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Posts Tagged ‘PG&E’

DAVID R. BAKER, San Francisco Chronicle, December 12, 2009

The waves off of Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast could one day generate electricity, if Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has its way.

The utility reported Friday that it has signed an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to study the area’s potential for a wave power project. If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the project could one day generate as much as 100 megawatts of electricity. A megawatt is a snapshot figure, roughly equal to the amount of electricity used by 750 average homes at any given instant.

Wave power technologies have the potential to provide large amounts of electricity. But they have been slow to leave the lab.

The typical wave power system consists of buoys that generate electricity as they bob up and down on the ocean’s surface. But the ocean has proven tougher than some of the systems.

PG&E two years ago agreed to buy electricity from a proposed “wave park” near Eureka to be built by Canadian company Finavera. But Finavera’s prototype buoy sank during a test, and California energy regulators killed the deal.

Under its $6 million WaveConnect program, PG&E is still studying potential wave park sites off Humboldt County. The utility, based in San Francisco, also examined the Mendocino County coast before ruling it out.

Vandenberg makes an attractive test site. It occupies a bend in the coast of Santa Barbara County where some of the beaches face west, some face southwest and others face south. PG&E in particular wants to study the area between Point Arguello and Point Conception.

“Generally, that piece of the coast is very active for waves,” said PG&E spokesman Kory Raftery. “It picks up swells from different directions.”

If the company wins federal approval, it will study the area for three years before making a decision on whether to test wave power devices there. The company wants to test several different devices but has not yet picked which ones, Raftery said.

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CASSANDRA SWEET, Dow Jones Newswires, November 20, 2009

California regulators have proposed approving a long-term contract between PG&E and Solaren, developers of a speculative technology that would beam 200 megawatts of solar power to earth from outer space.

Under the 15-year contract, Solaren Corp., of Manhattan Beach, Calif., would ship 850 gigawatt-hours of solar power a year starting in 2016, doubling that amount in later years. The power would be sent by radio frequency from an earth-orbiting satellite to a receiving station in Fresno, California. The energy-conversion technology has been used by communications satellites for 45 years on a much smaller scale, Solaren said.

PG&E wouldn’t disclose the cost of the proposed 15-year contract but said it would be above-market, more than 12.9 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC.

PG&E among other California utilities are required to use renewable sources for a fifth of the power they sell by 2010, ramping up to one-third of their retail power by 2020. The requirements are part of the state’s 2006 plan to combat climate change.

Because Solaren’s technology is untested, raising “concerns regarding the viability of the project,” PG&E can’t rely on the contract to comply with its renewable energy requirements until construction begins on the project and the CPUC gives additional approval, the agency said in a proposed decision.

The CPUC could make a decision as early as December 3, 2009.

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TODD WOODY, The New York Times, August 12, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPacific Gas & Electric has quietly dropped one of two planned 40-megawatt wave-farm projects.
Stroll through San Francisco and you can’t miss California utility Pacific Gas & Electric’s latest ad campaign. Posters plastered around town read: “Wave Power: Bad for sandcastles. Good for you.”

But PG&E recently dropped one of its two 40-megawatt wave-farm projects planned for the Northern California coast, according to documents filed with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission.

“During the past year, PG&E undertook agency consultation and public outreach and commenced an examination of the technical and environmental feasibility of the proposed project,” wrote utility attorney Annette Faraglia in a June 9 letter to the commission. “Based on the results of this examination, PG&E has concluded that the harbor at Fort Bragg, Noyo Harbor, is not suitable for certain aspects of the project.”

In 2007, the utility had applied for federal permits to explore the feasibility of placing wave energy generators in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

The scuttling of the project is just the latest setback for wave energy. Last year, California regulators also declined to approve a PG&E contract to buy a small amount of electricity from a Northern California wave farm to be built by Finavera Renewables, on the grounds the project was not viable.

Despite the difficulties, PG&E is pushing forward with a similar wave project in Humboldt county. The utility has cut that project’s size from 136 square miles to 18 square miles as it zeroes in on the most productive areas of the ocean. Ms. Morris said that the utility expects to file a license application for the pilot project in the spring of 2010.

However, the National Marine Fisheries Service has identified a plethora of protected species that may be affected by the Humboldt project, ranging from endangered coho salmon to the northern elephant seal and long-beaked common dolphin.

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PETER ASMUS, Pike Research, June 17, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoThe earth is the water planet, so it should come as no great surprise that forms of water power have been one of the world’s most popular “renewable” energy sources. Yet the largest water power source of all – the ocean that covers three-quarters of earth – has yet to be tapped in any major way for power generation. There are three primary reasons for this:

  • The first is the nature of the ocean itself, a powerful resource that cannot be privately owned like land that typically serves as the foundation for site control for terrestrial power plants of all kinds;
  • The second is funding. Hydropower was heavily subsidized during the Great Depression, but little public investment has since been steered toward marine renewables with the exception of ocean thermal technologies, which were perceived to be a failure.
  • The third reason why the ocean has not yet been industrialized on behalf of energy production is that the technologies, materials and construction techniques did not exist until now to harness this renewable energy resource in any meaningful and cost effective way.

Literally hundreds of technology designs from more than 100 firms are competing for attention as they push a variety emerging ocean renewable options. Most are smaller upstart firms, but a few larger players – Scottish Power, Lockheed Martin and Pacific Gas & Electric — are engaged and seeking new business opportunities in the marine renewables space. Oil companies Chevron, BP and Shell are also investing in the sector.

In the U.S., the clear frontrunner among device developers is Ocean Power Technologies (OPT). It was the first wave power company to issue successful IPOs through the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market for approximately $40 million and then another on the U.S. Stock Exchange in 2007 for $100 million. OPT has a long list of projects in the pipeline, including the first “commercial” installation in the U.S. in Reedsport, Oregon in 2010, which could lead to the first 50 MW wave farm in the U.S. A nearby site in Coos Bay, Oregon represents another potential 100 MW deployment.

While the total installed capacity of emerging “second generation” marine hydrokinetic resources – a category that includes wave, tidal stream, ocean current, ocean thermal and river hydrokinetic resources – was less than 10 MW at the end of 2008, a recent surge in interest in these new renewable options has generated a buzz, particularly in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, Portugal, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, among other countries. It is expected that within the next five to eight years, these emerging technologies will become commercialized to the point that they can begin competing for a share of the burgeoning market for carbon-free and non-polluting renewable resources.

The five technologies covered in a new report by Pike Research are the following:

  • Tidal stream turbines often look suspiciously like wind turbines placed underwater. Tidal projects comprise over 90 percent of today’s marine kinetic capacity totals, but the vast majority of this installed capacity relies upon first generation “barrage” systems still relying upon storage dams.
  • Wave energy technologies more often look more like metal snakes that can span nearly 500 feet, floating on the ocean’s surface horizontally, or generators that stand erect vertically akin to a buoy. Any western coastline in the world has wave energy potential.
  • River hydrokinetic technologies are also quite similar to tidal technologies, relying on the kinetic energy of moving water, which can be enhanced by tidal flows, particularly at the mouth of a river way interacting with a sea and/or ocean.
  • Ocean current technologies are similar to tidal energy technologies, only they can tap into deeper ocean currents that are located offshore. Less developed than either tidal or wave energy, ocean current technologies, nevertheless, are attracting more attention since the resource is 24/7.
  • Ocean thermal energy technologies take a very different approach to generating electricity, capturing energy from the differences in temperature between the ocean surface and lower depths, and can also deliver power 24/7.

While there is a common perception that the U.S. and much of the industrialized world has tapped out its hydropower resources, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) disputes this claim. According to its assessment, the U.S. has the water resources to generate from 85,000 to 95,000 more megawatts (MW) from this non-carbon energy source, with 23,000 MW available by 2025. Included in this water power assessment are new emerging marine kinetic technologies. In fact, according to EPRI, ocean energy and hydrokinetic sources (which includes river hydrokinetic technologies) will nearly match conventional new hydropower at existing sites in new capacity additions in the U.S. between 2010 and 2025.

The UN projects that the total “technically exploitable” potential for waterpower (including marine renewables) is 15 trillion kilowatt-hours, equal to half of the projected global electricity use in the year 2030. Of this vast resource potential, roughly 15% has been developed so far. The UN and World Energy Council projects 250 GW of hydropower will be developed by 2030. If marine renewables capture just 10% of this forecasted hydropower capacity, that figure represents 25 GW, a figure Pike Research believes is a valid possibility and the likely floor on market scope.

The demand for energy worldwide will continue to grow at a dramatic clip between 2009 and 2025, with renewable energy sources overtaking natural gas as the second largest source behind coal by 2015 (IEA, 2008). By 2015, the marine renewable market share of this renewable energy growth will still be all but invisible as far as the IEA statistics are concerned, but development up to that point in time will determine whether these sources will contribute any substantial capacity by 2025. By 2015, Pike Research shows a potential of over 22 GW of all five technologies profiled in this report could come on-line. Two of the largest projects – a 14 GW tidal barrage in the U.K. and a 2.2 GW tidal fence in the Philippines — may never materialize, and/or will not likely be on-line by that date, leaving a net potential of more than 14 GW.

By 2025, at least 25 GW of total marine renewables will be developed globally. If effective carbon regulations in the U.S. are in place by 2010, and marine renewable targets established by various European governments are met, marine renewables and river hydrokinetic technologies could provide as much as 200 GW by 2025: 115 GW wave; 57 GW tidal stream; 20 GW tidal barrage; 4 GW ocean current; 3 GW river hydrokinetic; 1 GW OTEC.

About the author: Peter Asmus is an industry analyst with Pike Research and has been covering the energy sector for 20 years. His recent report on the ocean energy sector for Pike Research is now available, and more information can be found at http://www.pikeresearch.com. His new book, Introduction to Energy in California, is now available from the University of California Press (www.peterasmus.com).

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UCILLA WANG, The Greentech Innovations Report, June 9, 2009

sunpowerWhen Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced a deal to buy solar power from a proposed 230-megawatt project last Friday, it shone a spotlight on a two-year-old company with a different business model than many startups who have inked similar deals with the utility.

The deal also raised the question: Who is NextLight?

NextLight Renewable Power, based in San Francisco, wants to be purely a power plant developer and owner. The deal with PG&E is the first power purchase agreement for the startup, which is funded by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners, said Jim Woodruff, vice president of regulatory and government affairs, in an interview Monday.

“We think the tech agnostic approach is a winning business model,” Woodruff said. “All the core skills that are necessary to develop power projects are the same” for solar or other types of power plants.

The company boasts managers who have experience developing power plants and transmission projects as well as negotiating renewable power purchases.

NextLight’s CEO, Frank De Rosa, worked for PG&E for 23 years and held various roles at the utility, including the director of renewable energy supply, before founding NextLight in 2007. Woodruff worked for Southern California Edison for more than 10 years, first as an in-house counsel and later as the manager of regulatory and legislative issues for the utility’s alternative power business.

NextLight has been developing other solar power projects on public and private land in western states, including a plan to install up to 150 megawatts of generation capacity in Boulder City, Nevada.

The Boulder City Council is slated to vote on whether to lease 1,100 acres of city land to NextLight tonight. The company would sell 3,000-megawatt hours of energy per year to the city if the project is built, Woodruff said.

PG&E signed the deal with NextLight after it had inked many power purchase agreements in recent years to buy solar power from startup companies with the ambition to both develop their own technologies as well as owning and operating solar farms.

Some of the projects seem to be moving along. A few have hit snags. The deal to buy power from Finavera, an ocean power developer in Canada, fell apart last year when the California Public Utilities Commission decided that the contract would be too costly to ratepayers (see California Rejects PG&E Contract for Wave Energy).

OptiSolar, which was supposed to build a 550-megawatt solar farm to sell power to PG&E, couldn’t raise enough money to operate its solar panel factory and develop solar farms.

First Solar, another solar panel maker based in Tempe, Ariz., bought OptiSolar’s project development business for $400 million in April this year. First Solar would use its own, cadmium-telluride solar panels, instead of the amorphous silicon solar panels OptiSolar was developing. PG&E has said that the power contract would remain in place.

NextLight, on the other hand, would pick different solar technologies instead of developing its own. The approach isn’t new – SunEdison was doing this before others joined the party.

But there is no guarantee that this approach would enable NextLight to deliver energy more cheaply, and neither NextLight nor PG&E would discuss the financial terms of their contract.

“Our priority is about diversification of the resources we use and the companies we work with,” said PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer. “Contracting for renewable via [power purchase agreements] is beneficial because it helps grow that ecosystem of renewable development, and there is no risk to our customers.”

Rumors have been circulating about whether NextLight would use SunPower’s equipment for the 230-megawatt project, which is called AV Solar Ranch 1, particularly since the project’s website features a photo of SunPower panels.

Woodruff said NextLight hasn’t selected a panel supplier. The company and PG&E have agreed to use solar panels, but the utility wouldn’t have a final say on the supplier, Woodruff added.

Gordon Johnson, head of alternative energy research at Hapoalim Securities, also cast doubt on the SunPower rumor.  “Based on our checks, we do not believe [SunPower] won the PPA with NextLight,” Johnson wrote in a research note.

NextLight plans to start construction of the AV Solar Ranch project in the third quarter of 2010 and complete it by 2013. The company said it would start delivering power in 2011.

The project would be located on 2,100 acres in Antelope Valley in Los Angeles County, Woodruff said. The company bought the property last year for an undisclosed sum.

The company would need approval from the Los Angeles County to construct the solar farm. The California Public Utilities Commission would need to approve the power purchase contract between PG&E and NextLight.

NextLight also is developing a power project with up to 425 megawatts in generation capacity in southern Arizona.  The company is negotiating to a farmland for the Agua Caliente Solar Project, Woodruff said. The 3,800 acres are located east of the city of Yuma.

The company is negotiating with a utility to buy power from Agua Caliente, said Woodruff, who declined to name the utility.

NextLight hasn’t decided whether to install solar panels or build a solar thermal power plant for the Agua Caliente project. Solar thermal power plants use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight for heating water or mineral oils to generate steam. The steam is then piped to run electricity-generating turbines.

But solar panels appear to be a more attractive option than solar thermal for now, Woodruff said.

“We’ve concluded that, in the near term, PV is more cost effective,” he said.

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JAMES RICKMAN, Seeking Alpha, June 8, 2009

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

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

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

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

Companies to Watch in the Developing Wave Power Industry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Types of Hydro Turbines

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

Impulse Turbines

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

Reaction Turbines

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

Types of Hydropower Plants

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

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

Impoundment

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

The Future of Ocean and Wave Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpts from FRANK HARTZELL’s article in the Mendocino Beacon, June 4, 2009

13298_DIA_0_opt picOcean Power Technologies’ subsidiary California Wave Energy Partners in it’s “wave energy project proposed off Cape Mendocino has surrendered its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit, making two major companies that have abandoned the area in the past two weeks.

The moves come at a time when President Obama’s energy policy has cut funding for wave energy in favor of solar and wind energy development.

The withdrawals leave GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC, with a permit off Mendocino, as the only local wave energy project.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced earlier this month they would not seek to develop wave energy off Fort Bragg. However, PG&E has not yet legally abandoned its FERC preliminary permit.

California Wave Energy Partners did just that on May 26, telling FERC their parent company, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) was pulling out of California in favor of developing wave energy more seriously in Oregon.

The project was proposed near Centerville off Humboldt County, south of Eureka on the remote coast of Cape Mendocino.

“OPT subsidiaries are also developing two other projects at Coos Bay and Reedsport,” wrote Herbert Nock of OPT. “During the process of developing these projects, OPT has learned the importance of community involvement in the project definition and permitting process.

“OPT therefore feels it is in the best interests of all parties to focus its efforts (in Oregon) at this time. This will allow the time and resources necessary to responsibly develop these sites for the benefit of the coastal community and the state,” Nock wrote.

The Cape Mendocino project was to be situated in a prime wave energy spot, but with connections to the power grid still to be determined. The project was never the subject of a public meeting in Mendocino County and stayed under the radar compared to several other Humboldt County projects. PG&E still plans to develop its WaveConnect project off Eureka.

Brandi Ehlers, a PG&E spokeswoman, said PG&E plans to relinquish the preliminary permit for the Mendocino Wave Connect project soon.

She said the utility spent $75,000 on the Mendocino County portion of Wave Connect before stopping because Noyo Harbor was ill-equipped to deal with an offshore energy plant.

“PG&E is not currently pursuing applications for new FERC hydrokinetic preliminary permits, but it is important that we continue to explore other possibilities,” Ehlers said in response to a question.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced that his department will host 12 public workshops this month to discuss the newly-issued regulatory program for renewable energy development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.

All the meetings are to be held in large cities — in Seattle June 24, Portland on June 25, and San Francisco on June 26.

Salazar restarted the process of building a framework for energy development in the ocean, which had been started in the Bush Administration but never finished.

The new program establishes a process for granting leases, easements, and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy projects as well as methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States. The rules for alternative energy development in the oceans become effective June 29.

Most of the actual ocean energy development figures are for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The Pacific Ocean’s near-shore slopes are too steep and too deep for current wind energy technology. Wave and tidal energy are still in their infancy, not seen as able to help with President Obama’s energy plan.

The Obama administration has proposed a 25% cut in the research and development budget for wave and tidal power, according to an in-depth report in the Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune.

At the same time the White House sought an 82% increase in solar power research funding, a 36% increase in wind power funding and a 14% increase in geothermal funding. But it looked to cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million, the News Tribune reported.

Interior’s Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with regulating renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf [and specifically wind energy projects], is organizing and conducting the workshops, which will begin with a detailed presentation and then open the floor to a question and answer session. All workshops are open to the public and anyone interested in offshore renewable energy production is encouraged to participate.”

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