Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mendocino Wave Energy’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Full Post »

KEVIN FERGUSON, The Information Week, November 24, 2008

1739725132_460c52d56dWhere is President-elect Barack Obama headed with environmental protection and renewable energy? The answer lies not so much in the encouraging but ultimately self-serving video posted on the transition team’s Web site, but rather on links elsewhere on the page. In particular, look at the appointment of senior transition official Rose McKinney-James as FERC Review Team Lead.

Unless you live in California or Nevada, you may not be familiar with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  FERC — a relatively tiny agency that requested only $273.4 million and 1,465 full-time employees in its FY 2009 budget — regulates the country’s natural gas industry, hydroelectric projects, oil pipelines, and wholesale rates for electricity. You may recall that public advocacy groups excoriated FERC for its role in the deregulation of the wholesale electricity market in California and subsequent power crisis in 2000 and 2001.

So, what’s the significance of this recent appointment? McKinney-James, managing principal of Energy Works Consulting, has been championing renewable energy for decades, as the president and CEO of the public Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTRR), chair of the Nevada Renewable Energy Task Force, commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, and other pubic posts.

Her efforts also have included renewable energy advocacy in the private sector — and in some rather unexpected places. The most visible of those places is MGM Mirage’s  Protech CityCenter in Las Vegas. McKinney-James sits on the MGM board.

The $7 billion development was recently awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Project CityCenter includes a 4,000-room hotel-casino, two 400-room boutique hotels, more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, and 2,900 residential units on 66 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo.

Perhaps McKinney-James can accelerate what has been a slow accommodation of renewable energy sources into FERC’s mix.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

MendoCoastCurrent, November 9, 2008

frankhartzellMendoCoastCurrent applauds Frank Hartzell’s reporting in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News and the Mendocino Beacon, and in winning reporting awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Better Newspapers Contest for work published in 2007. The awards were recently announced at CNPA’s annual awards luncheon in late October 2008.

Reporter Frank Hartzell’s on-going, in-depth and insightful coverage of the Mendocino coast’s wave energy development projects won First Place for Environmental & Agricultural Resource Reporting among weeklies with small circulations.

Mr. Hartzell is a key community forerunner in informing and deciphering both technological and governmental policies, developments and environmental impact(s) of the forward-moving ocean power technology developments on the Mendocino coast.  Many now consider Fort Bragg and the Mendocino coast “Ground Zero” in U.S. wave energy commercial development.

Mark Massara, head of the California Coastal Program for the Sierra Club, credited Mr. Hartzell’s coverage as the only in-depth information about wave energy being written.  And local people have generated the only viable criticism of the process, he said.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a key player in federal energy policy, has extensively quoted Mr. Hartzell’s coverage, even cataloging and creating timelines from his authored newspaper articles.

Thank you, Frank Hartzell, for your superb work in researching and educating the Mendocino coast community in wave energy developments and in supporting us to act from knowledge in our role as environmental stewards.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »