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Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

FRANK HARTZELL, Fort Bragg Advocate News, June 11, 2010

Rising acidity of ocean waters will wipe out the world’s coral reefs and could devastate crab, scallops and other creatures that build shells from calcium compounds in ocean waters, a top professor told a Fort Bragg audience last Friday.

San Francisco State Professor Jonathon Stillman presented figures that showed the pH balance of ocean waters has tilted toward acid in the past 20 years. That’s nearly as much as it did in the previous 200 years, which were themselves a steady but slow increase over historical levels.

The bad news could be good news for Fort Bragg’s efforts to launch a marine science study center. Millions in study funding has already been pledged by various organizations to monitor new Marine Life Protected Areas. Ocean acidification and upwelling present further tasks critical to the planet’s future that a local marine study center could help with, locals said.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative is a public-private effort to create a connected array of new areas of the ocean where fishing uses are prohibited or restricted. The MLPAI is a private organization authorized by the state and funded by the Resources Legacy Foundation Fund to gather public input and create the proposed maps of closed areas.

Stillman presented preliminary experimental data that showed disturbing changes to mollusks, crustaceans and even fish, including decreasing shell-building and creature size.

Rising proof about the impacts of global climate change and acidification show that coral reefs will actually be melted in this century if current rates of acidification continue.

Perhaps most distressing to the crowd of about 40 people was that the life-giving upwelling off the Mendocino Coast actually adds to acidification by bringing up more acidic deep waters.

The more upwelling, the more acidic waters become.

Ocean acidification is caused by atmospheric carbon dissolving in the oceans. Ocean acidity has been rising since the beginning of the industrial revolution, as factories, cars and even cows have pumped out increasing amounts of carbon dioxide. About 30% of carbon released into the atmosphere ends up in the oceans.

Stillman was both harried and delighted by the steady barrage of questions from the audience. Many were complex and scientific in nature such as queries from geologist Skip Wollenberg and seaweed harvester Tomas DiFiore.

Everybody seemed to have a question and got an answer from the professor:

  • Do rising salinity levels contribute? Answer: No and icecap melting means salinity is actually going down.
  • What about studying the winds that drive upwelling? Answer: Important question but too tangential.

Wollenberg wanted to know if the fossil record provided any warnings of what happens when oceans get more acid. Stillman said it does, but wanted time to share important recent studies on that subject before answering, and he ran out of time, due to all the questions and discussion.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative never came up, although, it has greatly raised local interest (and controversy) in ocean issues and local participation in solving problems with the oceans.

The talk was sponsored by COMPASS (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea) and OST (Ocean Science Trust). COMPASS seeks to help scientists like Stillman step outside the ivory tower and communicate complex topics to the general public.

“They are an effort to provide relevant science talks to our communities — which is such a treat,” said Jeanine Pfeiffer, a locally-based college science teacher who is also outreach coordinator for MLPAI. “I personally am thrilled to have free access to the types of seminars I used to be able to see on a weekly basis at UC Davis, but are so rare here on the coast, due to our remote location.”

Stillman provided no solutions, with his handout stating that reduced carbon output is the only solution to ocean acidification (as well as rising sea levels).

More scientific study of the oceans — like that locals hope to create with a science center on the former Georgia Pacific mill site — is critical to the survival of the planet, Stillman said.

“At present we cannot adequately predict how marine ecosystems as a whole will respond to ocean acidification and our ability to deal with (acidification) depends on how well we can predict its effects,” Stillman’s handout states.

State efforts to stem global climate change and prepare for rising sea levels were explained to the crowd by Sheila Semans, project specialist with the California Ocean Protection Council, the state agency that oversees the oceans.

She explained the sweeping Global Warming Solutions Act signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 that targets emission reductions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Among important specific actions she cited was the acquisition of Bay Area wetlands, mostly from the Cargill Corporation, another public-privatized effort (like MLPAI) financed by the Resources Legacy Foundation.

Unlike Georgia Pacific at the mill site, Cargill was allowed to convey tens of thousands of acres to the state before cleaning up toxic effects of generations of salt mining.

This reporter, accompanied by dissident Bay Area local environmentalists and Department of Fish and Game employees, toured miles of these former salt marshes, which support little life in many places. The state has little funding for a cleanup that could cost a billion.

Local critics of the acquisition process for the salt marshes (such as refuge friends organizations) say they were unable to influence the centralized marketing and acquisition process. After the massive land tracts were acquired amid much fanfare, problems with the amount paid and the extent of the cleanup needed emerged, as local critics had predicted.

The MLPAI effort pledges better follow up study, but many locals remain skeptical that study dollars or efforts will involve locals and those with hands-on familiarity with the local ocean.

– For an overview of climate change: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/

– California Climate Change portal: http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/

The site with videos addressing rising sea levels (and other topics): http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/visualization/index.html

– Cargill acquisition: http://baynature.org/articles/jul-sep-2007/highway-to-the-flyway/napa-sonoma-marshes

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Electric Light & Power, June 11, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JAMES RICKMAN, Seeking Alpha, June 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

Companies to Watch in the Developing Wave Power Industry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Hydro Turbines

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

Impulse Turbines

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

Reaction Turbines

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

Types of Hydropower Plants

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

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

Impoundment

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

The Future of Ocean and Wave Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PATRICK BLUM, International Herald Tribune, March 15, 2009

LISBON: Projects for wind and wave energy beset by technical snags and dwindling investment

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisIn July, a Pelamis wave power generator, an articulated steel machine like a giant semi-submerged sausage, was towed into the deep Atlantic, off the coast of Aguçadoura in northern Portugal, and attached to a floating mooring.

By September, two more Pelamis units, each capable of generating 750 kilowatts of electricity, had joined the first, about three miles, or five kilometers, off shore, and the Portuguese power utility Energias de Portugal was able to announce proudly that “the world’s first commercial wave power project,” was transmitting electricity to the national grid.

Costing about €9 million, or $11.5 million, the three machines were the first phase of a plan intended ultimately to be expanded to 28 units, with a total generating capacity of 21 megawatts — enough to power more than 15,000 homes and save more than 60,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide from being spewed into the skies by conventional power plants.

In mid-November all three were disconnected and towed back to land, where they now lie in Leixões harbor, near the city of Porto, with no date set for their return to operation.

So what went wrong?

First, there was a buoyancy problem, said Max Carcas, a spokesman for Pelamis Wave Power, the British company that designed and built the units and retained a 23% stake in the project. According to a report on ocean energy systems published by the International Energy Agency, foam-filled buoyancy tanks for the mooring installation leaked and needed to be replaced, delaying startup.

The buoyancy problem was resolved, Mr. Carcas said during a telephone interview this month, but other technical issues emerged, as could be expected in a prototype project. “Like all things new, you have niggles to work through, and we continue to do that.”

Then, the financial crisis kicked in.

The Aguçadoura wave farm was announced in September as a joint venture between Pelamis and a group of three promoters including EDP, the Portuguese electrical engineering company Efacec, and the asset manager Babcock & Brown, an Australia-based specialist in power and other infrastructure investments.

But, by November, as the global credit crunch and falling share markets took a deepening toll of highly leveraged investors, Babcock & Brown announced a major program of asset sales to pay down its debt: and the Portuguese partners pulled back from the venture.

“Babcock & Brown are in process of winding down and we’re looking at offers for all our assets,” Anthony Kennaway, a Babcock & Brown spokesman, said from London. “Pelamis is part of that. All our assets are for sale. We are not putting any more money into the project.”

Against that background, Mr. Carcas, of Pelamis, said that there was no timetable for returning the generators to sea.

“As soon as things are resolved,” he said. “Could be next week. Could be anything.”

Harnessing ocean power for energy seemed an ideal option for Portugal, a small country with no oil and limited resources, and a long Atlantic coastline south of the Bay of Biscay, famed for its fierce waves and storms.

Portugal now imports more than 80% of its energy supplies, far above the European Union average. Domestic power generation is heavily dependent on hydroelectric projects, which are vulnerable to big fluctuations in output, depending on seasonal weather conditions.

Ambitious government plans still aim for a radical transformation of Portugal’s energy profile, with as much as 60% of the country’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. That compares with an EU target of 20% for the union as a whole.

But the Aguçadoura project points up the risks of a strategy relying on cutting-edge, and potentially costly, technology. Whether or not the target is achievable, particularly in current economic conditions, is a subject of debate among the country’s renewable energy specialists.

“We assumed there would be no critical technical issues,” to hinder deployment of offshore generators, said Antonio Sarmento, director of the Wave Energy Center, WavEC, a Portuguese nonprofit organization that promotes ocean wave power generation.

“Also we assumed there would be no environmental impact and that the energy would be relatively cheap. So we were optimistic,” Mr. Sarmento said. “It’s an educated guess. We are still guessing. When you pick up a new technology and look at the future it’s difficult to say what will be.”

On the cost side, investments in ocean-based technologies “are very high and operating costs are not entirely negligible because you have the problem of corrosion from salt water,” said Colette Lewiner, head of the global energy and utilities sector at the French consultancy and services company Capgemini.

While the Aguçadoura partners put the cost of the first phase at a relatively modest €9 million, the true cost of such developments is difficult to calculate, said Hugo Chandler, a renewable energy analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris.

“Part of the problem is the absence of data,” he said. “Countries are still at an early stage and don’t want to reveal real costs.”

It’s a very young technology, Mr. Chandler said, but “the indications are that it is considerably more expensive than other technologies.”

Still, the Aguçadoura experience has not discouraged EDP from pursuing other high-tech ocean solutions. Last month it signed an agreement with Principle Power of the United States to develop and install a floating offshore wind farm off the Portuguese coast, one of the first projects of its kind in Europe.

The project would use proprietary Principle Power technology designed to allow wind turbines to be set in high-wind but previously inaccessible ocean locations where water depth exceeds 50 meters, or 164 feet. The agreement foresees commercial deployment in three phases, but sets no timetable.

Offshore wind power generation currently costs 50% to 100% more than equivalent onshore wind farms, according to a recent Capgemini report on clean technologies in Europe. But Portugal is eager to press ahead with the new technology. “Offshore wind is one of our key innovation priorities,” said the chief executive of EDP, António Mexia.

“The development of floating foundations for wind turbines is a prerequisite to the development of offshore wind farms world-wide, as areas in which the sea bed is less than 50 meters deep are scarce and fixed structures in deeper waters are economically not feasible,” he said.

Still, he noted, the agreement with Principle Power “is not a binding contract; there are a number of prerequisites, technical and financial, that need to be met.”

A €30 million first phase, covering development and infrastructure construction, could see a small, five megawatt floating generator in operation by the second half of 2012. But for that to happen, full funding would need to be in place “by the end of this semester,” Mr. Mexia said.

WavEC, meanwhile, has several wave power projects in the pipeline, including tests of prototype systems from three companies — WaveRoller, of Finland; Ocean Power Technologies of the United States; and Wavebob, of Ireland.

For sure, the economic recession and financial crisis are adding to the challenges facing such projects, as investors pull back. “There will be a pause, a slowdown, in renewable energy investment until we see the recovery,” said Ms. Lewiner, of Capgemini. But “these investments take time and you can’t sleep through the recession. These plants are needed.”

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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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MendoCoastCurrent from Platts Energy Podium, February 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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MendoCoastCurrent, February 11, 2009

President Obama chose two Silicon Valley notables as members of his new Economic Recovery Advisory Board.  The 15-member board shall advise Obama on decisions about the US economy and announced to spur Congress into passing legislation for his economic stimulus plan.

President Obama said he created a panel of outside advisers to enlist voices from “beyond the Washington echo chamber.”

Among his picks is Charles Phillips, president of Oracle and John Doerr, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who serves on the boards of Google, Amazon, and Symantec.

“We will meet regularly so that I can hear different ideas and sharpen my own, and seek counsel that is candid and informed by the wider world.”

The board is headed by Paul Volcker, the former US Federal Reserve chairman and one of Obama’s top economic advisers.

“We’re also going to count on these men and women to serve as additional eyes and ears for me as we work to reverse this downturn,” said Obama. “Many of them have a ground-level view of the changes that are taking place.”

Phillips became president of Oracle in May 2003 and was previously with (the then-investment bank and now-bank holding company), Morgan Stanley.

Doerr is a venture capitalist associated with KPCB, who’s backed quite a few big names of Silicon Valley in their early years. Like Compaq, Sun Microsystems, Intuit, Netscape, and Amazon. He’s also been a major advocate for carbon trading and green tech causes.

Other names on the board include Martin Feldstein, professor of economics at Harvard University; Jeffery Immelt, CEO of General Electric; and Robert Wolf, CEO of investment bank UBS Group Americas.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, February 4, 2009

imagesWind and solar energy have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 – 50% declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

“I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20% of its work force because of falling sales.

Much of the problem stems from the credit crisis that has left Wall Street banks reeling. Once, as many as 18 big banks and financial institutions were willing to help finance installation of wind turbines and solar arrays, taking advantage of generous federal tax incentives. But with the banks in so much trouble, that number has dropped to four, according to Keith Martin, a tax and project finance specialist with the law firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Wind and solar developers have been left starved for capital. “It’s absolutely frozen,” said Craig Mataczynski, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a wind developer. He projected his company would build just under half as much this year as it did last year.

The two industries are hopeful that President Obama’s economic stimulus package will help. But it will take time, and in the interim they are making plans for a dry spell.

Solar energy companies like OptiSolar, Ausra, Heliovolt and Sun Power, once darlings of investors, have all had to lay off workers. So have a handful of companies that make wind turbine blades or towers in the Midwest, including Clipper Windpower, LM Glasfiber and DMI.

Some big wind developers, like NextEra Energy Resources and even the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, a promoter of wind power, have cut back or delayed their wind farm plans.

Renewable energy sources like biomass, which involves making electricity from wood chips, and geothermal, which harnesses underground heat for power, have also been slowed by the financial crisis, but the effects have been more pronounced on once fast-growing wind and solar.

Because of their need for space to accommodate giant wind turbines, wind farms are especially reliant on bank financing for as much as 50 percent of a project’s costs. For example, JPMorgan Chase, which analysts say is the most active bank remaining in the renewable energy sector, has invested in 54 wind farms and one solar plant since 2003, according to John Eber, the firm’s managing director for energy investments.

In the solar industry, the ripple effects of the crisis extend all the way to the panels that homeowners put on their roofs. The price of solar panels has fallen by 25% in six months, according to Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, who said he expected a further drop of 10% by midsummer. (For homeowners, however, the savings will not be as substantial, partly because panels account for only about 60% of total installation costs.)

After years when installers had to badger manufacturers to ensure they would receive enough panels, the situation has reversed. Bill Stewart, president of SolarCraft, a California installer, said that manufacturers were now calling to say, “Hey, do you need any product this month? Can I sell you a bit more?”

The turnaround reflects reduced demand for solar panels, and also an increase in supply of panels and of polysilicon, a crucial material in many panels.

On the wind side, turbines that once had to be ordered far in advance are suddenly becoming available.

“At least one vendor has said that they have equipment for delivery in 2009, where nine months ago they wouldn’t have been able to take new orders until 2011,” Mr. Mataczynski of Renewable Energy wrote in an e-mail message. As he has scaled back his company’s plans, he has been forced to cancel some orders for wind turbines, forfeiting the deposit.

Banks have invested in renewable energy, lured by the tax credits. But with banks tightly controlling their money and profits, the main task for the companies is to find new sources of investment capital.

Wind and solar companies have urged Congress to adopt measures that could help revive the market. But even if a favorable stimulus bill passes, nobody is predicting a swift recovery.

“Nothing Congress does in the stimulus bill can put the market back where it was in 2007 and 2008, before it was broken,” said Mr. Martin, the tax lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke. “But it can help at the margins.”

The solar and wind tax credits are structured slightly differently, but the House version of the stimulus bill would help both industries by providing more immediate tax incentives, alleviating some of their dependency on banks.

Both House and Senate would also extend an important tax credit for wind energy, called the production tax credit, for three years; previously the industry had complained of boom-and-bust cycles with the credit having to be renewed nearly every year.

Over the long term, with Mr. Obama focused on a concerted push toward greener energy, the industry remains optimistic.

“You drive across the countryside and there’s more and more wind farms going up,” said Mr. Mattern of West Fargo. “I still have big hopes.”

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

wind-energy1

Architect Laurie Chetwood's Wind Dam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Program:

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

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

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

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

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MARIA DICKERSON, the Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2008

7nov07_solarAt a time when many investors are sticking money in their mattresses, Californians are putting it on their roofs.

Applications for state rebates to install solar panels hit their highest level ever in December, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy economy.

Residents filed a record 1,215 applications seeking solar subsidies this month, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. That’s the best showing in the program’s 24-month history, and December isn’t even finished. More than 18,000 California homeowners and businesses have applied for rebates over the last two years. Although not everyone who files this paperwork actually ends up installing solar, the figures are viewed as a reliable barometer of future demand.

A record 133 megawatts of solar photovoltaics have been installed in California so far this year, even as the state’s economy has stumbled.

Michelle Gerdes of Long Beach just lost her job as a designer for a dinnerware manufacturer. Her husband, Steve, works for an air-conditioning company whose business is slowing. But that didn’t stop the couple from buying $32,000 worth of photovoltaic panels that went up on their roof this month. The state rebate and a federal tax credit will reduce their out-of-pocket costs to about $17,000 — a substantial saving but still a big chunk of change. “We decided to just go for it,” said Michelle Gerdes, 44. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment . . . and it will definitely increase the value of our house.”

Coming in the midst of a deep recession, continued strong demand for solar has thrilled — and puzzled — officials who oversee the California Solar Initiative, which seeks to put panels on 1 million roofs in California within a decade. Consumers nationwide are in a serious spending funk. Even with California’s generous incentives, photovoltaic systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

New federal tax breaks have persuaded some homeowners to take the plunge, said Molly Sterkel, who manages rooftop solar efforts for the utilities commission.

Others are being enticed by new financing models pioneered in California that allow them to go solar for little or no money down. Add rising electricity rates in many parts of the state and turmoil in the financial markets, and some consumers are concluding that sunshine is their safest investment.

California is by far the nation’s leader in rooftop solar, with well over half the installed capacity.

“In an economic downturn, people are looking for ways to save money on things that they are going to do anyway,” said Nat Kreamer, founder of SunRun Inc., a San Francisco residential solar energy company. “Electricity is one of those fundamentals.”

Launched in January 2007, the California Solar Initiative is an attempt to push photovoltaics on a mass scale in California to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and shore up the state’s energy supply.

The goal is 3,000 megawatts installed by 2018, enough to displace five good-sized power plants.

Funded by utility ratepayers across the state, the $3-billion program offers rebates to Californians who install panels on their homes and businesses. Incentives vary. But refunds typically range from 20% to 50% of a system’s cost.

The incentives are structured to decline over time as demand grows, meaning Californians who act sooner will get the biggest refunds.

Rooftop solar will get even more attractive in January. Congress recently expanded federal investment tax credits for residential solar arrays. Starting next year, homeowners will be eligible for tax breaks of up to 30% of the entire cost of their projects. Those benefits had previously been capped at $2,000 per system.

“That has really spurred the market,” said Lyndon Rive, chief executive of SolarCity, a Foster City, Calif.-based solar installer. “Our cash sales have increased dramatically.”

For consumers who still can’t afford to purchase, SolarCity has a residential leasing option. It lets them put solar on their roofs without the hefty upfront costs. Customers cut their power bills while the rebates and tax credits flow to SolarCity, which maintains ownership of the panels.

The deal has proved so popular that it has turned SolarCity into the state’s largest installer of residential rooftop photovoltaics.

Kreamer’s SunRun offers a similar program known as a power purchase agreement. His company installs, maintains and owns the systems. Homeowners sign a long-term contract with SunRun for solar energy that’s priced below what they pay for conventional power.

Californians pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Rates in many parts of the state are rising.

The Gerdeses’ utility, Southern California Edison, is asking state regulators to allow it to collect more than $700 million extra from its ratepayers next year.

It won’t be coming from the Gerdeses. With solar panels now snug on their roof, the couple needn’t worry about rising electricity bills as the recession deepens.

“We can think about turning the hot tub back on now,” Michelle Gerdes said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MARGOT ROOSEVELT, The Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2008

california_mapCalifornia regulators adopted the nation’s first comprehensive plan to slash greenhouse gases on December 11th and characterized it as a model for President-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged an aggressive national and international effort to combat global warming.

The ambitious blueprint by the world’s eighth-largest economy would cut the state’s emissions by 15% from today’s level over the next 12 years, bringing them down to 1990 levels.

Approved by the state’s Air Resources Board in a unanimous vote, the 134 page plan lays out targets for virtually every sector of the economy, including automobiles, refineries, buildings and landfills. It would require a third of California’s electricity to come from solar energy, wind farms and other renewable sources — far more than any state currently requires.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been a vigorous advocate of the plan, vowed that it would “unleash the full force of California’s innovation and technology for a healthier planet.”

Businesses, however, are sharply divided.

Automakers oppose California’s pending crackdown on carbon dioxide emissions from cars, a regulation that more than a dozen states have pledged to adopt. Manufacturers want regulators to lower the cost of complying, saying it will lead to billions of dollars in higher electricity costs.

“This plan is an economic train wreck waiting to happen,” James Duran of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce told the board, saying that it would cause financial hardship to minority-owned companies.

But Bob Epstein, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, led a coalition of energy, technology and Hollywood executives, including Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, in endorsing the plan as a spur to the state’s lagging economy.

Investors have poured $2.5 billion into California cleantech companies in the first nine months of the year, up from $1.8 billion for all of 2007, he said, a level that eclipsed the software industry.

“This plan is a clear signal to investors to invest in California,” Epstein said.

Schwarzenegger, a sharp critic of President Bush’s opposition to climate legislation, said, “When you look at today’s depressed economy, green tech is one of the few bright spots out there.”

California’s plan will be “a road map for the rest of the nation,” he predicted.

After an aborted attempt last spring, Congress is expected to renew its efforts to craft climate legislation next year. Many of the elements in contention are addressed in California’s blueprint, including a cap and trade program that would allow industries to reduce emissions more cheaply.

In 18 months of public hearings and workshops, hundreds of people testified and more than 43,000 comments were submitted. More than 250,000 copies of the plan have been viewed or downloaded from the air board’s website in the last two months.

The state’s blueprint will be implemented over the next two years through industry specific regulations. Republican legislators have called on Schwarzenegger to delay the plan, citing the dire state of California’s economy and criticism of the air board’s economic models.

Fears were also expressed by city and county officials who said the plan’s effort to force land use changes infringes on local powers. Environmentalists want more ambitious strategies to curb the sprawl that has led to a rapid increase in driving, and thus in greenhouse gases.

Worldwide, emissions of planet warming gases, which are mainly formed by burning fossil fuels, have been growing far more rapidly than scientists had predicted. California is expected to experience severe damage from climate change by mid-century, including water shortages from a shrinking snowpack, increased wildfires, rising ocean levels and pollution aggravating heat waves.

Given the state’s fast growing population and sprawling suburban development, its emissions are on track to increase by 30% over 1990 levels by 2020. The new blueprint would slash the state’s carbon footprint over the next 12 years by a total of 174 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent of 4 metric tons for every resident.

Despite the reach of the state’s effort, it would barely make a dent in global warming: The state’s emissions account for about 1.5% of the world’s emissions. Nonetheless, air board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said California’s leadership has spurred other states to move ahead. “We are filling a vacuum left by inaction at the federal level,” she said.

More than two dozen states have committed to capping emissions since California passed its landmark 2006 global warming law, the trigger for this action by the Air Resources Board.

California has joined with four Canadian provinces and seven western states to form a regional cap and trade program. Under the program, the states would set a total allowable amount of emissions — as California did in its blueprint. Utilities and other large industries would be required to obtain allowances to cover their emissions. If companies cut emissions more than required, they can sell their extra emission reductions to firms that are not able to meet their targets.

A cap and trade system has been adopted in Europe, where it was initially fraught with logistical problems and afforded windfall profits to many industries. California’s system, which would apply to industries responsible for 85% of its emissions, is the most controversial aspect of its plan.

Groups representing low income residents of polluted urban areas testified that allowing industries to trade in emissions would lead to dirtier plants in their neighborhoods. Under California’s plan, industries would also be allowed to buy “offsets” — emission reductions from projects in other states, or possibly foreign nations, to avoid making their own reductions.

However, the board assuaged many environmentalists Thursday when it pledged that it would gradually move toward a system to auction 100% of greenhouse gas permits, rather than give the permits away for free, as was initially the case in Europe.

Bernadette del Chiaro, an energy analyst for Environment California, predicted the auctions could bring in $1 billion at the outset and up to $340 million per year by 2020.

“This is huge,” she said. “Revenue from polluters would be used to transit to a green economy.”

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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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MendoCoastCurrent, November 29, 2008

Ann Arbor, Michigan — Slow-moving ocean and river currents could be a new, reliable and affordable alternative energy source. A University of Michigan engineer has made a machine that works like a fish to turn potentially destructive vibrations in fluid flows into clean, renewable power.

The machine is called VIVACE. A paper on it is published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.

VIVACE is a device that may harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 2 miles per hour.) Most of the Earth’s currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.

VIVACE stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy. It doesn’t depend on waves, tides, turbines or dams. It’s a unique hydrokinetic energy system that relies on “vortex induced vibrations.”

Vortex induced vibrations are undulations that a rounded or cylinder-shaped object makes in a flow of fluid, which can be air or water. The presence of the object puts kinks in the current’s speed as it skims by. This causes eddies, or vortices, to form in a pattern on opposite sides of the object. The vortices push and pull the object up and down or left and right, perpendicular to the current.

These vibrations in wind toppled the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington in 1940 and the Ferrybridge power station cooling towers in England in 1965. In water, the vibrations regularly damage docks, oil rigs and coastal buildings.

“For the past 25 years, engineers—myself included—have been trying to suppress vortex induced vibrations. But now at Michigan we’re doing the opposite. We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature,” said VIVACE developer Michael Bernitsas, a professor in the U-M Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

Fish have long known how to put the vortices that cause these vibrations to good use.

“VIVACE copies aspects of fish technology,” Bernitsas said. “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.”

This generation of Bernitsas’ machine looks nothing like a fish, though he says future versions will have the equivalent of a tail and surface roughness a kin to scales. The working prototype in his lab is just one sleek cylinder attached to springs. The cylinder hangs horizontally across the flow of water in a tractor-trailer-sized tank in his marine renewable energy laboratory. The water in the tank flows at 1.5 knots.

Here’s how VIVACE works: The very presence of the cylinder in the current causes alternating vortices to form above and below the cylinder. The vortices push and pull the passive cylinder up and down on its springs, creating mechanical energy. Then, the machine converts the mechanical energy into electricity.

Just a few cylinders might be enough to power an anchored ship, or a lighthouse, Bernitsas says. These cylinders could be stacked in a short ladder. The professor estimates that array of VIVACE converters the size of a running track and about two stories high could power about 100,000 houses. Such an array could rest on a river bed or it could dangle, suspended in the water. But it would all be under the surface.

Because the oscillations of VIVACE would be slow, it is theorized that the system would not harm marine life like dams and water turbines can.

Bernitsas says VIVACE energy would cost about 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Wind energy costs 6.9 cents a kilowatt hour. Nuclear costs 4.6, and solar power costs between 16 and 48 cents per kilowatt hour depending on the location.

“There won’t be one solution for the world’s energy needs,” Bernitsas said. “But if we could harness 0.1% of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people.”

The researchers recently completed a feasibility study that found the device could draw power from the Detroit River. They are working to deploy one for a pilot project there within the 18 months.

This work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Autrhority, the DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative, and the Link Foundation. The technology is being commercialized through Bernitsas’ company, Vortex Hydro Energy.

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BRYAN WALSH, Time, November 20, 2008

a_lwindmill_1201Doug Morrell had already installed solar panels on his house in Coopersville, Michigan, but he was eager to get a little bit greener. So the 52-year-old Navy veteran bought something that might seem more at home in the Dutch countryside than in a small town in western Michigan: a personal wind turbine.

The 33-ft.-high (10 m) machine, whose blades span 7 ft. (2 m) in diameter, sits next to the pole barn 100 yd. (90 m) from Morrell’s home. (Turbines like Morrell’s convert the energy of the wind to electricity, while old windmills are geared for mechanical power, like pulling water from a well.)

On days with decent wind — which occur frequently enough, since he can feel the breeze from Lake Michigan — the $16,000 Swift wind turbine can generate 1.5 kilowatts (kW) an hour, i.e., enough to power the average lightbulb for 15 hours. Together with his solar array, that’s enough to take care of much of his electricity bill. “It’s clean energy we don’t have to dig for. It just comes right to us,” says Morrell. And best of all, he says, “it’s fun watching our meter run backward instead of forward.”

 

Thanks in part to a new tax credit put into place by Congress in October, owning your own wind turbine could be the next green trend. While it’s true that wind power has taken off in the U.S. — adding more in new capacity to the electrical grid last year than any other power source — most of that increase comes from utility wind farms, vast fields of turbines more than 300 ft. (90 m) tall.

For homeowners seeking renewable-energy sources, however, better-known solar power has always dominated. Home solar power currently generates 12 times as much energy as small wind power, which is defined as turbines that have a capacity of 100 kW or less (though most household turbines will produce 10 kW at most).

That’s partly because residential wind turbines require space and sky — at least half an acre of open land — to get access to consistent winds. Still, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), some 15 million homes in the U.S. fit that definition — and small turbines, unlike large wind farms, can be productive in weaker breezes, which puts more of the country into play, though the best areas are still windy spots like the Midwest or West Texas.

What’s really held back residential wind power has been the lack of federal subsidies, which have fed the growth of other renewables like solar and large-scale wind. “We’ve had zero federal assistance,” says Ron Stimmel, AWEA’s small wind expert.

But when Congress passed the bailout bill this fall, it added a 30% tax credit for small-wind projects, which Stimmel believes will enable the industry to grow 40% next year, even in a down market.

In other words, small wind may not be small potatoes for much longer. And that could be a boost for domestic green businesses as well: U.S. firms control 98% of the small-wind market, in contrast to large-scale wind and solar, in which foreign manufacturers dominate. “Since the tax credit, our phone has been ringing off the hook,” says Andy Kruse, a co-founder of Southwest Windpower, a major small-scale-turbine producer in Flagstaff, Ariz. “It’s really exciting to see the market coming to us.”

More than 20 states offer separate subsidies, including ever green California and Vermont. “The federal and state subsidies can make it feasible to get a quicker payback,” says Mike Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower, a small wind producer in Norman, Oklahoma.

Even so, buying your own windmill isn’t cheap. A turbine that could produce most of your family’s electricity might cost as much as $80,000 and take as long as two decades to pay back, depending on wind strength and state subsidies. (The 30% federal tax credit is currently capped at $4,000.)

Then there’s the height factor. Residential wind turbines are tall enough to potentially irritate neighbors and require reams of paperwork, especially for the 60 million Americans who belong to a community association. And even though many of the assumptions about small wind turbines aren’t true — they don’t make much noise, and the AWEA notes that sliding glass doors are a bigger risk to birds than residential wind turbines are — not everyone wants to fight the bureaucratic battles. “It can take a lot of court cases for a turbine owner just to be sure he can put one in,” says Stimmel.

But watt for watt, small wind is cheaper than residential solar, and for those willing to make the up-front investment, it can provide freedom from the electrical grid. Plus, in the eyes of some, there’s nothing more beautiful than a wind turbine spinning in the backyard. “It looks like a giant pinwheel and sounds like a plane off in the distance,” says Morrell. “I’d definitely recommend it.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, November 18, 2007

Developing Wave Energy in Coastal California: Potential Socio-Economic and Environmental Effects, authored by a team of scientists from H.T. Harvey and Associates, UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, UC Santa Cruz, the Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research, Planwest Partners and Humboldt State University, and jointly funded by the California Ocean Protection Council and the California Energy Commission, is now available for free download at www.resources.ca.gov/copc/.

In a letter announcing the report, California Secretary of State Mike Chrisman notes it reviews the social, economic and environmental issues associated with wave energy technologies in California, and identifies specific research needed to further evaluate its potential effects. He adds that it also identifies the largest information gaps in these social and ecological disciplines: environmental economics, nearshore physical processes, nearshore intertidal and benthic habitats, and the ecology of marine and anadromous fishes, marine birds and marine mammals.

At over 200-pages, MendoCoastCurrent is now digesting the long-awaited read.

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RenewableEnergyWorld.com, November 10, 2008

Finavera Renewables Inc. has announced that it plans to raise US $1,002,000 through a non-brokered private placement of 20,040,000 units at a price of $0.05 per unit. Each unit consists of one common share and one-half of a share purchase warrant, with each full warrant exercisable at $0.10 for 12 months from the date of closing of the private placement.

Proceeds of the placement will be used for the continued development of Finavera Renewables’ wind energy projects, primarily for the B.C. Peace Region projects and for general working capital.

The company filed the US $0.05 price reservation with the TSX Venture Exchange on November 3, 2008. Proceeds of the placement will be used for the continued development of Finavera Renewables’ wind energy projects, primarily for the B.C. Peace Region projects and for general working capital, Finavera said.

The company also announced that is has applied to extend the term of all 21,000,000 share purchase warrants issued pursuant to a December 2007 private placement. The warrants, exercisable at US $0.15 per share and initially issued for a term of twelve months, have been extended an additional year.

The move to fund Finavera’s wind businesses comes after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) decision to not allow a power purchase agreement between Finavera and PG&E for an ocean energy project to move forward. The CPUC cited concerns about the price of the electricity coming from the project specified under the PPA.

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TERRY MACALISTER, The Guardian/UK, November 7, 2008

BP has dropped all plans to build wind farms and other renewable schemes in Britain and is instead concentrating the bulk of its $8bn (£5bn) renewables spending programme on the US, where government incentives for clean energy projects can provide a convenient tax shelter for oil and gas revenues.

The decision is a major blow to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, who has promised to sweep away all impediments to ensure Britain is at the forefront of the green energy revolution. BP and Shell – which has also pulled out of renewables in Britain – are heavily influential among investors.

BP has advertised its green credentials widely in the UK and has a representative on the ruling board of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA). But it said difficulty in getting planning permission and lower economies of scale made the UK wind sector far less attractive than that of the US.

“The best place to get a strong rate of return for wind is the US,” said a BP spokesman, who confirmed the group had shelved ideas of building an onshore wind farm at the Isle of Grain, in Kent, and would not bid for any offshore licences.

BP has enormous financial firepower as a result of recent very high crude oil prices. Its move away from wind power in Britain follows a decision by Shell to sell off its stake in the London Array project off Kent, potentially the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

Shell gave the same reasons as BP for that move, saying the economics of UK wind were poor compared to those onshore across the Atlantic, where incoming president Barack Obama has promised to spend $150bn over 10 years to kick start a renewable energy revolution .

BP said about $1.5bn would be spent next year on US wind projects and the company expected to spend the $8bn up to the year 2015.

BP is still proceeding with some limited solar, biofuels and other schemes, but the vast majority of its time and energy is now being concentrated on wind. By the end of 2008, BP expects to have one gigawatt of US wind power installed and plans to have trebled this by 2010.

The BWEA shrugged off BP’s decision. “The offshore wind market is evolving and getting stronger. Different investors will come and go at different stages of the development cycle. But whoever the players are, we know that the offshore industry will be generating massive amounts of electricity for the UK market in the next few years,” said a spokesman.

Britain is not the only country to miss out on BP’s largesse. The company said yesterday it was also pulling out of China, India and Turkey, where it had also been looking at projects.

BP had formed a joint venture with Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment Company, a subsidiary of Goldwind, China’s largest turbine maker. The two companies had signed a deal in January under which they planned 148.4MW of wind capacity in Inner Mongolia, China’s main wind power region. BP had also started building two wind farms in India and was considering schemes in Turkey. It is now expecting to sell off the Indian facilities and halt work in Turkey.

Green campaigners have been highly sceptical about BP’s plans to go “beyond petroleum” and feared that the company’s new chief executive, Tony Hayward, would drop this commitment, started under his predecessor, John Browne.

The company has always insisted it remained keen to look at green energy solutions and has been investing in biofuels operations in Brazil. BP is also in the middle of a major marketing campaign, with huge posters on the London Underground boasting of its moves to diversify into wind and other energy sources.

The Carbon Trust, a government-funded organisation established to help Britain move from carbon to clean energy, recently published a major report warning ministers that the costs of building wind farms offshore was too high. There was speculation that BP was a major influence on that study, which proposed that turbines should be allowed to be placed much nearer to the shore.

The Crown Estate, which has responsibility for UK inshore waters, is still confident that a long-awaited third offshore wind licensing round in the North Sea will attract a record number of bidders. It has already registered 96 companies, although it has not released names and BP and Shell will clearly be absent.

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MARTIN LAMONICA, CNET, November 5, 2008

Energy and environmental policy is poised for dramatic change under an Obama administration even with a slumping economy.

With the incoming administration and Congress, renewable energy advocates and environmentalists said they anticipate a comprehensive national energy plan focused on fostering clean-energy technologies.

“The election is over. Now the hard work begins,” wrote Dan Farber, a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the lobbying group Cleantech & Green Business for Obama. “Change is on the way.”

Obama’s energy plan, detailed fully earlier this year, is ambitious. It calls for a $150 billion investment in clean technologies over 10 years, aggressive targets for greenhouse emission reductions, and programs to promote energy efficiency, low-carbon biofuels, and renewable energies.

But a troubled economy–among other barriers–means that bold, new energy legislation, notably caps on greenhouse gas emissions, is unlikely to pass in the first years of an Obama administration, according to experts.

Instead, the Obama presidency is expected to first push for smaller yet significant measures, such as efficiency and renewable energy mandates, and then lay the groundwork for far-reaching climate initiatives, they said.

“One of the biggest setbacks is trying to find the money to pay for all of this. This isn’t free,” said David Kurzman, managing director of Kurzman CleanTech Research. “Reality will set in and trying to find money…is really going to temper the possibilities over the next 12 months.”

Winners and losers
Cleantech company executives note that during the campaign, Obama articulated his belief that environmental protection and economic development can be closely related. During Obama’s acceptance speech Tuesday night, his reference to “new energy to harness and new jobs to be created” could be read in two ways–a call for political involvement or for alternative-energy sources.

In an interview with Time magazine in October 2008, he said, “From a purely economic perspective, finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.”

Cleantech professionals expect that energy and the environment, which were hot-button issues during the campaign, to continue to command the attention of politicians and the electorate. And the combination of a Democratic-controlled Congress and Obama administration means that government stimulus spending targeted at the energy business is a strong possibility.

“There’s a growing sense that investing in infrastructure, even if it means more deficit spending, is a good thing because it will help economic growth in the short and long term,” said Ethan Zindler of research firm New Energy Finance. “And green energy has come to be regarded as a 21st-century infrastructure play.”

Some technologies stand to benefit more than others if Obama’s administration is successful in implementing its proposals.

Renewable energies. Obama has called for a national renewable portfolio standard to mandate that utilities get 10% of electricity from renewable sources–wind, solar, and geothermal–by 2012, and 25% by 2025. “That’s the backbone the country needs to invest in,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

Although more than half the states already have renewable portfolio standards, many southern states have balked at national standards because they say they do not have sufficient renewable energy resources.

In this case, having an activist federal government, as Obama’s proposals suggest, may meet resistance from the states because electric utilities are regulated by a mix state and federal agencies. “It’s not just a question of money. It’s also a question of governance and public policy,” said Jim Owen, a representative for the Edison Electrical Institute.

In the recently passed financial bailout package, solar energy received an eight-year extension of federal tax credits, while wind received only a one-year extension. The election increases the chances that wind energy will be extended further.

Efficiency and smart grid technology. Obama’s plan calls for a power grid modernization program and stricter building efficiency codes in federal buildings. That means efficiency products such as demand response, advanced metering and sensors to monitor usage should further benefit from government incentives, said Kurzman.

A federal initiative to establish interconnection standards and bulk up interstate transmission lines would make power generation of all kinds more efficient and allow utilities to use more renewable sources. “A 50-state role to transmission just doesn’t get the job done. You need a federal planning and facilitation,” said Rob Church, vice president of research and industry analysis at the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

Biofuels. Hailing from the corn-producing state of Illinois, Obama is expected to continue supporting ethanol. However, Brooke Coleman, executive director of the New Fuels Alliance, noted that Obama appears to understand that the biofuels industry needs to transition to nonfood feedstocks, such as wood chips or algae, in order to be sustainable.

Coleman said that strong federal policies are required for biofuels to crack into the fossil fuel industry.

“There is not a free market in the fuel sector. There’s no real competition in the wholesale supply chain–it’s completely owned by oil,” Coleman said. “You have to be pretty heavy-handed to fundamentally correct this market.”

Auto. Obama has called for increasing fuel efficiency, tax credits for plug-in hybrid cars, and loan guarantees so that automakers can “retool.”

But struggling auto makers–said to be running dangerously low on cash–will need government aid in the coming months to prevent larger harm to the economy, argued David Cole, the chairman for the Center for Automotive Research. For that reason, he expects government leaders of all kinds to be supportive.

“Politically, the issue here is pretty stark and cost of keeping the auto industry in game is whole lot less than of a major failure,” Cole said.

Fossil fuels and nuclear. During the campaign, Obama said he would allow increased domestic oil and gas drilling as well as investments in so-called clean coal technology where carbon emissions are stored underground. Companies that have coal gasification technologies stand to benefit because they are cleaner source of electricity, said Kurzman.

In the campaign, Obama voiced caution on storing nuclear waste. But during the second presidential debate, Obama said he backs nuclear power “as one component of our overall energy mix.”

Skip Bowman, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said Tuesday he expects the new Congress and administration to continue its support of nuclear because it addresses energy and climate change.

Counting carbon
Longer term, the broadest policy change on energy and environment will be climate-change regulations. Obama has called for an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050 through a federal cap and trade system. Pollution rights would be auctioned, at least partially, which would create a fund for clean technology programs.

Large polluters, like chemical companies and utilities that rely heavily on coal, are the ones that will be most affected. But given that there is stronger political will to tackle energy security than climate change, policies to promote domestic energy production and efficiency are likely to take precedence over cap and trade, said New Energy Finance’s Zindler.

Still, the new administration can accomplish a great deal on renewable energy without having to pass multibillion-dollar legislation, said Scott Sklar, a renewable energy lobbyist and president of the Stella Group. Using only the federal government’s purchasing power to integrate green building technologies and addressing grid interconnection issues, for example, can be done without passing laws.

“Existing programs can be tweaked to accommodate the new vision,” Sklar said. “Depending on how you structure things, you could have a quick and profound impact on new technologies.”

New Fuel Alliance’s Coleman said that the biggest danger to the Obama administration and new Congress is not “overplaying their hand” and pushing more extreme environmental policies.

“I firmly believe that the linchpin to this entire game is allowing agriculture to play a role in diversifying our energy, whether it be wind, solar, using rural areas for geothermal or wind corridors,” he said. “More extreme positions like trying to end coal result in failure and missed opportunities.”

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MATT NAUMAN, San Jose Mercury News, October 27, 2008

The California Public Utilities Commission rejected a Pacific Gas & Electric contract for wave energy, saying the utility was going to pay too much for a technology that’s still largely experimental.

Last December, PG&E said it would be the first utility in the nation to get energy from ocean waves after signing a power purchase agreement with Finavera Renewables, which planned to operate a “wave farm” about 21/2 miles off the coast of Eureka. The deal was for 2 megawatts of power starting in 2012.

But the California PUC this month nixed the deal, saying wave energy technology was “in a nascent stage” and that Finavera’s system was “not currently viable.” The commission noted that a prototype buoy deployed by Finavera off the Oregon coast in 2007 sank before its six week test period was concluded.

The CPUC, which oversees power deals and rate hikes from the state’s big utilities, also said the San Francisco utility was going to pay too high a price for the wave-energy contract. The financial terms of power deals are not released publicly.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision,” PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer said. The utility will continue to pursue wave energy projects, she said, including through its Emerging Renewables Resource Program proposal that would fund two wave projects off the Mendocino County and Humboldt County coast that’s currently waiting PUC approval.

In a letter to the PUC, Brian Cherry, PG&E’s vice president of regulatory relations, said the rejection of the deal would have “a chilling effect on wave development in California.” The rejection will send wave companies to states other than California, he wrote.

Finavera Renewables, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said the decision puts California “out of step” with the policies of the federal government, other states and cities. CEO Jason Bak said Finavera would try to form a private wave-energy consortium to diversify the risk and attract more funding for wave-energy technology. He also said the company would now focus on its wind projects in Canada and Ireland.

A report released Monday suggested that wave energy has great potential to be a source of renewable power. While only about 10 megawatts of ocean power have been installed worldwide to date, a report by researcher Greentech Media and the nonprofit Prometheus Institute found that could grow to 1 gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of power by 2015. In California, 1 megawatt of power is enough to provide electricity for 750 homes.

More than $4 billion will be invested in ocean-wave research and the construction of wave farms over the next six years, the report says.

Daniel Englander, co-author of that report, doesn’t see the CPUC decision as a death blow for wave energy projects. “PG&E picked the wrong company,” he said. “Finavera isn’t a bad company, it’s just that their technology isn’t at a stage where it’s ready to deliver power commercially.”

Still, he expects several companies will have production-ready ocean power systems capable of delivering 2 megawatts or more within five years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PETER SLEVIN, The Washington Post, August 18, 2008

DENVER — When Colorado voters were deciding whether to require that 10% of the state’s electricity come from renewable fuels, the state’s largest utility fought the proposal, warning that any shift from coal and natural gas would be costly, uncertain and unwise.

Then a funny thing happened. The ballot initiative passed, and Xcel Energy met the requirement eight years ahead of schedule. And at the government’s urging, its executives quickly agreed to double the target, to 2%.

In Colorado — a state historically known for natural gas and fights over drilling — wind and solar power are fast becoming prominent parts of the energy mix. Wind capacity has quadrupled in the past 18 months, according to Gov. Bill Ritter (D), and Xcel has become the largest provider of wind power in the nation.

The politics and economics of energy are shifting here in ways that foretell debates across the country as states create renewable-energy mandates and the federal government moves toward limiting carbon emissions. One advocate calls Colorado “ground zero” for the looming battle over energy.

Despite a continuing boom, oil and gas companies here are on the defensive. They are spending heavily as they try to prevent the repeal of as much as $300 million in annual tax breaks that would be shifted to investment in renewables and other projects.

The industry, already facing a rebellion among some longtime supporters angered by its toll on the environment, also finds itself in a fight against new regulations designed to protect wildlife and public health from the vast expansion in drilling. Beyond the merits, the proposals reflect the strengthened hand of environmentalists and their friends who feel that the fossil-fuel companies have held sway too long.

“Now is a terrific time for renewables to launch. I hope they get all the capital they need, and all the great minds and talent. But I don’t want it to come at the expense of the oil and gas industry,” said Meg Collins, president of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. “As goes Colorado, so goes the West, as far as this energy policy debate.”

State leaders are thrilled with the economic benefits that have come with the hundreds of new research and manufacturing jobs in pursuit of alternative power. Yet the fledgling renewables industry is also facing challenges, from a desire for tax credits of its own to a need for a stronger transmission grid that will make power more portable.

“The future in Colorado is building wind farms in wheat fields,” said Ritter, a former Denver prosecutor, recalling the 2006 campaign pitch that helped carry him into the governor’s office. “Quite frankly, it’s how we should have been thinking for 10 years.”

Ten years ago, Xcel began offering wind-generated electricity, but it was a niche market for eco-conscious customers willing to pay extra. That changed in a significant way after 2004, when Xcel lost the referendum fight.

After legislative efforts failed, proponents of renewable energy turned to the ballot that year. The initiative, Amendment 37, required the state’s biggest utilities to generate 10% of their electricity from renewable sources. Advocates found themselves facing off against Xcel, which said it feared for its bottom line.

“We ended up opposing that amendment. In retrospect, I wish we hadn’t,” said Frank Prager, Xcel’s vice president for environmental policy. He said utility companies are inherently conservative, yet find themselves facing a transformation in an industry that, as he put it, has changed little since Thomas Edison’s time.

Voters rejected the utility industry’s arguments and approved the measure, making Colorado the first state to mandate renewable-energy use at the ballot box. Today, legislatures in more than 25 states have set prescribed levels, known formally as “renewable portfolio standards.”

“It was one of those cases where the public was ahead of the politicians,” said Tom Plant, Ritter’s top energy strategist.

Once Xcel executives began to come to terms with the new rules, they discovered that federal tax credits made wind power affordable, especially in relation to rising natural gas prices. The cost of wind power is relatively constant and provides a hedge against future emissions regulation, such as the cap-and-trade approach favored by presidential candidates Barack Obama (D) and John McCain (R).

“It was good for the system,” Xcel’s Prager said, referring to the utility’s mix of energy sources, “and it was good for the customer.”

By the end of 2007, Xcel had met Amendment 37’s goal and endorsed Ritter’s request to double it to 20% by 2020. That measure passed the Colorado legislature easily: With the utility on board and public sentiment clear, the bill collected 50 sponsors in the 65-member House.

Executives at publicly traded Xcel stress their twin desires to make money and to insulate the company from the risks of unproven technology. As Prager put it during an interview in the company’s downtown Denver headquarters: “It’s absolutely essential that the state offer us something that makes it worth our while to be green.”

Amendment 37 allows utilities to collect a fee from customers to invest in renewable fuels; it averages $12.72 a year for a typical homeowner with a monthly bill of $73. When the renewables goal doubled last year, so did the fee. Prager said the fee has provided Xcel $37.6 million between March 2006 and July 2008 for capital investment in wind and solar.

Colorado is adding wind-power capacity at a higher rate than any other state, its hundreds of turbines delivering one gigawatt of generating power at the end of 2007. That is triple the total of 12 months earlier. Six states produce more than one gigawatt with wind, with Texas far in front and California second.

Solar power remains a small part of the equation in Colorado, in part because concentrated solar generation is expensive. Xcel is sponsoring an 80-acre field of photovoltaic panels in the San Luis Valley, a project expected to provide 8.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 1,500 homes. But only 4% of Xcel’s renewable megawattage is required to come from solar.

Meanwhile, Xcel’s latest plan, filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, calls for retiring two of its aging coal-fired power generators.

“We’ve reached this critical point where we’re seeing the deployment of these technologies accelerate,” said John Nielsen, an energy analyst with the nonprofit environmental group Western Resource Advocates. “There was slow progress over the last decade, and you’re now seeing this tipping point.”

Among the signs is the arrival of Vestas, a Danish wind turbine company, which announced Friday the construction of two more manufacturing plants and 1,350 new jobs, bringing the company’s total in Colorado to 2,450. Conoco Phillips announced this year that it will locate its alternative-fuels research operation in the state. The Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory is adding 100 jobs.

Colorado’s growing political and economic commitment to renewables is causing fear in the oil and gas industry, which is fighting to keep its tax breaks and its influence over state rulemaking.

“We’re not feeling very cherished,” said Collins, whose oil and gas association represents more than 30 companies. The group objects to an initiative on the ballot in November; it would eliminate the industry’s 87.5% property tax exemption, estimated to cost the state treasury $230 million to $320 million a year.

If the ballot rule passes, the tax money will be channeled to renewable fuels, wildlife conservation and education. The industry also objects to proposed rules that would require greater public health and environmental protection in areas where drilling takes place.

“It could have been done in a different way, and things wouldn’t have gotten so heated,” Collins said.

Alice Madden, the Democratic majority leader in the Colorado House, looks at the oil and gas industry today and recalls Xcel before the passage of Amendment 37. She has little sympathy for Collins’s arguments, especially at a time when oil and gas profits are soaring.

“It’s Chicken Little all over again: ‘The sky is going to fall,’ ” said Madden, who also chairs Western Progress, an advocacy group. “The oil and gas companies see the writing on the wall, the shift to renewables. They want to make as much money as they can, right now.”

Looking ahead, supporters of alternative fuels are counting on securing some advantages their fossil-fuel predecessors have enjoyed. One request is the renewal of a federal tax credit set to expire this year. Another, Prager said, is “some clear rules on the national level, especially on climate policy.”

With 34,000 active gas wells in Colorado and 28 new permits issued each day, there is no chance that the oil and gas industry will fade away soon. And, as powerfully as the wind blows and the sun shines, the transmission grid for renewable energy is limited and the strength of the current is unsure.

“Unlike a coal plant or a gas plant,” Prager said, “you can’t flip a switch and make the wind blow.”

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EnvironmentalResearchWeb.org, Jul 22, 2008

Of all the renewable technologies, wave and tidal energy is currently the most expensive way of producing energy. But a project in the UK hopes to help this technology move along the learning curve and bring down costs.

When installed in 2010, Wave Hub will be the world’s first large-scale wave farm. Just off the coast of Cornwall in south-west England, Wave Hub will consist of four berths, each with a maximum capacity of 5 MW. These four berths will be connected to onshore electrical equipment via a 25 km long sub-sea cable. The water at the deployment site is approximately 50 metres deep and the project will cover an area of sea measuring 4 km by 2 km.

Wave Hub is designed to be a place where companies and researchers can develop and test their marine energy devices as a final stage towards commercialisation. Each wave device developer will be granted a lease of between five and 10 years in an area of approximately two square kilometres. The total number of devices to be deployed at Wave Hub is not expected to exceed 30.

“Getting planning consent for marine energy devices can be a lengthy and challenging process which often slows down their development,” says Nick Harrington, general manager for the Wave Hub project at the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA). “Wave Hub provides companies with a consented sea area in which to test their devices. It also provides a grid connection, monitoring and testing support, a power purchase agreement, access to suppliers and a research base, and opportunities to collaborate with other companies.”

In order to get planning consent for Wave Hub, the SWRDA carried out a detailed environmental impact assessment. This involved an analysis of the potential impacts of the project on different parts of the environment. This includes the effects of laying the cable (most of which will be offshore) and the impacts of the likely arrays of wave energy devices on marine ecology, fisheries, recreational users and navigation.

“The environmental impact of the Wave Hub will be much lower than other proposed schemes such as the Severn Tidal Barrage,” says Harrington. “The devices float on the water and will have very little impact on waves reaching the shore. There will be very little terrestrial land-take, with only one cable coming ashore, terminating near the site of a disused power station.”

Harrington believes the construction of Wave Hub could be very quick, taking about eight weeks to complete, but admits there are still some major challenges ahead before Wave Hub is finally installed. “We are conscious that the economic environment is quite challenging. The rising cost of oil has led to a boom in oil and gas exploration, which has increased substantially the cost of hiring vessels needed to install Wave Hub. Volatile markets have also seen significant increases in the cost of copper, which has increased the cost of the cable that will be laid between Wave Hub and the mainland.”

The first four berths have already been allocated to Oceanlinx, Ocean Power Technologies, Fred Olsen and WestWave, a consortium of E.On and Ocean Prospect.

“Wave and tidal energy is currently in the same position on the learning curve that wind energy was a few years ago,” says Harrington. “Doing anything at sea is costly and difficult but Wave Hub will help companies bring those costs down and help make wave energy a viable renewable energy solution for the future. The UK has one of the largest wave energy resources in Europe. Allowing for technical, practical and environmental limitations, according to The Carbon Trust, wave energy could generate up to one sixth of the UK’s electricity consumption. By 2020 the wave energy market in the UK could by worth £0.2 billion.”

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JIM STINSON, Gannett News Service, July 2, 2008

The staff of the state Public Service Commission has again advised its five-member board to disapprove the $4.5 billion sale of Energy East Corp. to Iberdrola SA, but staffers have added a big “however” on wind farms.

In a brief filed in the long-running case, the PSC staff has offered alternatives if the five public service commissioners approve the sale, according to James Denn, PSC spokesman.

Iberdrola, the European utility giant and global leader in wind turbine farms, would be allowed to own and operate wind farms within Energy East territory, but with public benefits attached to the agreement.

The staff recommended that Iberdrola’s $2 billion proposal to invest in New York be tied to possible ratepayer rebates. The PSC staff said that to ensure the promise to build more wind farms in New York, the state could set aside $200 million of Iberdrola cash to be returned to ratepayers if the investment never happens.

The alternative proposal, known as Exception 6 in the PSC reply brief, comes after months of criticism and speculation regarding PSC’s opposition to letting Iberdrola buy Energy East.

Energy East owns Rochester Gas and Electric and New York State Electric & Gas. Iberdrola’s plans to keep and build wind farms in the service area have brought controversy but also support from public officials and environmentalists.

The PSC has disallowed distributors of electricity from owning sources of electricity.

In a June 16 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Rafael Epstein, the five-member board of the PSC was encouraged to disapprove the deal, a decision which backed up PSC staff but brought howls from such leaders as Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Done correctly, this merger can reduce costs and make New York a leader in providing clean, cheap wind power,” Schumer said. “The acquisition can reduce rates for customers and help to create jobs and billions of dollars of investment in upstate New York. I am glad the PSC staff has recognized this win-win-win, and hope the PSC Commissioners will quickly follow suit.”

Energy East made the offer in May 2007.

Iberdrola officials said the Madrid-based company would walk away from the bid if New York enforced the rule.

The sale of Energy East has already been approved by the federal government and every other state Energy East operates in.

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ED HENRY, RICHARD GREENE, BRIANNA KEILER, HUSSEIN SADDIQUE, ALI VELSHI, CNN, June 18, 2007

Washington — President Bush asked Congress Wednesday to permit drilling for oil in deep water off America’s coasts to combat rising oil and gas prices.

“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a Rose Garden statement.

Bush also renewed his demand that Congress allow drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, clear the way for more refineries and encourage efforts to recover oil from shale in areas such as the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Bush said that the basin potentially contains more than three times as much recoverable oil as Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves, and that the high price of oil makes it profitable to extract it.

“In the short run, the American economy will continue to rely largely on oil, and that means we need to increase supply here at home,” said Bush, adding there is no more pressing issue than gas prices for many Americans.

The White House estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil offshore that have not been exploited because of state bans, 10 billion to 12 billion in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, and 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Green River Basin. However, much of the U.S. oil is difficult or impossible to extract under current law.

As for gas prices, resuming offshore exploration would not be a quick fix.

“If we were to drill today realistically speaking we should not expect a barrel of oil coming out of this new resource for three years, maybe even five years, so let’s not kid ourselves,” said Fadel Gheit, oil and gas analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. Equity Capital Markets Division. But it almost certainly would be profitable.

Candida Scott, an oil industry researcher at Cambridge Research Associates, said oil needs to be priced at $60 a barrel or more to justify deep-shelf drilling. With oil now selling for $134 a barrel, companies are almost assured of profiting from offshore drilling, Scott said.

“For years, the president has pushed Congress to expand our domestic oil supply, but Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked such action,” White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told CNN before Bush spoke. She added, “As with several existing Republican congressional proposals, he wants to work with states to determine where offshore drilling should occur, and also for the federal government to share revenues with the states. The president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.” Democrats were quick to reject Bush’s proposal.

“After eight years, President Bush and [Vice President] Dick Cheney have turned the GOP into the Gas and Oil Party. That’s the legacy that they are going to leave,” said Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“The White House has become a ventriloquist for the oil and gas industry, repeating the requests of the oil and gas industry — that they be allowed to destroy the most pristine areas of our country,” Markey added.

Congressional Democrats last week introduced a bill to compel oil companies to begin utilizing federal land they already lease.

“Oil companies are sitting on 68 million acres they have already leased from the American people for the purpose of oil and natural gas production,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey.

“It is about time they use these resources already at their disposal instead of waiting for more federal handouts and pushing to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or up and down our coasts,” he added.

Bush’s request came a day after presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain issued the same call at a campaign event in Houston, Texas.

“We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States,” he said. “But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.” He said lifting the ban could be done “in ways that are consistent with sensible standards of environmental protection.”

Opponents of offshore drilling say it would harm aquatic ecosystems by eroding wetlands, contaminating the water with chemicals, polluting the air, killing fish and dumping waste.

McCain made clear that he favors continuing the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed. When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a “refuge” for a reason,” he said.

McCain’s plan would let individual states decide whether to explore drilling possibilities.

According to his campaign, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama wants to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to establish a green energy sector, create a national low-carbon fuel standard to ensure that the fuel is more efficient, and invest in clean energies +50 miles off the Florida coast – by Cubans, not Americans, with help from China and other allies. A rich undersea oil field stretches into Cuban waters near the Florida Keys.

“The people I represent can’t understand how we can possibly let China end up with rights to our oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico because we say we’re not going to do it and they say, ‘OK, we’ll do it and we’ll work with Cuba, if we have to, to do it,'” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tennessee. “That’s really asinine.”

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LEWIS PAGE, The Register, May 1, 2008

Oil giant Shell has pulled out of the world’s biggest wind farm project, in a move which has cast doubt over the scheme’s future. The £2bn London Array, intended to be built in the Thames Estuary, will need to find a new backer in order to proceed.

For the London Array Project, Shell was partnered with UK power operator E.ON and Dong Energy, the firm behind much of the substantial Danish wind power base. E.ON chief Paul Golby has suggested that Shell’s pullout could torpedo the scheme. “Shell has introduced a new element of risk into the project which will need to be assessed,” said Golby. “The current economics of the project are marginal at best,” he added, citing steel costs and supply bottlenecks – and this despite the fact the UK government renewable energy quota system is currently said to be offering a bonanza for wind power operators.

Offshore wind farm projects like the London Array are thought by renewables advocates to be the main answer to the UK’s energy needs. They could allow the construction of taller windmills than would be practical ashore; and would potentially be able to reap the benefit of more predictable winds, less affected by terrain and surface phenomena.

The London Array would be the biggest ever, filling the channel in the outer Thames Estuary between the Kentish Knock and Long Sands banks with up to 341 turbines. This is one of the few areas of the estuary where it wouldn’t be in the middle of a heavily used shipping lane, though looking at typical vessel movement in the immediate area you’d have to say there’s still some risk of collisions.

When fully operational, it would make a substantial contribution to the UK Government’s renewable energy target of providing 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010… it is expected that the project would represent nearly 10 per cent of this target. The entire Array would generate one per cent of the UK’s electricity. Wind farm planners like to describe their capacity in terms of maximum possible output, assuming all turbines spinning at best speed – this is the 1,000 megawatts referred to above.

In reality, the wind is seldom blowing at just the right speed. Sometimes the turbines stop altogether, due to flat calms or strong gales; mostly they run at much less than max output. The Array, on average the project would put out 3,100 gigawatt-hours per annum, equating to average output of 354 megawatts rather than 1,000. The London Array at full power could have delivered 0.88 per cent of that; on current trends, by the time it’s built you’d be looking at 0.77 or so.

Still, it sounds better to say “we will deliver nearly 10 per cent of the government’s target” than “we will deliver a fraction of a percentage point of the UK’s electricity”.

And electricity is just one of the ways we use energy. There’s also transport fuel, gas, heating oil, etc. The UK actually used a total of 2,700 terawatt hours of energy in 2006. The conversions between tons of oil and gigawatt-hours are at the back.) That’s a ballpark figure for how much we’d need in order to switch to electric or hydrogen transport, stop using gas heating, to generally stop emitting carbon and be ready for the inevitable post-fossil-energy future.

In other words, the mighty London Array, fully operational, would deliver roughly a thousandth of Blighty’s energy needs. You can see why Shell doesn’t view it as a critical part of its future business.

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The World, Worldwide Ocean Energy News, April 12, 2008

Sport and commercial fishermen, members from related marine industries and Ocean Power Technologies representative Steve Kopf met again Wednesday — and made tentative progress on rebuilding trust.

A robust agenda that included discussing the difference between a traditional licensing process and an integrated licensing process — two different ways a wave energy company can apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a full license — resulted in a three-hour meeting at Oregon International Port of Coos Bay offices.

Kopf proposed working with the recently formed Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition on a road map to discuss issues relating to the 200-buoy proposed wave energy park off the North Spit.

In January, Kopf told fishermen in Charleston the company was proposing a 20-buoy installation. By March, that changed to 200. The switch shocked the fishing industry and put already tenuous relationships between the two entities in jeopardy. At the same time, it galvanized the fleet into forming SOORC.

SOORC participants touched on recent developments in the wave energy industry that included the Australian company, Energetech, withdrawing its permit request from FERC for a wave energy park off of Florence.

The “gold rush” is ending, Kopf said.

Various companies have applied for permits to study sites, largely in the hopes of locking up ocean territory from other companies. It’s also called “site banking.”

Kopf said companies can apply for a permit in an afternoon. To apply for a full license, such as what OPT is doing for its Reedsport project, takes millions of dollars and a lot of time. Some companies may not find it worth the expense.

“I kind of predicted that,” Kopf said.

“Will you file for that space?” Charleston troller Jeff Reeves asked.

Kopf sidestepped the question — and repeated questions from Port Deputy Director Mike Gaul, opting instead to suggest OPT send a formal, written response to SOORC.

Finavera, who received a preliminary permit to study a site off of Bandon, is under an April 26 deadline to submit its preliminary application document to FERC. Kopf said it doesn’t look promising that will happen, either.

The company still is working on its license for a project in Makah Bay.

Kopf noted that OPT already is working through settlement discussions with state and federal agencies for its Reedsport project.

Settlement discussions don’t necessarily mean that groups or agencies have approved a specific project. It simply means both entities have agreed to what further data will be collected and how the entities will cooperate.

For energy companies, it’s a risk-reduction measure, Kopf said, noting that so far, OPT is the company that has made the most progress, reaching settlement agreements with some groups and state agencies.

“We’re the lead project on this in the U.S., probably the world,” Kopf said.

Kopf said OPT plans to file a full draft license application to FERC next week, followed by a final, full application for the Reedsport project in May.

Both SOORC and OPT agreed to continue to work collaboratively in the coming months and that further discussion on the traditional licensing process vs. the integrated process will take place when the groups meet again in May.

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April 1, 2008

Interesting reading…A Request for Rehearing has been filed related to FERC’s Denial of FISH’s Motions to Intervene in PG&E’s Mendocino and Humboldt Wave Energy Projects (read Filing : fish-request-for-rehearing.pdf).

FISH, Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, has become a steering committee led by Mendocino coast locals, John Innes and Jim Martin, as Co-Coordinators and Elizabeth Mitchell as FERC Coordinator.

FISH has polled the fishing community for much of the information in this Request for Rehearing, and it is clear that there is substantial, if not total, overlap between the fishing grounds and the proposed wave energy project areas.

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Susan Chambers, The World Link, March 21, 2008

REEDSPORT — Fishermen and port officials talked of trust Wednesday night at the Port of Umpqua commission meeting.

The meeting was an impromptu first battleground over what fishermen see as a violation of trust and wave energy company Ocean Power Technologies see as a business decision.

OPT filed a preliminary application document for a 200-buoy wave energy park off the North Spit on March 7 — 180 buoys more than promised when OPT representative Steve Kopf met with the Charleston fishing fleet in January.

The 200-buoy concept is not new. It’s what OPT proposed when it filed its permit request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2006. FERC granted the permit in early 2007.

“The bottom line is that as we started putting the PAD together, the CEO said fishermen are not worried so much about the small projects; they’re worried about the big things,” Kopf said on March 7. “So instead, (OPT) decided to face this head on.”

In February, Port of Umpqua commissioners considered sending a letter to federal lawmakers and agencies in support of OPT receiving federal energy funds to develop new technology. Commissioners postponed approval until they could talk with Kopf again to determine the status of ongoing talks with local commercial Dungeness crab fishermen.

The change in the number of buoys for North Spit wave facility — and the consternation it caused among the fleet — made discussions about the letter difficult. Kopf ultimately asked to have consideration of the letter postponed.

Kopf said Wednesday the number of buoys at the Reedsport wave park would remain the same, 10, enough for a test site to ensure the buoys work as planned and energy can be transmitted to the grid as planned. It also would give the company a chance to study the effects of the buoys on the environment and surrounding wildlife.

Still, the overriding concerns Wednesday were of trust and ongoing discussions that have not been resolved, namely the use of prime crabbing grounds for what fishermen say is unproven technology.

Unlike the 1/4- to 1/2-square-mile footprint at Reedsport, the North Spit site would encompass a roughly 300-yards-wide by 5-mile-long footprint, parallel to the beach. OPT also planned to try to place the buoys deeper, nearer 40 fathoms, than the depth in which it plans to place buoys at the Reedsport facility.

“That’s something we heard at the Reedsport meetings,” Kopf said.

The 200-buoy facility also would be broken into four sections — another result of what OPT representatives heard during Reedsport discussions — so as to benefit fishermen and OPT maintenance crews.

The North Spit park likely would not be developed for several years, Kopf said.

That didn’t sit well with fishermen.

“It shocked me that it happened so quickly,” Charleston fisherman Jeff Reeves said.

Winchester Bay crabber Stuart Schuttpelz put it even more bluntly: “This community doesn’t need to be lied to,” he said.

Kopf acknowledged their comments with aplomb.

“We definitely violated the trust with this group when we made that last-minute change,” Kopf said. “But from our perspective, we need to figure out technically, economically, if this works.”

Kopf also noted that the federal funding — part of a fiscal year 2009 budget request — would go to offset the costs of doing environmental studies. And sure, he said, funneling that money through independent Oregon universities or other businesses for the benefit of the wave energy industry overall is a viable option.

Mike Gaul, speaking on behalf of the Oregon Public Ports Association, suggested the neutral third-party option earlier in the evening, noting that he was uncomfortable with supporting federal funds going to a private company. Gaul, who’s the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay’s deputy director, also spoke Thursday night before the Coos Bay port commission. He told port commissioners he felt Kopf misled them by filing an application for a full-scale project.

“To date, OPT has not shown they are willing to work with the fishermen and Port of Coos Bay,” he said.

Kopf planned to meet with local officials today (Friday) in Coos Bay to continue to discuss the issue of moving ahead with 200 buoys — a project that could be granted a 50-year FERC license — instead of 20.

But fishermen and port officials warned more work must be done — still.

The 273-page PAD has some of the same errors in it that OPT made when it filed a preliminary application for the Reedsport site — errors Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission spokesman Hugh Link pointed out in earlier discussions with OPT.

“The Tri-state Commercial Crab Committee closely regulates harvest. The committee conducts annual reviews of crab populations and limits permits, timing and take in order to maintain the important Dungeness crab resource for both commercial and recreational take,” the application reads in one part.

But in reality, each state, Washington, Oregon and California, manages and regulates its own fleet and crab resource.

Kopf said there still is work to be done and planned to continue OPT’s commitment to working with fishermen.

“We’re committed to continuing the dialogue,” he said.

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Susan Chambers Staff Writer The World January 18, 2008

REEDSPORT — It’s all about balance in a growing debate about marine reserves and, to a lesser extent, wave energy.

Chip Terhune, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s chief of staff, opened the Reedsport marine reserves and wave energy discussion with about 75 people Thursday night at the Port of Umpqua with comments about his previous meetings with coastal residents. Terhune was following up on discussions fishermen had with Kulongoski in November.

“Folks feel strongly and folks feel differently,” Terhune said of the different communities he’d visited on the North and Central coasts, but they all had one thing in common. “People are passionate about their communities.”

That passion soon was evident Thursday night.

Commercial fisherman Jeff Mulkey has been vocal during discussions about placing wave energy-generating buoys in prime crabbing grounds off Gardiner.

“I really believe there are better and cheaper ways to develop renewable energy,” Mulkey said.

And off-limits areas of the ocean — marine reserves — would deal a second blow to fishermen already dealing with increasing federal regulations and other closed areas in federal waters, he said.

“There is no science that tells us we need reserves,” Mulkey said. “Let’s do one and see how it goes.”

Terhune said he could understand Mulkey’s point of view — and others, who echoed the same sentiments — and that he’d be sure and take those comments back to the governor. At the same time, there is an increasing scientific push for marine reserves and wave energy, he said.

“The decibel level on these issues is going to get higher and higher,” Terhune said. He also noted ongoing efforts to establish marine protected areas — areas that have flexible uses, as opposed to the complete closed areas of marine reserves — in California, Washington and nationwide.

It’s that huge push that often has fishermen lined up on one side of issue and environmental and conservation groups lined up on the other. Fishermen, particularly in Oregon, see increasing regulations and more fish — fish they’re not allowed to catch due to regulations. Environmental and conservation groups have poured millions of dollars into the effort to advance the advocacy and establishment of marine reserves.

Commercial fisherman Peter Keyes said he’s fished in California, Gold Beach, Port Orford and other parts of the Oregon Coast and also worked in the oil and gas industry, driving supply boats. In California, the establishment of marine protected areas and marine reserves has been a touchy issue.

“I haven’t met a single (California commercial fisherman) who’s happy about marine reserves,” Keyes said.

Winchester Bay commercial fisherman Barry Nelson referred to some of the groups pushing marine reserves as “over-the-top” environmental groups who want to take the extreme conservation policies applied to the land and apply them to the ocean.

“They’re never happy,” he said.

A few environmental groups did send out press releases to reporters and provide talking points for their members so participants could testify in support of marine reserves during Terhune’s meetings. In Reedsport, though, the supporters in the audience who have been outspoken at federal fishery management meetings and state meetings said nothing to Terhune. Only sport and commercial fishermen and tribal representatives made comments.

Charleston salmon troller Shawn Ryan, who routinely fishes in California, said fishermen there have been hit hard by closed areas and that environmental groups have dumped lots of money into the marine protected areas process.

“It’s crazy,” he said.

The Oregon Ocean Policy Advisory Council is scheduled to make a recommendation about marine reserves to the governor in November but has heard similar concerns. The governor’s nomination process would allow anyone from Oregon — even representatives or members of out-of-state conservation groups — to make recommendations about which areas to close in the ocean.

Science should come first, Nelson said.

“Study it to see what you need,” he said. “The public knows less than anyone (about the ocean) and you’re asking them to nominate sites?

“The process is way out of whack.”

Terhune, patient and open to comments, took a lot of notes and asked lots of questions during the hour-and-a-half meeting. He also noted that both short-term and long-term issues must be considered in relation to marine reserves and wave energy.

And balance.

“We’ve got to figure out how to do this the Oregon way,” Terhune said.

The Oregon way is through OPAC, he added.

The council already is in the process of creating outreach meetings to help the public understand what marine reserves are, how the nomination process works and to seek input. Those meetings will be held before November.

“Tell them what you told me,” Terhune said. “They need to hear your voice. … It sounds like we’ve got a lot more work to do than we thought.”

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Susan Chambers The World April 10, 2007

A wave breaks off the southern Oregon Coast as wind blows some of the surf backward. That wave attraction is attracting power producers. To date, seven projects are proposed for the Oregon Coast, to tether power-generating buoys to the ocean floor to ride ocean swells. World File Photo

 

CHARLESTON – Commercial fishermen are accustomed to dealing with waves, but not the wave of tidal energy project proposals.

Several crabbers, salmon trollers and beach trawlers met Monday at the Charleston Marina RV Park recreation center to learn about what many viewed as the next threat to their livelihood.

“It kind of feels like a gold rush,” Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association Executive Director Onno Husing, said.

Husing was one of the organizers of the meeting, designed as an informal get-together to learn about two potential wave-energy parks proposed for ocean areas off Coos County, one in the Reedsport area and others.

To date, seven projects are proposed for the Oregon Coast. Each would consist of buoys tethered to the ocean floor that ride ocean swells. Internally, each buoy would have elements that would harness a portion of the swells’ energy, convert it to electricity and transmit it to shore. Some proposals call for up to 200 buoys in a single area, up to about 5 square miles. All must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Rumors abound about other projects proposed but that haven’t been officially filed with FERC.

The bottom line, Husing started to say, phrasing it more as a question, is that one or two areas may be OK.

No, Charleston salmon troller Paul Merz said, interrupting Husing. Those ocean areas already have an existing use, from border to border, he added.

“They should be coming to us,” Merz continued, noting that the companies or organizations moving ahead with the wave energy parks should be talking to existing users of the ocean: commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, commercial shippers.

Commercial Dungeness crabbers could see the most change in their fishing patterns. The placement of the buoy arrays matches prime crab ground: depths of between 20 and 40 fathoms on expanses of sandy ocean bottom.

Salmon trollers also traverse the areas while seeking Chinook and beach trawlers find sources of some flatfish.

Salmon and crab fisherman Tim Smith, who fishes the Irish Miss out of Winchester Bay, picked up on the gold rush idea.

“They’re claim jumping,” Smith said. “They’re taking that (area) away.”

Projects already under way

Wave energy companies most often go through a two-step process to get approval from FERC , but not always. They can skip applying for a preliminary permit and simply apply for a license – as Finavera Renewables did when it applied for a project in Washington.

FERC already has approved three preliminary permits, giving three entities approval to test sites for the feasibility of operating more than one or two buoys at a site (see sidebar). Only one license is pending approval.

Ocean Power Technologies, with U.S. offices in New Jersey, plans to have the first buoy in the water off Reedsport this summer.

Some of the companies applying for permits to operate wave energy parks in the U.S. are foreign-owned, with offices in North America. Several companies already have demonstrated the value of tidal energy technology in Europe. Finavera Renewables, for example, is an Irish firm but has offices in Canada and the U.S. It has applied for a permit to study the feasibility of a park near Bandon.

Fishermen weren’t happy about the overseas component of wave energy. If the companies get subsidized to build here, where do the profits go, several asked – do they stay in the United States or go overseas?

Furthermore, they said, the issue of fishing grounds is the main issue, and the state and federal involvement in accepting energy parks that could displace the fleet.

For instance, “crabbers,” Smith said. “(They’re) going to push us aside for foreign money?”

Charleston fisherman Daryl Bogardus questioned the economic importance of the parks, too.

“I don’t think the wave-generation buoys would generate as much (money) as crab fishing,” Bogardus said.

Most fishermen agreed that somehow, some way, they should be compensated for the loss of fishing grounds and that indeed, the fleet needs to be an integral part of the process.

Already, crabbers in the Reedsport and Winchester Bay areas have been included in ongoing talks with Ocean Power Technologies about the park impacts there.

Husing proposed establishing a statewide committee with representatives from the fishing fleet in each port to stay up-to-date on wave energy developments.

It also needs to be pro-active, he said, by obtaining legal advice, finding experts on FERC processes, doing socioeconomic studies, working with the state’s Congressional delegation and working with other state and federal agencies.

“As a group, as an industry, we need to assert ourselves that there already is a use here,” Merz agreed.

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Finavera had been collecting data before the buoy took on water and bilge pump fails

LORI TOBIAS, The Oregonia, November 1, 2007

NEWPORT — The first wave energy test buoy deployed off the Oregon coast has sunk.

Engineers with the Canadian energy developer Finavera Renewables learned the $2 million buoy plunged to the ocean floor only a day before they were to remove the 72-foot tall device, Finavera spokesman Mike Clark said Wednesday.

Aquabuoy 2.0 was built by Oregon Iron Works in Portland and deployed Sept. 6 about 2.5 miles off Agate Beach.

Since then, Finavera has been collecting data from the buoy by computer. But late last week the buoy began taking on water, and the bilge pump failed.

“The bilge pump is monitored, and we knew that there was something going on from the data,” Clark said. Engineers visited the buoy to prepare to retrieve it, but when they returned Saturday, it had sank.

The buoy is about 150 feet below the ocean’s surface. The firm plans to recover it, Clark said, but will have to wait until spring when ocean conditions are calmer.

Meanwhile, the buoy shouldn’t cause any problems, he said.

“I know there may be concerns about environmental impacts, but part of the benefit of the design of the device is there are no hydraulic oils,” Clark said. “There is little if any environmental impact from having this down there. Basically it is metal with a piece of rubber hose in it.”

But the fishing community isn’t so sure it’s harmless.

“This validates our concerns,” said Al Pazar, chairman of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. “We’ve got a big chunk of iron laying at the bottom of the ocean which will probably gobble up a bunch of crab gear. It’s just another place for things to collect and make a big mess. There is a learning curve here, and we are way at the bottom of it.”

Despite the sinking, Clark called the test run a success, and the information gathered will be used to develop the next buoy.

“From our perspective it doesn’t hamper the development of the technology at all. This device was going to be broken down anyway and was not going to be put back out in the water. But the end result a day before we were to get it out of the water was not something we would have wished for.”

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