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Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’

UPI.com, March 9, 2010

Nanotube filaments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UCILIA WANG, GreenTechMeida, July 1, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GRANT WELKER, Herald News, June 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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MendoCoastCurrent, April 23, 2009

images3In Octoberr 2008 Grays Harbor Ocean Energy applied for seven Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permits for projects located in the Atlantic Ocean about 12 to 25 miles offshore off the coasts of New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and in the Pacific Ocean about 5 to 30 miles off the coasts of California and Hawaii.

On April 9, 2009 FERC and MMS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) clarifying jurisdictional responsibilities for renewable energy projects in offshore waters on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  The stated goals of this MOU are to establish a cohesive, streamlined process, encouraging development of wind, solar, and ocean or wave energy projects.

In this MOU, FERC agrees to not issue preliminary permits for ocean or wave projects that are located on the Outer Continental Shelf. 

And as a result, on April 17, 2009 FERC dismissed all seven Grays Harbor’s pending preliminary permit applications for its proposed wave projects as each and every project is located on the OCS.

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TED NESI, Providence Business News, December 5, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WickenLocal.com via Ocean Energy Council News, July 23, 2008

Consultants for the Army Corps of Engineers are conducting a study at the east end of the Cape Cod Canal to determine if it’s feasible to tap the famous waterway’s hydro-power.

The idea to harness rapid tidal flow to take advantage of alternative and renewable energy possibilities is not new. It’s been studied before – before the price of a barrel of oil topped the $145 mark and government entities started worrying about fuel-line items becoming budget busters.

Six years ago, a hydro project was envisioned near the railroad bridge in Buzzards Bay, but the size of the equipment needed was thought to be so big it would prove a hindrance to Canal navigation.

Now, however, science and technology have advanced and the Canal still produces a huge amount of energy (except for its slack-tide periods each day). Capturing that energy and harnessing it are not a premiere federal priority, but the idea has merit, given those continually rising energy costs.

The new analysis of the Canal’s tidal action as a form of renewal energy may no longer stretch the edges of technological fascination.

Bourne’s Alternative Energy Study Committee says the previous study of what the Canal could do to reduce electric bills was a bust simply because the envisioned equipment at that point could not handle tidal change. The project would also have blocked marine navigation.

Committee Vice-Chairman Robert Schofield said times have changed, however, and the Corps has now retained a contractor to “test equipment outside the navigable channel” at the Canal’s east end near the Visitor’s Center at the Sandwich Bulkhead.

“They’re trying something, but it doesn’t sound too opportunistic,” Schofield said last month. “The Corps’ first job is making sure the Canal is always navigable to marine traffic. But the Corps is also open to new ideas. If something happens on this, it would have to be outside that channel. But, as I say, they’re considering ideas. They’re open to them.”

Another committee member, Thomas Gray Curtis Jr., said “there’s a huge amount of energy there. It’s a shame it hasn’t been taken advantage of.”

The committee agrees on one point, even this immense tidal energy would not produce power every hour of every day. But, they say, it has more capacity than wind.

“You’d almost need a sluice way to cap the flow,” committee member Paul O’Keefe said.

Then there’s the argument that alternative energy projects beg basic questions: Can they stand on their own? Will they disrupt operations or missions? Will neighbors protest? And will they be dependent on subsidies, grants and gifts?

Difficulties aside, the study committee says the Corps’ interest in harnessing alternative energy from its own backyard is a step in the right direction, especially in light of the nation’s oil shock.

“They’re just as interested as everyone else in reducing their energy costs,” O’Keefe said of the federal agency headquartered on Taylors Point.

There is some concern as to whether alternative energy being harnessed from the Canal would be reliable. No energy supply is 100% reliable. The ethanol industry, for instance, is being buffeted by Midwest flooding at a time when the economy is increasingly reliant on corn for fuel.

The Corps, meanwhile, is reviewing the possibility of partnering with the Bourne Recreation Authority and Massachusetts Maritime Academy to construct a second wind-turbine at Mass. Maritime.

The current turbine is situated next to Commodore Hendy Field on the west side of the academy’s campus. The second might be built in shallow water beyond the bow of the training ship Enterprise.

This cooperative governmental venture, however, is still in the nascent discussion and basic-review stages. But if a turbine is built, it might serve to further reduce the cost of energy consumption at Mass. Maritime, Scenic Park, the Gallo Ice Arena and the extensive Corps lighting complex along both sides of the Canal.

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BETH DALEY, The Boston Globe, February 15, 2008

Large wind farms could be constructed in state waters under legislation passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives Wednesday that critics said could aid a controversial wind energy project in Buzzards Bay.

The only pending project directly affected by the legislation is the 120-turbine wind farm proposed by developer Jay Cashman. Cashman is a friend of House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who failed last year to get passed a similar measure that would have helped the farm to be built.

“There is only one project on the table that this affects right now,” said John F. Quinn, a Democrat from Dartmouth. He said he wants more public input before any permanent changes are made to ocean regulations, in part because there could be similar projects proposed along the state’s coast. “This is a dramatic change – let’s not slip it in.”

The wind farm provision is part of the Oceans Management Act, a wide-ranging bill that would guide the location of renewable energy projects and other activities in state waters.

Most of Massachusetts waters are designated ocean sanctuaries, and structures in them are prohibited unless state environmental regulators agree they are needed by “public necessity and convenience.” The ocean protection legislation passed this week is designed, in part, to clarify that renewable energy projects are allowed in these waters.

The Senate passed a version last year that most environmentalists applauded, allowing for the construction of small-scale wind power projects in most state waters, but only if they are consistent with a yet-to-be-developed Ocean Management Plan that would map out the best places to put them. Under the Senate bill, that plan would have to be completed in 24 months.

But the House version is vaguer, critics say, allowing any wind project in state waters and not requiring that they be consistent with an Ocean Management Plan. The House version also sets no deadline for the ocean plan, they say.

“This is the first time in the nation any state has contemplated a comprehensive plan to manage development of the oceans,” said Priscilla Brooks of the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston-based environmental advocacy group. The House version, she said, gives little teeth to any Ocean Management Plan.

Supporters of the House version say the language in no way was meant to give Cashman any advantage to build his wind farm, and point out that any wind farm project has to undergo environmental review. The Cashman wind farm was denied in 2006 because the state environmental secretary at the time said it was forbidden under the Ocean Sanctuaries Act and it could threaten an endangered bird species.

DiMasi spokesman David Guarino said that the speaker was aware of the language in the bill but that its sole focus was to “encourage renewable energy.”

Representative Frank Smizik, a Brookline Democrat who is House chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, said the House version would allow needed renewable energy to be built in state waters as soon as possible. He said he didn’t want projects to go through the same seven-year permitting process that a proposed 130-turbine wind farm in federal waters in Nantucket Sound has endured.

“We wanted it to be a little less tight” than the Senate version, Smizik said. “Our view is the [ocean management plan] is a blueprint, not a zoning law. We need wind farms.”

House and Senate negotiators will meet in coming weeks to come up with compromise language. If both chambers agree, the measure would then land on Governor Deval Patrick’s desk.

Ian Bowles, state secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said despite the differences between the Senate and House versions, it is important to note the state is on its way to having one of the first planning documents to guide ocean development.

“This legislation represents an important leadership opportunity for the Commonwealth,” Bowles said. “Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to enact a comprehensive ocean planning law.”

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