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FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, February 25, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 16, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 9, 2008

Fort Bragg, California City Council has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Concerns escalated last August when FERC denied Fort Bragg’s second request for a rehearing on FERC’s national licensing policies for wave energy or hydrokinetic energy projects. The community stakeholders, Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, Lincoln County (Oregon) and Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH), were also denied rehearing by FERC. Under the Federal Power Act, there are no administrative appeals left and the only recourse is a lawsuit.

Fort Bragg contests FERC’s energy development process for national licensing of wave energy projects, including the proposed Pacific Gas & Electric wave energy pilot project off the coast of Fort Bragg.

The contested policies were established in two informal documents issued by FERC in April 2008 entitled Staff Guidance on Hydrokinetic Pilot Procedures” and “Staff FAQs on Conditional Licenses.”

Fort Bragg contends that FERC established these policies without complying with a number of federal laws including the Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

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MendoCoastCurent, August 12, 2008

Last Friday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its latest denial for a rehearing on the Mendocino Wave Energy project on the Northern California coast.

The denied Petitioners include Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH) with Attorney Elizabeth Mitchell, Mendocino County, Fort Bragg, Lincoln County in Oregon and others representing concerned citizens, local city/county governments as well as local fishermen wishing to be party to wave energy development on the Mendocino coast.

In this power showdown, where federal energy policymakers are swiftly moving towards the deployment, testing and exploration of wave energy generating devices on the Mendocino coast, FERC has made it clear that they do not wish to have local and community involvement or participation, period.

And the implications of this denial are far reaching as it appears this Mendocino coast wave energy development project shall be ‘ground zero’ as the first U.S. wave energy project to explore wave energy policymaking, development, deployment and generation (the Makah Bay project is located off Native American lands in the state of Washington).

Before reading on, please take a look at FERC Denial Order: HERE The language of the Order is indecipherable to a layperson. One wonders what this order actually states.

From a more general view, the Petitioners’ have sought to become full-fledged participants in matters related to wave energy projects licensing and development on the Mendocino coast. The local groups, local governments and concerned citizenry of Fort Bragg are also calling for appropriate environmental studies/testing before deployment.

The Mendocino coast continues to inspire locals as well as visitors from around the world with its dramatic beauty, its richness in bounty, its rugged, wildness…and its awesome power. Mendocino locals wish to share this reverence and general knowledge, their oceanic and micro-climate experience…and contribute their knowledge toward a successful and environmentally-benign test of today’s nascent wave energy technology.

It is MendoCoastCurrent’s view, and possibly not a popular one, that appropriate and environmentally-benign wave energy technologies may be developed and successfully implemented. There are literally hundreds of different wave devices available today. Straight out the shoot, many are inappropriate for the Mendocino coast due to sea depth and upswell, some devices are simply pipedreams while others may be suitable — meaning, a device that may sustainably work within the harsh ocean environment, not diminish the sea flora/fauna, sea creatures or man and beneficial in scaling electrical energy output.

Yet in this FERC Denial it’s clear that FERC does not seek the necessary dialog and community ownership that will enable this project’s success.

Additionally, FERC is in the process of developing wave energy ‘conditioned licenses’ to streamline development and FERC has chosen to not incorporate rulemaking (allowing public input) in developing their licensing policies. An associate federal agency, the Mineral Management Service (MMS) that rules beyond the FERC three-mile limit to 200 miles out to sea (the outer continental shelf) is now in ‘rulemaking’ process for hydrokinetic projects. Thus, MMS is asking for comments to be submitted by September 8, 2008…see article here with MMS links to share your comments.

 

MendoCoastCurrent awaits local responses, legal analyses and federal energy policymakers’ next steps.

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MADDALENA JACKSON with MendoCoastCurrent edit, The Sacramento Bee, August 11, 2008

Oil companies, some politicians and commuters paying $4 for a gallon of gas might look at California’s coast and think of crude oil pooled below the sea floor.

California’s North Coast, however, holds promise of another energy bounty.

In less time than it would take to fire up new offshore oil drills, waters off our coast could host undulating buoys driven by waves, producing abundant electricity for a power-thirsty state.

The Electric Power Research Institute estimates enough wave power can be extracted from coastal waters to account for about 15% of California’s electricity production.

Offshore wave technology is promising, but it’s untried. They also raise concerns about potential damage to the coast’s prized vistas and fish industry.

One proposal that’s progressing is to draw electricity from waves off the Mendocino coast already has generated problems for developers, government agencies and coastal residents.

Moreover, the potential for waves depends on someone building transmission lines to connect offshore power to the state’s grid.

Northern California’s biggest utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., may be that someone.

Out at sea, the ocean’s surface ripples rhythmically, and the up-and-down motion can be harnessed to produce electrical energy, via bobbing buoys, jointed snakes and undulating tubes.

PG&E plans to capture some of that potential. It has preliminary permits for two projects – one off Fort Bragg in Mendocino County and one off Eureka.

The Fort Bragg project, expected to yield 40 megawatts of electricity, would be “an undersea power plug,” said PG&E project manager Bill Toman. It “would provide about 20% of electricity consumption of Mendocino County.”

PG&E would build the expensive transmission lines. The utility would select three or four developers to test their power generators.

Results will lead to “a decision about whether we would build our own wave energy farm,” he said.

Mendocino coast residents are examining PG&E’s plans with cautious concern.

“Wave energy sounds like a good idea, as long as it doesn’t harm the environment,” said Bruce Lewis, a nature photographer and volunteer light-keeper at the Point Cabrillo Light Station. “Using the power of the waves seems like a better way of generating power than building oil platforms off the coast.”

Others are wary. “When you first hear about it, you think, ‘That’s a great idea!’ ” said Jim Martin, director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

He’s concerned wave power may interfere with fisheries. He wonders if electrical signatures from the devices also might disturb fish.

His biggest complaint right now, however, is that local fishermen and residents have had no say in the planning.

Martin is also associated with Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, or FISH. With local lawyer Elizabeth Mitchell, FISH is battling for a role in the planning.

A federal deadline has passed for gaining an official voice in the legal planning for the wave projects, alongside PG&E and federal energy regulators.

Mitchell has filed a request for a belated entree with the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission. She argues that an isolated community, with limited high-speed Internet service, and few residents who even know what FERC is, could not have met the deadline.

Mitchell said she’s concerned that permits have been granted without environmental analysis or even identified technology. “We are guinea pigs for a worldwide science experiment without any rational planning.”

PG&E’s permit comes from FERC. But there is a question over wave power jurisdiction. The federal Minerals Management Service has jurisdiction from three to 200 miles offshore, and by years end hopes to have rules in place for alternative energy leases, said spokesman John Romero.

FERC, however, oversees onshore hydropower applications and has claimed jurisdiction for wave technology up to 12 miles offshore, based on its reading of legal documents.

“It’s a problem for anyone in charge of proposing a project,” PG&E’s Toman said. “At some point, it will hold things up.”

A delay would be welcome, Martin said. “A huge reason people come up here is to look at the ocean, and to reconnect with nature.”

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