message,” said Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett. “This is high-value crab grounds, about as valuable as you get.”

OPT applied for the permit in November 2006, but let the application slide. The jurisdictional battle meant the application was going nowhere fast. OPT decided to concentrate its work on the Gardiner and Coos Bay sites, both of which are inside the territorial sea.

Bergstein said as soon as he found out about the approval, he immediately called Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson and other Lincoln County folks, particularly those involved with the Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy group.

“Clearly, we have not been prompting FERC,” Bergstein said.

Bovett, who was involved in the commenting on the original OPT application, said Fishermen Involved has been working with wave energy companies to determine the best sites for development that would have the least impact on the fishing industry and local communities. This, though, was different.

“FINE wasn’t involved in the selection of this box,” Bovett said.

State vs. FERC?

Bovett’s first question was: Does the memorandum of understanding not mean anything?

In March 2008, FERC and Oregon signed a memorandum designed to “coordinate the procedures and schedules for review of wave energy projects.”

Bovett just chuckled.  According to the deal, he said, FERC wasn’t going to issue permits willy nilly. 

Some of the discrepancy over the decision to issue a preliminary permit — which allows OPT to only study the area for feasibility — may be because Oregon hasn’t finished updating its territorial sea plan. The Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the state have been working on it, but the marine reserves issue has dominated the council’s time over the past year.

“This will obviously get everybody’s attention,” Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition Chairman Nick Furman said of FERC’s decision.

That’s putting it lightly.

Whereas the Reedsport and Coos Bay sites are considered by some to be ground zero as far as local communities negotiating with wave energy developers, the Newport site could be ground zero for state vs. federal and agency vs. agency jurisdiction and siting battles.

However, Bovett said, OPT holds the key right now.

The New Jersey-based wave energy developer should withdraw from  the site, he said. Otherwise, years of litigation seem likely — and courts ultimately would have the final say over which agency should be in charge of alternative energy.

“OPT can fix this,” Bovett said. “It’s exactly what they should do.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 31, 2009

On January 26, 2009, Lockheed Martin and Ocean Power Technologies agreed to work together to develop a commercial-scale wave energy project off the coasts of Oregon or California.

OPT is providing their expertise in project and site development as they build the plant’s power take-off and control systems with their PowerBuoy for electricity generation.  Lockheed will build, integrate and deploy the plant as well as provide operating and maintenance services. Lockheed and OPT have already worked together on maritime projects for the U.S. government.

Spanish utility Iberdrola is using OPT’s PowerBuoy on the Spainish coast in Santoña for first phase deployment, hoping to become the first commercial-scale wave energy device in the world.  In the Spainish project, Lockheed and Ocean Power are working toward an increased cost-performance of a power-purchasing agreement from which this U.S. wave energy project may benefit.

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

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

As the Monday, February 9, 2009 before 2 p.m. deadline for filing FERC Motion to Intervene papers regarding the Green Wave LLC wave energy preliminary permit off the Mendocino village coast approaches, locals, the City of Fort Bragg and fishing organization are participating and electronically filing their views with FERC.

Here’s the excellent brief filed by the County of  Mendocino, California:  HERE

Have you filed your FERC Motion to Intervene today?

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RenewableEnergyWorld.com, January 27, 2009 

One Choice

One Option on the Shortlist

A shortlist of proposed plans to generate electricity from the power of the tides in the Severn estuary has been unveiled by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband has also announced £500,000 [US $702,000] of new funding to further develop early-stage technologies like tidal reefs and fences. The progress of these technologies will be considered before decisions are taken whether to go ahead with a Severn tidal power scheme.

The tides in the Severn estuary are the second highest in the world. The largest proposal being taken forward has the potential to generate nearly 5% of the UK’s electricity from this domestic, low carbon and sustainable source.

Over the past year, the Government-led feasibility study has been investigating a list of ten options, gathering information on the costs, benefits and environmental challenges of using the estuary to generate power.

The proposed shortlist is includes:       

  • Cardiff Weston Barrage: A barrage crossing the Severn estuary from Brean Down, near Weston super Mare to Lavernock Point, near Cardiff. Its estimated capacity is over 8.6 gigawatts (GW).
  • Shoots Barrage: Further upstream of the Cardiff Weston scheme. Capacity of 1.05 GW, similar to a large fossil fuel plant.
  • Beachley Barrage: The smallest barrage on the proposed shortlist, just above the Wye River. It could generate 625 MW.
  • Bridgwater Bay Lagoon: Lagoons are radical new proposals which impound a section of the estuary without damming it. This plan is sited on the English shore between east of Hinkley Point and Weston super Mare. It could generate 1.36 GW.
  • Fleming Lagoon: An impoundment on the Welsh shore of the estuary between Newport and the Severn road crossings. It too could generate 1.36 GW.The proposed shortlist will now be subject to a three month public consultation which begins this week.

“Fighting climate change is the biggest long term challenge we face and we must look to use the UK’s own natural resources to generate clean, green electricity. The Severn estuary has massive potential to help achieve our climate change and renewable energy targets. We want to see how that potential compares against the other options for meeting our goals,” said UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.

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Susan Chambers, The World, January 26, 2009

coos-bay-intro1Coos Bay, Oregon – Ocean Power Technologies is feeling pressure as local groups, the state and even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urge the company to shrink its 200-buoy Coos Bay plan.

Oregon Wave Energy Partners I, as Ocean Power Technologies, filed its notice of intent and preliminary application document with FERC in March 2008 for the 200-buoy array off the North Spit.

The Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, Surfrider Foundation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife filed comments suggesting OPT slow down. Instead of going for a full build-out, phase it in after more studies are done, they said.

The 200-buoy plan also runs counter to FERC’s own advice.

In August 2008, FERC told OPT that, “since information about the potential environmental effects of large-scale projects, such as proposed in your (preliminary application document) is limited, we believe that in most situations, smaller pilot projects are better suited for development at this time.”

The coalition also debated the length of the license, should it be granted. Like hydropower licenses, which typically are in force for between 30 and 50 years, so too are hyrokinetic licenses — those that cover wave, tidal and current energy projects.

“… it is premature to license a project of the size and scope planned off of Coos Bay, especially given the 30- to 50-year license terms being sought after,” SOORC said, noting that more studies should be done first.

OPT has said it will be a few years before even the first few buoys are in the water. OPT hasn’t yet placed one buoy in the water at Gardiner but FERC could grant a license for the Coos Bay project before any studies from the Reedsport project are completed.

ODFW, too, said more studies must be done.

“ODFW believes that the proposed project size (200 buoys) is not consistent with state’s support of experimental wave energy projects,” ODFW wrote in its comments. “A full build-out of a commercial sized project at this stage would lack the applied knowledge from studies of previous experimental projects, thus ODFW would not fully understand the potential impacts of the project in order to responsibly and thoroughly comment on a large project.”

The Port of Coos Bay reiterated Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s plan for the territorial sea. Last year, Kulongoski wrote to FERC that large-scale projects “must be preceded by a comprehensive evaluation for this and other uses of these waters to ensure those ocean resources and other ocean values and uses will not be harmed.”

That shows, the port said, that a small demonstration project should be allowed first, with studies over several years on impacts to the environment and coastal communities — before a full license is granted.

OPT’s vice president of Business Development and Marketing, Herb Nock, said the company expected such comments.

“It’s a range of views,” Nock said. “We came back to the public meetings and are investing the time to understand the alternative uses of the sea.”

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BBC News, January 22, 2009

_45402571_siadar_wavepower_226One of the world’s largest wave stations is to be constructed in Scotland off the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles.

The station will create up to 70 jobs and advance Scotland’s bid to lead the world in renewable energy, First Minister Alex Salmond said.

Ministers have granted consent for an application by npower renewables to operate a wave farm with a 4MW capacity at Siadar.

It is one of the first marine energy projects to be approved in the UK.

The technology used is called “oscillating water column”.

Ocean waves move air in and out of chambers in a breakwater, which in turn drives a turbine from Inverness-based Wavegen, known as the Wells turbine, to generate electricity.

Stephen Salter, a professor of engineering design at the University of Edinburgh and a leading expert on renewable energy said that wave power had the potential to provide 100kw of power for every metre of ocean — amounting to a big conventional power station for every 10km of shoreline.

At 4mw of power the Lewis wave farm will be able to power around 1800 homes — a thousand times less powerful than a conventional coal fired Drax power station.

Even so Prof Salter said he believed the Lewis project to be the largest wave farm in the world, adding: “It is still small but the longest journey starts with a single step.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Today’s announcement is a significant step in Scotland’s journey to become a world leader in renewables.

“The Siadar wave farm will be one of the largest consented wave electricity generating station in the world.

“It is the first commercial wave farm in Scotland and is starting with a capacity to power around 1,800 homes.

“Nationally, this development will further strengthen our sector and locally, it has the potential to create up to 70 jobs in the Western Isles.

“This is good news for the Western Isles and for Scotland but its long-term potential is global.”

npower renewables’ managing director Paul Cowling said: “Scotland has immense potential in marine energy and the opportunity to be a world leader in marine renewables.

“This consent is an important milestone in the development of wave power technology and is to be celebrated.

“However, commercial demonstration projects such as Siadar still face significant economic challenges.”

Matthew Seed, chief executive officer of Wavegen said: “The Siadar Wave Energy Project will be a major step in the development of the wave energy industry in Scotland and worldwide.

“Wavegen’s proven technology will now be employed at full commercial scale, paving the way for real cost efficiencies which will bring the cost of wave energy closer to that of more established technologies.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 17, 2009

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

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force

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

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

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

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

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Mendocino Energy:

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

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

Vision:

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

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

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

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

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FRANK HARTZELL’s article with MendoCoastCurrent edits, January 15, 2009

After nearly two years of local pleas for specifics on the WaveConnect project, PG&E representatives surprised Fort Bragg and Mendocino County representatives with many new details.

Those included the promise by PG&E that all environmental studies would be public, not private information. In the recent past, PG&E had been resisting calls by competitors and ratepayer advocates before the California Public Utilities Commission to make public more information learned during the WaveConnect study.

Another surprise was that PG&E has found about 10 different viable wave energy technologies — far more than first envisioned. The utility will choose the top three or four wave energy devices and test those under a pilot project license.

On Tuesday, the pilot license process became the biggest issue for wave energy officials gathered at Town Hall to hear two top officials explain the roles of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, and the California Coastal Commission.

Both Tom Luster, who will oversee all wave energy projects for the California Coastal Commission and 23-year FERC veteran Ann Miles, FERC Director of Hydropower Licensing said Fort Bragg has had more interest in wave energy than anywhere else in California.

Miles said PG&E would need to file for a conventional license by this March under FERC rules. Using the “faster” pilot license gives them until March 2010 to get started.

Miles provided lengthy and knowledgeable explanations of convoluted FERC processes during the three-hour meeting. But PG&E’s new announcements, which came in private meetings last week, overshadowed the presentations by the top state and federal officials.

Luster explained how the California Coastal Commission would work with the State Lands Commission to review any wave energy project within three miles of shore.

PG&E is now saying their 40-megawatt powerplant will be located “well beyond” that three-mile state limit. The powerplant would likely come after the five-year pilot project license.

That announcement unexpectedly changed the game for the state.

Luster said the big power cable that extends to shore would be regulated by the Coastal Commission, but development beyond three miles would be regulated only for “federal consistency.”

While planning for an eventual project many miles from shore, PG&E will give up on areas more than three miles from shore for now, they have told FERC.

PG&E told Fort Bragg they would site the pilot project much closer to shore, to avoid the jurisdictional conflict between FERC and fellow federal agency Minerals Management Service, or MMS.

FERC claims the authority to be the regulatory authority for all water energy projects in the United States. MMS claims authority for ocean federal waters, which are those more than three miles from shore.

PG&E’s 68-square-mile preliminary permit area, which runs from Point Cabrillo to Cleone and to more than three miles offshore, will be trimmed down to eliminate areas beyond the federal-state jurisdiction line.

PG&E representatives are now promising significant help to local governments.

It was reported that all of the power generated by the 40 megawatt WaveConnect would be consumed in Mendocino County and would provide for nearly all of Fort Bragg’s electric demand when WaveConnect is generating.

Additionally, PG&E intends to pay their expenses, including reviewing, permitting and the community process for public participation.

Miles said FERC has no requirements in place to determine that a developer be able to pay for removal of devices in case of bankruptcy or disaster.

Luster said the State Lands Commission handles financial arrangements, such as bonding of projects.

Miles was making her first ever visit to Northern California. She was set to answer questions from the general public at a Town Hall forum Tuesday night.

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DAVID EHRLICH, Earth2Tech/GigaOm, December 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ALOK JHA, Guardian UK, January 5, 2009

Tidal Energy's DeltaStream

Tidal Energy's DeltaStream

Propellers on ships have been tried and tested for centuries in the rough and unforgiving environment of the sea: now this long-proven technology will be used in reverse to harness clean energy from the UK’s powerful tides.

The tides that surge around the UK’s coasts could provide up to a quarter of the nation’s electricity, without any carbon emissions. But life in the stormy seas is harsh and existing equipment – long-bladed underwater wind turbines – is prone to failure.  A Welsh renewable energy company has teamed up with ship propulsion experts to design a new marine turbine which they believe is far more robust.

Cardiff-based Tidal Energy Limited will test a 1MW tidal turbine off the Pembrokeshire coast at Ramsey Sound, big enough to supply around 1,000 homes. Their DeltaStream device, invented by marine engineer Richard Ayre while he was installing buoys in the marine nature reserve near Pembrokeshire, will be the first tidal device in Wales and become fully operational in 2010.

To ensure the propeller and electricity generation systems were as tough as possible, the tidal turbine’s designers worked with Converteam, a company renowned for designing propulsion systems for ships. “They’ve put them on the bottom of the Queen Mary … and done work for highly efficient destroyers, which is exactly the same technology that we’re looking at here,” said Chris Williams, development director of DeltaStream.

DeltaStream’s propellers work in reverse to a ship’s propulsion system – the water turns the blades to generate electricity – but the underlying connections between blades and power systems are identical to those on the ship.

Tidal streams are seen as a plentiful and predictable supply of clean energy, as the UK tries to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Conservative estimates suggest there is at least 5GW of power, but there could be as much as 15GW – 25% of current national demand.

A single DeltaStream unit has three propeller-driven generators that sit on a triangular frame. It weighs 250 tonnes, but is relatively light compared with other tidal systems which can be several times heavier. The unit is simple to install and can be used in closely packed units at depths of at least 20m. Unlike other tidal turbine systems, which must be anchored to the sea floor using piles bored into the seabed, DeltaStream’s triangular structure simply sits on the sea floor.

Duncan Ayling, head of offshore at the British Wind Energy Association and a former UK government adviser on marine energy, said that one of the biggest issues facing all tidal-stream developers is ease of installation and maintenance of their underwater device. “Anything you put under the water becomes expensive to get to and service. The really good bit of the DeltaStream is that they can just plonk it in the water and it just sits there.”

Another issue that has plagued proposed tidal projects is concern that the whirling blades could kill marine life. But Williams said: “The blades themselves are thick and slow moving in comparison to other devices, so minimising the chance of impact on marine life.”

The device also has a fail-safe feature when the water currents become too powerful and threaten to destroy the turbines by dragging them across the sea floor – the propellers automatically tilt their orientation to shed the extra energy.

Pembrokeshire businessman and sustainability consultant Andy Middleton said: “People are increasingly recognising how serious global warming really is, and in St David’s we are keen to embrace our responsibility to minimise climate change. DeltaStream is developing into a perfect example of the technology that fills the need for green energy and has the added benefit of being invisible and reliable.”

The country’s first experimental tidal turbine began generating electricity in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland last year, built by Bristol-based company Marine Current Turbines. SeaGen began at about 150kW, enough for around 100 homes, but has now reached 1,200kW in testing. It had a setback early in its test phase, with the tidal streams breaking one of the blades in July.

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

On January 13, 2009, from 5-7p.m. at Fort Bragg Town Hall, a “top official from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will appear to explain the agency’s strategy on developing what it calls “hydrokinetic” power as an alterative energy source.

Ann F. Miles, FERC’s director of the Division of Hydropower Licensing, will meet with county and city officials before attending the public meeting in Fort Bragg.

“The FISH Committee is looking forward to FERC’s visit, and welcomes the opportunity to learn about the different FERC licensing processes for wave energy, and how fishermen and other affected people can participate and have their voices heard,” said attorney Elizabeth Mitchell, who represents the Fisherman Involved for Safe Hydrokinetics.

Ocean waters off the Mendocino Coast, from Little River to Cleone, are now claimed under exclusive study permits by two different wave energy developers. GreenWave LLC claims 17 square miles of waters from Little River to Point Cabrillo, while PG&E claims 68 square miles from Point Cabrillo to Cleone.

Preliminary permits granted by FERC give not only exclusive study rights to the claimants, but also licensing priority to develop wave energy upon successful completion of the three-year studies.

Fort Bragg has become ground-zero for wave energy regulation. The federal Minerals Management Service, which is involved in an open feud with FERC over wave energy regulation, has sought to make Fort Bragg its test case.

FERC drew local ire by denying local efforts to intervene in the study process. At one point, protesters carried signs targeting the obscure federal agency with messages such as “Don’t FERC with us.”

One FERC insider said commissioners had complained that more fuss had been made in tiny Fort Bragg than the entire rest of the nation.

FERC later relented and on appeal granted intervener status to Mendocino County, for the PG&E project. The period to intervene and comment on GreenWave’s permit closes Friday, Feb. 6. As yet, nobody has filed anything with FERC, according to its Website.

“The commission’s existing procedures are well-established and well-suited to address this expansion of conventional hydropower with new technologies,” Miles told Congress last year, “and we are prepared to learn from experience in this rapidly evolving area and to make whatever regulatory adjustments are appropriate in order to help realize the potential of this renewable energy resource.”

FERC expanded its domain into all tidal, wave, river flow and ocean current study and licensing with its novel concept of a unified “hydrokinetic” regulation.

From the Yukon River in Alaska to the ocean currents off the Florida Keys, FERC has grown its regulatory territory dramatically since the start of the Bush administration. The agency is now explaining how dam regulation and wave energy innovation can go together. FERC recently granted the first hydrokinetic plant permit for production of energy in the Mississippi River in the state of Minnesota.

The independent agency has moved quickly with Neo-Con era disdain for regulation, eschewing calls from fellow federal and state agencies for a conventional rulemaking process. Instead FERC has adjusted its process as it goes along.

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

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

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

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

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Science Daily, December 20, 2008

0812161141021MIT researchers are working with Portuguese colleagues to design a pilot-scale device that will capture significantly more of the energy in ocean waves than existing systems, and use it to power an electricity-generating turbine.

Wave energy is a large, widespread renewable resource that is environmentally benign and readily scalable. In some locations — the northwestern coasts of the United States, the western coast of Scotland, and the southern tips of South America, Africa and Australia, for example — a wave absorbing device could theoretically generate 100 to 200 megawatts of electricity per kilometer of coastline. But designing a wave capture system that can deal with the harsh, corrosive seawater environment, handle hourly, daily and seasonal variations in wave intensity, and continue to operate safely in stormy weather is difficult. 

Chiang Mei, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been a believer in wave energy since the late 1970s. After the recent oil price spike, there has been renewed interest in harnessing the energy in ocean waves.

To help engineers design such devices, Professor Mei and his colleagues developed numerical simulations that can predict wave forces on a given device and the motion of the device that will result. The simulations guide design decisions that will maximize energy capture and provide data to experts looking for efficient ways to convert the captured mechanical energy to electrical energy.

One country with a good deal of expertise in wave energy research and development is Portugal. For the past three years, Mei has been working with Professors Antonio Falcao, Antonio Sarmento, and Luis Gato of Insitituto Superior Tecnico, Technical University of Lisbon, as they plan a pilot-scale version of a facility called an oscillating water column, or OWC. Situated on or near the shore, an OWC consists of a chamber with a subsurface opening. As waves come in and out, the water level inside the chamber goes up and down. The moving surface of the water forces air trapped above it to flow into and out of an opening that leads to an electricity-generating turbine. The turbine is a design by A.A.Wells in which the blades always rotate in the same direction, despite the changing direction of the air stream as the waves come in and out.

The Portuguese plan is to integrate the OWC plant into the head of a new breakwater at the mouth of the Douro River in Porto, a large city in northern Portugal. Ultimately, the installation will include three OWCs that together will generate 750 kilowatts — roughly enough to power 750 homes. As a bonus, the plant’s absorption of wave energy at the breakwater head will calm the waters in the area and reduce local erosion.

The challenge is to design a device that resonates and thus operates efficiently at a broad spectrum of wave frequencies — and an unexpected finding from the MIT analysis provides a means of achieving that effect. The key is the compressibility of the air inside the OWC chamber. That compressibility cannot be changed, but its impact on the elevation of the water can be — simply by changing the size of the OWC chamber. The simulations showed that using a large chamber causes resonance to occur at a wider range of wavelengths, so more of the energy in a given wave can be captured. “We found that we could optimize the efficiency of the OWC by making use of the compressibility of air — something that is not intuitively obvious,” Mei says. “It’s very exciting.”

He is currently working with other graduate students on wave power absorbers on coastlines of different geometries and on how to extract wave power from an array of many absorbers.

Mei continues to be enthusiastic about wave energy, but he is not unrealistic in his expectations. Although costs have been falling in recent years, wave energy is unlikely to be commercially viable for a long time — perhaps several decades. Nevertheless, Mei is adamant that more attention should be given to this renewable source of energy, and he would like to see a team of MIT experts in different fields — from energy capture and conversion to transmission and distribution — working collaboratively toward making large-scale wave energy a reality.

“Given the future of conventional energy sources, we need lots of research on all kinds of alternative energy,” he says. “Right now, wind energy and solar energy are in the spotlight because they’ve been developed for a longer time. With wave energy, the potential is large, but the engineering science is relatively young. We need to do more research.”

This article is adapted from a longer version that appeared in the autumn 2008 issue of Energy Futures, the newsletter of the MIT Energy Initiative.

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CYNTHIA THIELEN, The Star Bulletin, December 21, 2008

Rep. Cynthia Thielen represents the 50th District (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay) in the State House

coh1An unusual consortium comprised of large utilities, environmental groups, energy think tanks and ocean energy developers has just written to President-elect Barack Obama about the tremendous potential of wave energy and the role it can play in reducing our nation’s dependence upon oil.

The group includes utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Portland General Electric and Florida Power & Light (the largest utilities in California, Oregon and Florida, respectively); environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Surfrider Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council; and academic entities Oregon State University and the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center. Taking the initiative on Hawaii’s behalf are Robbie Alm, COO of Hawaiian Electric Co., Virginia Hinshaw, chancellor of the University of Hawaii, and Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. I encouraged these Hawaii leaders to participate in the important discussions with the new administration.

In its letter to the president-elect, the consortium is asking Obama to provide support for wave energy, citing “conservative estimates” that indicate wave energy could “supply at least 10% of the current U.S. demand.” That’s a staggering number for an economically imperiled nation that has spent $700 billion in the last two years on imported oil.

The consortium attached a white paper, titled “Ocean Renewable Energy: A Shared Vision and Call for Action,” to its letter. Among the guiding principles are encouraging pilot and demonstration scale projects, streamlining regulatory processes and cooperating in preparation of unified environmental documents.

Economic stimulation can’t take place at home if the U.S. ends up having to import wave energy conversion technology. The consortium stakeholders are making this a major focal point, stating that “without increased government action to encourage demonstration projects and to fund research and development, the promise of ocean renewable energy may never be realized, and the U.S. may see Europe corner the market on these technologies, in much the same way that it did with wind.”

The consortium also stresses the importance of pilot projects in determining the effects of wave energy technology on marine environments to ensure that we protect our ocean resources to the greatest degree possible while extracting energy from ocean waves.

I joined the stakeholders in the consortium and met with Obama’s transition team on December 16, 2008 in Washington, D.C., to discuss how best to integrate wave energy technology into the U.S. energy portfolio.

Hawaii is poised to become a leader. The Department of Energy designated the University of Hawaii as one of two national Marine Renewable Energy Centers. HECO, the administration and energy department signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, an effort to meet 70% of Hawaii’s energy needs with clean energy by the year 2030. Since that time, Hawaii has seen bold plans in the renewable sector. Two of the more ambitious projects are Oceanlinx LLC’s wave energy project off Maui, and Better Place’s electric vehicles. But the electric vehicles must be able to obtain energy from clean, renewable resources, such as ocean waves.

The message I gave to Obama’s transition team is that Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for wave energy conversion, and we are ready. We have an abundance of year-round wave energy, a large, concentrated market on Oahu and our residents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation because our state exports up to $7 billion each year to import oil. With UH Chancellor Hinshaw, HECO executive Alm and economic director Liu joining the consortium’s call for action, our state will lead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TED NESI, Providence Business News, December 5, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guardian.co.uk, December 3, 2008

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoWay back in Napoleonic Paris, a Monsieur Girard had a novel idea about energy: power from the sea. In 1799, Girard obtained a patent for a machine he and his son had designed to mechanically capture the energy in ocean waves. Wave power could be used, they figured, to run pumps and sawmills and the like.

These inventors would disappear into the mists of history, and fossil fuel would instead provide an industrializing world with almost all its energy for the next two centuries. But Girard et fils were onto something, say a growing number of modern-day inventors, engineers, and researchers. The heave of waves and the tug of tides, they say, are about to begin playing a significant role in the world’s energy future.

In the first commercial scale signal of that, last October a trio of articulated, cylinder-shaped electricity generators began undulating in the waves off the coast of Portugal. The devices look like mechanical sea snakes. (In fact, their manufacturer, Scotland’s Pelamis Wave Power Ltd., takes its name from a mythical ancient Greek sea serpent.) Each Pelamis device consists of four independently hinged segments. The segments capture wave energy like the handle of an old fashioned water pump captures the energy of a human arm: as waves rock the segments to and fro, they pump a hydraulic fluid (biodegradable, in case of spills) powerfully through a turbine, spinning it to generate up to 750,000 watts of electricity per unit. Assuming the devices continue to perform well, Portuguese utility Energis expects to soon purchase another 28 more of the generators.

The completed “wave farm” would feed its collective power onto a single high voltage sea-floor cable, adding to the Portuguese grid about 21 megawatts of electricity. That’s enough to power about 15,000 homes.

In a world where a single major coal or nuclear plant can produce more than 1,000 megawatts of electricity, it’s a modest start. But from New York’s East River to the offshore waters of South Korea, a host of other projects are in earlier stages of testing. Some, like Pelamis, rely on the motion of waves. Others operate like underwater windmills, tapping the power of the tides.

Ocean-powered technologies are in their infancy, still technologically well behind such energy alternatives as wind and solar. Necessarily designed to operate in an inherently harsh environment, the technologies remain largely unproven and — unless subsidized by governments — expensive. (Portugal is heavily subsidizing the Pelamis project, with an eye to becoming a major European exporter of clean green power in the future.) Little is known about the effects that large wave or tide farms might have on marine ecosystems in general.

Despite the uncertainties, however, proponents say the potential advantages are too striking to ignore. Eight hundred times denser than air, moving water packs a huge energy wallop. Like solar and wind, power from moving seas is free and clean. But sea power is more predictable than either wind or solar. Waves begin forming thousands of miles from coastlines and days in advance; tides rise and fall as dependably as the cycles of the moon. That predictability makes it easier to match supply with demand.

Roger Bedard, who leads ocean energy research at the U.S. utility-funded Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, says there’s plenty of reason for optimism about the future of what he calls “hydrodynamic” power. Within a decade, he says, the U.S. could realistically meet as much as 10% of its electricity needs from hydrodynamic power. As a point of reference, that’s about half of the electricity the U.S. produces with nuclear power today. Although he acknowledges that initial sea-powered generation projects are going to be expensive, Bedard believes that as experience grows and economies of manufacturing scale kick in, hydrodynamic power will follow the same path toward falling costs and improving technologies as other alternatives.

“Look at wind,” he says. “A kilowatt hour from wind cost fifty cents in the 1980s. Now it’s about seven cents.” (That’s about the same as producing electricity with natural gas, and only about three cents more than coal, the cheapest — and dirtiest — U.S. energy choice. Any future tax on carbon emissions could narrow that gap even more, as would additional clean-power subsidies.)

For some nations, wave and tide power could pack an even bigger punch. Estimates suggest, for instance, that the choppy seas surrounding the United Kingdom could deliver as much as 25% of its electricity. British alternative energy analyst Thomas W. Thorpe believes that on a worldwide basis, waves alone could produce as much as 2,000 terawatt hours of electricity, as much as all the planet’s major hydroelectric plants generate today.

Although none are as far along as Pelamis, most competing wave-power technologies rely not on the undulations of mechanical serpents, but instead on the power captured by the vertical bobbing of large buoys in sea swells. Ocean Power Technologies (OPT), based in New Jersey, drives the generators in its PowerBuoy with a straightforward mechanical piston. A stationary section of the mostly submerged, 90-foot buoy is anchored to the ocean floor; a second section simply moves up and down with the movement of sea swells, driving pistons that in turn drive an electrical generator. The Archimedes Wave Swing, a buoy-based system developed by Scotland’s AWS Ocean Energy, harnesses the up-and-down energy of waves by pumping air to spin its turbines. Vancouver-based Finavera Renewables uses seawater as its turbine-driving hydraulic fluid.

Although Pelamis beat all of these companies out of the commercialization gate, OPT appears to be right behind, with plans to install North America’s first commercial-scale wave power array of buoys off the coast of Oregon as early as next year. That array — occupying one square-mile of ocean and, like other wave power installations, located far from shipping lanes — would initially produce 2 megawatts of power. OPT also announced last September an agreement to install a 1.4-megawatt array off the coast of Spain. An Australian subsidiary is in a joint venture to develop a 10-megawatt wave farm off the coast of Australia.

Meanwhile, Pelamis Wave Power plans to install more of its mechanical serpents — three megawatts of generating capacity off the coast of northwest Scotland, and another five-megawatt array off Britain’s Cornwall coast.

The Cornwall installation will be one of four wave power facilities plugged into a single, 20-megawatt underwater transformer at a site called “Wave Hub.” Essentially a giant, underwater version of a socket that each developer can plug into, Wave Hub — which will be connected by undersea cable to the land-based grid — was designed as a tryout site for competing technologies. OPT has won another of the four Wave Hub berths for its buoy-based system.

Other innovators are trying to harness the power of ocean or estuarine tides. Notably, in 2007, Virginia’s Verdant Power installed on the floor of New York’s East River six turbines that look, and function, much like stubby, submerged windmills, their blades — which are 16 feet in diameter — turning at a peak rate of 32 revolutions per minute. The East River is actually a salty and powerful tidal straight that connects Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean. Although the “underwater windmills” began pumping out electricity immediately, the trial has been a halting one. The strong tides quickly broke apart the turbines’ first- (fiberglass and steel) and second- (aluminum and magnesium) generation blades, dislodging mounting bolts for good measure.

Undeterred, in September Verdant Power began testing new blades made of a stronger aluminum alloy. If it can overcome the equipment-durability problems, the company hopes to install as many as 300 of its turbines in the East River, enough to power 10,000 New York homes.

A scattering of similar prototype “underwater windmill” projects have been installed at tidal sites in Norway, Northern Ireland, and South Korea. (In addition, interest in moving into freshwater sites is growing. Verdant itself hopes to install its turbines on the St. Lawrence River. At least one other company, Free Flow Power of Massachusetts, has obtained Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permits to conduct preliminary studies on an array of sites on the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.)

The environmental benefits of hydrodynamic power seem obvious: no carbon dioxide or any other emissions associated with fossil-fuel-based generation. No oil spills or nuclear waste. And for those who object to wind farms for aesthetic reasons, low-profile wave farms are invisible from distant land; tidal windmill-style turbines operate submerged until raised for maintenance.

There are, however, environmental risks associated with these technologies.

New York state regulators required Verdant Power to monitor effects of their its turbines on fish and wildlife. So far, sensors show that fish and water birds are having no trouble avoiding the blades, which rotate at a relatively leisurely 32 maximum revolutions per minute. In fact the company’s sensors have shown that fish tend to seek shelter behind rocks around the channel’s banks and stay out of the central channel entirely when tides are strongest.

But a host of other questions about environment effects remain unanswered. Will high-voltage cables stretching across the sea from wave farms somehow harm marine ecosystems? Will arrays of hundreds of buoys or mechanical serpents interfere with ocean fish movement or whale migrations? What effect will soaking up large amounts of wave energy have on shoreline organisms and ecosystems?

“Environmental effects are the greatest questions right now,” EPRI’s Bedard says, “because there just aren’t any big hydrodynamic projects in the world.”

Projects will probably have to be limited in size and number to protect the environment, he says – that’s a big part of the reason he limits his “realistic” U.S. estimate to 10% of current generation capacity. But the only way to get definitive answers on environmental impact might be to run the actual experiment — that is, to begin building the water-powered facilities, and then monitor the environment for effects.

Bedard suggests that the way to get definitive answers will be to build carefully on a model like Verdant’s: “Start very small. Monitor carefully. Build it a little bigger and monitor some more. I’d like to see it developed in an adaptive way.”

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JAMES OWEN, National Geographic News, December 2, 2008

The race is officially on for a U.S. $15 million (10 million Euro) prize for harnessing the power of the oceans.

The winning marine renewable energy innovation would provide a serious energy alternative to burning fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

Details of the Saltire Prize Challenge were announced Tuesday in Edinburgh by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.

The award will go to the team that “successfully demonstrates—in Scottish waters—the best commercially viable wave or tidal technology capable of providing electricity to thousands of homes.”

The winning team must supply this electricity using only the power of the sea for a continuous two-year period.

“It is Scotland’s energy challenge to the world—a challenge to the brightest and best minds worldwide to unleash their talents and push the frontiers of innovation in green marine energy,” Salmond said.

“The Saltire Prize has the potential to unlock Scotland’s vast marine energy wealth, putting our nation at the very forefront of the battle against climate change.”

The prize, named after the cross of St. Andrew on the Scottish national flag, was inspired by other innovation competitions such as the U.S. $10 million Ansari X Prize.

That contest led to the first private spacecraft launch in 2004.

“Saudi Arabia of Ocean Energy”

Scotland boasts a quarter of Europe’s tidal power potential, according to Salmond.

He described the Pentland Firth, a region between Scotland’s north coast and the Orkney Islands, as the “Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”

Scotland aims to meet 50% of its electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.

There’s also huge potential for ocean energy globally, said prize committee member Terry Garcia, executive vice president for mission programs for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not going to be the sole solution to our energy needs,” Garcia said, but “this will be one of the important pieces of the puzzle.” The main purpose of the competition is to act as a catalyst for innovation, Garcia added.

“It’s both about making marine energy economically viable and being able to produce it in a sustained way on a large scale,” he said.

Wave and Tidal Power

The two major types of ocean energy are wave and tidal energy.

Wave energy technology involves floating modules with internal generators, which produce electricity as they twist about on the sea surface.

Tidal energy harnesses tidal currents with arrays of underwater turbines similar to those that propel wind farms.

Tidal ranks among the most reliable renewable energies because tides are highly predictable, said AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the University of Southampton’s Sustainable Energy Research Group in the U.K.

“But wave energy is driven by wind, which is notoriously difficult to predict,” he said.

Even so, wave power may have the higher electricity-generating potential.

In Britain, for instance, it’s estimated that wave power could potentially provide 20% of the country’s total electricity supply, against 5-10%for tidal power, Bahaj said.

The scientist says the main technical challenge is to create reliable power installations that can operate in difficult marine environments for five to ten years without maintenance.

“You also need to have multiple devices working together at each site,” he said.

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JASPER COPPING, TELEGRAPH/U.K., November 29, 2008

oceancurrent4The technology can generate electricity in water flowing at a rate of less than one knot – about one mile an hour – meaning it could operate on most waterways and sea beds around the globe.

Existing technologies which use water power, relying on the action of waves, tides or faster currents created by dams, are far more limited in where they can be used, and also cause greater obstructions when they are built in rivers or the sea. Turbines and water mills need an average current of five or six knots to operate efficiently, while most of the earth’s currents are slower than three knots.

The new device, which has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of a system of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic meter of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

A “field” of cylinders built on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of a two-storey house, with a flow of just three knots, could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Just a few of the cylinders, stacked in a short ladder, could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Systems could be sited on river beds or suspended in the ocean. The scientists behind the technology, which has been developed in research funded by the US government, say that generating power in this way would potentially cost only around 3.5p per kilowatt hour, compared to about 4.5p for wind energy and between 10p and 31p for solar power. They say the technology would require up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation.

The system, conceived by scientists at the University of Michigan, is called Vivace, or “vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy”.

Michael Bernitsas, a professor of naval architecture at the university, said it was based on the changes in water speed that are caused when a current flows past an obstruction. Eddies or vortices, formed in the water flow, can move objects up and down or left and right.

“This is a totally new method of extracting energy from water flow,” said Mr Bernitsas. “Fish curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish in front of them. Their muscle power alone could not propel them through the water at the speed they go, so they ride in each other’s wake.”

Such vibrations, which were first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of “Aeolian Tones”, can cause damage to structures built in water, like docks and oil rigs. But Mr Bernitsas added: “We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature.

“If we could harness 0.1% of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people. In the English Channel, for example, there is a very strong current, so you produce a lot of power.”

Because the parts only oscillate slowly, the technology is likely to be less harmful to aquatic wildlife than dams or water turbines. And as the installations can be positioned far below the surface of the sea, there would be less interference with shipping, recreational boat users, fishing and tourism.

The engineers are now deploying a prototype device in the Detroit River, which has a flow of less than two knots. Their work, funded by the US Department of Energy and the US Office of Naval Research, is published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 16, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Updates from Frank Hartzell’s article announcing FERC’s granting of GreenWave’s application:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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DAVID SNEED, The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, April 2008

A Southern California company is eyeing the coastline off Montaña de Oro State Park to study the feasibility of an emerging renewable energy technology—converting wave action to electricity.

Green Wave Energy Solutions LLC has laid claim to a three-mile-wide swath of ocean a mile off the tip of the Morro Bay sand spit to Point Buchon —17 square miles in all — in which it hopes to eventually test the feasibility of wave power.

The Thousand Oaks company has applied to federal energy officials for permission to do the study.

“We’re still early on in development, but we feel there is a tremendous window of opportunity to do this,” said Wayne Burkamp, a San Francisco attorney who is GreenWave’s president.

The application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit would not give the company permission to put wave energy devices in the water. Rather, it would give the company three years to study the feasibility of wave energy.

“It’s like a mining claim,” said Allison Detmer, director of the state Coastal Commission’s energy program.

The application is one of several before FERC laying claim to coastal waters of California for possible development of wave energy.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) recently received a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of wave energy off the coast of Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

Green Wave also has an application for the Mendocino coast. Wave energy projects are also in the works in Oregon and Washington.

The San Luis Obispo County project is the southernmost.

Undecided technology

Neither the PG&E nor GreenWave applications state what type of wave energy devices would be used.

Two types are under development, Burkamp said. Both use the up-and-down motion of waves to generate electricity. One consists of a snake-like line of tubes floating on the surface of the ocean that undulates as waves pass by. The other employees a buoy that uses the pitching and heaving motions caused by waves to generate power.

Green Wave officials aren’t providing additional details on what technology they might use.

“Given the time horizon for getting through the permitting process (which could be years) and the uncertainties of what the technologies will actually look like, GreenWave believes it would be misleading to provide detailed specifications of a technology at this stage,” Burkamp wrote in the application to FERC.

A wave power facility off San Luis Obispo County could generate as much as 100 megawatts of power, the application states. That’s enough power for about 90,000 homes.

By contrast, Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant generates 2,200 megawatts.

The company anticipates spending as much as $2 million during the initial feasibility phase, while actual installation of a wave-power facility would cost as much as $40 million.

Regulatory hurdles

According to the application, Green Wave’s study area is one to three and a half miles offshore and seven miles long. Wave energy components would not be visible from shore, Burkamp said.

“A project area of this size is required to allow flexibility for performing the necessary assessments and properly siting the project components,” the application reads.

This area was chosen because of its abundant wave action and its proximity to Morro Bay. The city has a port and power plant, where electricity generated by a wave power plant could land and hook into the power grid, Burkamp said.

He said a test project could be in the water within a year to a year and a half. However, Coastal Commission officials say the establishment of a wave power facility anywhere in California is years away.

“This industry is very young, and they need to do a lot of testing first,” Detmer said.

Wave power facilities would also face many regulatory hurdles. Burkamp estimates that a facility would require 26 federal, state and local permits.

Placing wave energy devices in the water and laying transmission lines on the ocean floor would both require coastal development permits, Detmer said. Projects located farther off shore than three miles would be under the jurisdiction of the federal Minerals Management Service.

Environmental groups are reacting with caution to the recent interest in wave power. They support the idea of renewable energy sources such as wave power, but are waiting for details about specific projects.

“We think it’s important that all of these projects proceed with caution,” said Rick Wilson, coastal management director with the Surfrider Foundation. “Even though this is clean, green technology, there can be potential impacts to fishing and environmental impacts.”

Possible environmental impacts include noise, increased vessel traffic and blockage of whale migration routes.

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FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, January 11, 2008

A Southern California company has stepped into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filing area abandoned by Chevron, off the town of Mendocino.

The filing by Green Wave Energy Solutions happened shortly after Chevron withdrew, but oddly was never posted on the federal Website among all the other applications with pending preliminary permit applications.

Most Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filings are posted within hours, but more than two months after the federal filing, the Green Wave filing, made on Oct. 23, was still not available on the list of commission projects with preliminary permits filed. Green Wave also filed on the same day an application for a wave energy plant off San Luis Obispo.

The newspaper had heard about the application in the rumor mill and was finally able to confirm the filing Wednesday morning, after weeks of non-response from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and others said to be involved.

The Chevron application, filed in July, was also not available on the commission’s Website until well after the newspaper broke that story.

A search of the terms Green Wave and Mendocino also failed to bring up the Green Wave Mendocino Wave Park Project, but the docket number was provided by the commission Wednesday morning. The Pacific Gas & Electric application off Fort Bragg has been the only application on which information was readily available.

The application reveals the GreenWave project site starts a half-mile from shore off the town of Mendocino and would be 2.5 miles wide (predominantly in the east-west direction) by 6.9 miles long. (roughly the same area as the Chevron application).

The application contains much boilerplate material, similar to that used in the other local applications, but suggests a bigger powerplant than the 40 megawatt envisioned by PG&E.

“The proposed site has the potential of producing 100 megawatts of electrical power, depending on the technology selected and spacing required, as well as physical, environmental, and regulatory constraints determined during the feasibility studies,” the filing states.

Green Wave lists a suite on East Thousand Oaks Boulevard as its offices, with Wayne L. Burkamp as president. Green Wave has no obvious Web presence and has issued no press releases about the proposal, but the filing mentions another firm to be involved.

“Green Wave estimates that during the preliminary permit period, studies, investigations, tests, surveys, maps, plans, and other related specifications for the proposed project will cost approximately between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 and will be funded by Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC,” the filing states.

The filing acts as a claim to the waters off Mendocino, in the same way as a mining claim, preventing others from making filings for three years.

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