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Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Backs Rep Kucinich in Call to Open Inquiry

MendoCoastCurrent, October 12, 2010

The Kent State Truth Tribunal this weekend heard testimony from forensic audio scientist Stuart Allen that establishes clear orders to shoot live ammunition at unarmed protesting students by the Ohio National Guard. The tape also reveals startling evidence of an altercation with distinct gunshots from a separate weapon fired directly prior to the National Guard’s call to “Prepare to fire!”. This same new evidence has prompted Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich to call for a congressional inquiry into the Kent State shootings. “Certainly we owe it to the memory of the students who lost their lives and their families and we owe it to the American people to find out the truth,” Kucinich told Fox 8 News in Cleveland, Ohio.

The audio evidence of a separate .38 caliber gun firing 70 seconds prior to the guardsmen’s weapons suggests there may have been a provocation prior to the shooting of students. Photographs and testimonies point to the involvement of FBI informant, Terry Norman, who is believed to have fired the weapon. Several students place him on campus that day working in tandem with the Ohio National Guard, carrying a camera and a pistol.  “Now we have a tape that proves conclusively that four shots were fired before the National Guard volley,” Congressman Dennis Kucinich said. “That has implications that are tremendous. Who knows what would have happened if those shots hadn’t been fired.” Terry Norman has not commented about his activities at Kent State since the day of the shootings and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Kent State family members, as well as Representative Kucinich, have called for Mr. Norman to step forward to deliver information about his involvement at Kent State.

The Kent State Truth Tribunal (KSTT) was convened by family members of students killed at Kent State in response to forty years of impunity for the shootings. No one has been held accountable for the deaths and injuries that resulted when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed students at a war protest on campus. According to Laurel Krause, KSTT founder and sister of Allison Krause, who was killed that day, “The audio tape not only introduces compelling evidence that there was an order to fire on students, but also establishes that an additional weapon was fired just prior to the shootings, suggesting that the full scope of what took place that day has not yet been established. We feel strongly that a government inquiry is long overdue and support wholeheartedly Rep. Kucinich’s call for a congressional inquiry. We also encourage Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to respond to this new evidence by examining the audio tape and pursuing their own investigation.”

The 40 year-old audio tape was recorded from the window ledge of a Kent State student’s dormitory at the time of the shootings. The Kent State tape started recording minutes before the shooting and ran until after all of the shots were fired, verifying an audible order to fire. According to Stuart Allen, who has been examining forensic audio evidence for nearly four decades since the Watergate scandal: “The order to shoot clearly does warrant a reopening of the investigation and the outcome will have a profound effect on our understanding of what took place. This technology and information was not available at the time of the investigations and multiple hearings on the Kent State shootings. ” Stuart Allen’s KSTT testimony can be seen at bit.ly/dakhWw

Close to 100 personal narratives have already been recorded and preserved from people of all backgrounds who’s lives were impacted by the killings at Kent State in 1970, representing a comprehensive oral archive of this historic event. It is the first American truth-seeking initiative to be broadcast live on the Internet on MichaelMoore.com

For more information, visit: http://TruthTribunal.org

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 06, 2009

SecretaryChu_tnU.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced more than $153 million in Recovery Act funding to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Under the Dept. of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP), states and territories have proposed statewide plans that prioritize energy savings, create or retain jobs, increase the use of renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative is part of the Obama Administration’s national strategy to support job growth, while making a historic down payment on clean energy and conservation.

“This funding will provide an important boost for state economies, help to put Americans back to work, and move us toward energy independence,” said Secretary Chu. “It reflects our commitment to support innovative state and local strategies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy while insisting that taxpayer dollars be spent responsibly.”

The following states and territories are receiving 40% of their total SEP funding authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today: Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, New York and the Virgin Islands.

With today’s announcement, these states and territories will now have received 50% of their total Recovery Act SEP funding. The initial 10% of total funding was previously available to states to support planning activities; the remaining 50% of funds will be released once states meet reporting, oversight and accountability milestones required by the Recovery Act.

Under the Recovery Act, DOE expanded the types of activities eligible for SEP funding, which include energy audits, building retrofits, education and training efforts, transportation programs to increase the use of alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles, and new financing mechanisms to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

The Recovery Act appropriated $3.1 billion to the State Energy Program to help achieve national energy independence goals and promote local economic recovery. States use these grants at the state and local level to create green jobs, address state energy priorities, and adopt emerging renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Transparency and accountability are important priorities for SEP and all Recovery Act projects. Throughout the program’s implementation, DOE will provide strong oversight at the local, state, and national level, while emphasizing with states the need to quickly award funds to help create new jobs and stimulate local economies.

The following states are receiving awards today:

Arkansas – $15.7 Million Awarded

Arkansas will use SEP Recovery Act funding to reduce energy consumption and advance energy independence by implementing several energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. These programs will also help create and support jobs within the state. Arkansas will use over half of its SEP Recovery Act funding to establish two loan programs to encourage industry and state buildings to invest in energy efficiency technologies. These energy efficiency upgrades will reduce utility bills for both sectors and make businesses more profitable.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive almost $20 million in additional funding, for a total of nearly $40 million.

Georgia – $32.9 Million Awarded

Georgia will implement several programs to improve energy efficiency and renewable energy across residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental sectors with SEP Recovery Act funding. Together these programs will advance the country’s energy independence and create and support jobs statewide.

The state will use a large portion of the Recovery Act funding to implement the State Utilities Retrofit Program, administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. In this new program, the state of Georgia proposes to allocate $65 million to retrofit state government facilities. This funding will be used to conduct energy audits and assessments and capital projects to pay for the incremental cost difference between standard and high-efficiency technologies. Proposals for funding will be selected based on the projects’ ability to comply with state and federal energy goals and priorities, including energy independence, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the creation of green jobs.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive more than $41 million in additional funding, for a total of almost $82.5 million.

Mississippi – $16.1 Million Awarded

Mississippi will use its SEP funding through the Recovery Act to promote energy efficiency in state buildings and initiate selected renewable energy projects. The state plans to initiate a “lead by example” program to enhance energy efficiency in state buildings, including the installation of advanced smart meters to monitor real-time energy consumption. Meters that can gather energy data quickly and identify equipment problems will be installed in various state agencies. The agencies will then be able to analyze their energy use data to know exactly how much energy their facilities are using at any given time so that they can reduce consumption and unnecessary power use where possible. The state will also provide grants, loans or other incentives to municipalities in Mississippi to purchase hybrid and alternative-fueled vehicles.

In addition, Mississippi will design and implement selected pilot projects for renewable energy installations, targeting several sectors including commercial, industrial, residential, and transportation. On a competitive basis, this program will provide incentives to public and private entities to build or expand renewable energy production or manufacturing facilities that produce energy or transportation fuels from biomass, solar or wind resources.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $20 million, for a total of $40 million.

Montana – $10.3 Million Awarded

Montana will use its Recovery Act funding to undertake projects that will improve the energy efficiency of state buildings, while expanding renewable energy use and recycling infrastructure in the state. State Energy Program funds will support energy efficiency improvements to fifty state-owned buildings and will provide for a significant expansion of the State Buildings Energy Conservation Program. The state will also use Recovery Act funds for grants to speed the implementation of new clean energy technologies that have moved into the production phase but are not yet well known or utilized in the state.

In addition, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which oversees the SEP program, will be able to increase the amount it lends in low-interest loans to consumers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to install various renewable energy systems, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass.

Under the State Energy Program, DEQ will also expand the state’s recycling infrastructure to help limit the quantity of recyclable materials that end up in landfills. As a result of the state’s rural nature with small population centers and long distances between communities, it is often difficult to cost effectively recycle materials. With an expanded recycling infrastructure, the state will be able to reduce the need for new materials to be mined and manufactured, which saves energy at all stages of the processing.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $13 million, for a total of $25 million.

New York – $49.2 Million Awarded

New York will direct its SEP Recovery Act funding to programs that will accelerate the introduction of alternative-fuel vehicles into New York communities, boost the energy efficiency of buildings across the state, increase compliance with the state’s energy codes and expand the use of solar power.

The Clean Fleet program will provide funding for eligible entities—such as cities, counties, public school districts, public colleges and universities and others—to accelerate the deployment of alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets. Recovery Act funding will also provide financial support for energy efficiency and retrofit projects in the municipal, K-12 public schools, public university, hospital and not-for-profit sectors.

A third project aims to achieve at least 90 percent compliance in the commercial and residential sectors for a new statewide Energy Code. With Recovery Act funding, the state will offer technical assistance and local compliance support to local municipal officials, as well as those professions who work closely with energy code buildings, such as architects, engineers, and home builders. Finally, New York will provide SEP funding to encourage installation of a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems across the state, and to provide training opportunities for installers.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the state will receive an additional $61.5 million, for a total of $123 million.

Virgin Island – $8.2 Million Awarded

The U.S. Virgin Islands will utilize its SEP Recovery Act funding to advance energy efficiency initiatives and renewable energy projects on the islands. The Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO) will establish or expand multiple programs to reduce energy demand in buildings and the transportation sector through energy efficiency education, outreach and financial assistance.

Buildings initiatives that will receive Recovery Act funding include an expansion of VIEO’s existing Energy Star Rebate program, which provides incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient products. VIEO will also direct SEP funding to the development and implementation of energy education and training programs to promote energy efficiency in the design, construction, installation and maintenance of a wide variety of buildings and energy systems.

VIEO will also work to implement a financial incentive program for residents to encourage the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles.

After demonstrating successful implementation of its plan, the Virgin Islands will receive over $10 million in additional funding, for a total of more than $20.5 million.

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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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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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RICHARD RICHTMYER, AP via Forbes, February 2, 2009

New York state officials are using a small wind turbine atop Albany’s tallest building to test a big renewable energy idea.

The turbine stands 17 feet above the roof of the 41-story Corning Tower. Its 7-foot diameter blades can produce up to 1.5 kilowatts of electricity when spinning at full capacity. That’s less than one-tenth of a percent of the electricity workers in the state office building use every day, said John Egan, commissioner of the state Office of General Services.

But the idea isn’t to use the turbine – which resembles a large pinwheel – to offset the tower’s energy use. Instead, workers will use it to test the feasibility of larger urban wind-energy programs, Egan said.

“This is really experimental,” he said. “It will tell us which way we should be going.”

Egan and his staff are working with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on the pilot program. NYSERDA workers will collect performance data from the so-called “micro-turbine” to study how they work in urban environments.

It’s a small step toward achieving a policy goal that Gov. David Paterson  has set for the state to meet 45% of its electricity needs through improved efficiency and renewable energy by 2015. The Corning Tower pilot project cost around $15,000.

“Harnessing the power of the wind in an urban setting could provide us with yet another way to expand the state’s renewable energy resources, create thousands of ‘green collar’ jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and address global climate change,” said Robert Callender, NYSERDA’s vice president for programs.

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TED NESI, Providence Business News, December 5, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guardian.co.uk, December 3, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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