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Posts Tagged ‘Wave Energy Trials’

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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CAROL FLETCHER, The Record, November 29, 2009

Linda Rutta says she has a “tiger by the tail” with a renewable energy device she and her husband, Stanley, invented that can convert the power of ocean waves into electricity.

Now the research and development team needs funding to analyze five days of data from a landmark test of the 12-foot cylindrical prototype and build a life-size version.

“We have to scale up and make a commercial unit,” said Linda Rutta, but “the costs ahead are larger than a small entity can shoulder.”

Able Technologies is based in the Ruttas’ Englewood home, where the couple designed what they call an electricity-generating wave pipe with the help of colleagues in mechanical and oceanic engineering after patenting their concept in 2002.

Devices harnessing kinetic energy from ocean waves, known as wave energy converters, are not new and can be problematic. Online organizations reported in March that three devices installed off the coast of Portugal by a Scottish developer were taken ashore due to structural problems and lack of funding.

The Scottish devices are horizontal, serpentine structures that undulate in sync with the waves, whereas the Ruttas’ version anchors vertically to the ocean floor.

That means the machine has to stand up to the fierce oceanic conditions much like a bridge stanchion. These include the very force it captures in trying to produce enough electricity to be viable, said Rutta.

The Ruttas got their first opportunity to test the prototype’s endurance and energy production in mid-November, at the Ohmsett Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Facility at Leonardo in Monmouth County. The facility operates under the U.S. Department of Interior and runs a massive, 11-foot-deep wave tank for testing oil spill response equipment. This year it added wave energy technology.

The agency offered the Ruttas a week at Ohmsett after finding merit in a white paper the Ruttas submitted on the technology.

Every day for a week, the wave pipe was fitted with probes and other sensory equipment while being battered with saltwater waves up to 3 feet high. The purpose was to measure how it performed against small waves — which might have made it stall — and high ones, and whether it delivered energy, said Rutta.

“It worked with the waves beautifully — that was my happiest surprise,” said Rutta, “and it produced power. It exceeded our expectations.”

The week’s worth of results will be analyzed to determine the weight and size a commercial unit should be to withstand ocean conditions and estimate how much electricity could be produced, Rutta said.

While the tests raise their credibility, she said, funding is needed to analyze the data and design and build a full-size prototype.

Rutta said she is waiting for word on their application for a $150,000 grant from the small business arm of the Department of Energy to analyze the data. Designing and building a commercial-sized prototype could be “in the millions,” she said.

All money up to this point has come from their personal savings, said Rutta, and has reached “into the six figures.”

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EMILY AVILES, Ode Magazine, October 26, 2009

mainLately, the shores of San Francisco, California have been attracting more than wet-suit clad surfers and their boards.

A site five miles off the city’s western beach is being considered for a new Oceanside Wave Energy project.

Australian energy company BioPower Systems is collaborating with the City of San Francisco to investigate wave energy generation from the Pacific Ocean.

Wave power, not to be confused with tidal power, takes advantage of energy from the actual surface waves of the ocean. People have attempted to harness this power since 1890, but with little success. However, that may change thanks to BioPower Systems application of biomimicry.

The ideas underlying the company’s novel technologies reap the full benefit of billions of years of underwater evolution. The proposed bioWAVE ocean wave power system will sway like sea plants in ocean waves. Each lightweight unit—developed for 250kW, 500kW, 1000kW capacities—will then connect to a utility-size power grid via subsea cables. It’s now predicted that the same Californian waves that propel sundry surfers could generate between 10MW and 100MW of power. That’s enough energy to power between 3,000 to 30,000 homes annually.

If this project is indeed determined feasible—and it does look hopeful—BioPower Systems and the City of San Francisco will begin to develop a way to deliver clean renewable electricity to the city’s power grid. By 2012 that “hella rad swell” could be something electrifying.

Click here to view a full animation of the bioWAVE farm in action.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 8, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoOcean Power Technologies Inc. has signed an exclusive agreement with three Japanese companies to develop a demonstration wave energy station in Japan. Idemitsu Kosan Co., Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. and Japan Wind Development Co. comprise this consortium and have invited OPT to become a member of this Tokyo Wave Power Initiative.

This is OPT’s first venue in Japan and complements OPT’s global strategy to form alliances with strategic partners in key markets. OPT now has a range of power generation projects globally, including those in Oregon and Hawaii in the U.S., Scotland and Southwest England in the U.K., Spain, Australia and now Japan.

Under the anticipated agreement to build the demonstration plant, OPT said it will sell the equipment for the power station to the The companies in Initiative. And they will provide manufacturing and maintenance of the power stations and on-going plant operations, while OPT will provide its PowerBuoy technology and appropriate subsystems.

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NAO NAKANISHI, Reuters, October 5, 2009

PelamisWaveFarm_PelamisWavePowerA first attempt fell victim to the crisis: now in the docks of Scotland’s ancient capital, a second-generation scarlet Sea Snake is being prepared to harness the waves of Britain’s northern islands to generate electricity.

Dwarfed by 180 metres of tubing, scores of engineers clamber over the device, which is designed to dip and ride the swelling sea with each move being converted into power to be channelled through subsea cables.

Due to be installed next spring at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, northern Scotland, the wave power generator was ordered by German power company E.ON, reflecting serious interest in an emerging technology which is much more expensive than offshore wind.

Interest from the utility companies is driven by regulatory requirements to cut carbon emissions from electricity generation, and it helps in a capital-intensive sector.

Venture capitalists interested in clean tech projects typically have shorter horizons for required returns than the 10-20 years such projects can take, so the utilities’ deeper pockets and solid capital base are useful.

“Our view … is this is a 2020 market place,” said Amaan Lafayette, E.ON’s marine development manager. “We would like to see a small-scale plant of our own in water in 2015-2017, built on what we are doing here. It’s a kind of generation we haven’t done before.”

The World Energy Council has estimated the market potential for wave energy at more than 2,000 terawatt hours a year — or about 10% of world electricity consumption — representing capital expenditure of more than 500 billion pounds ($790 billion).

Island nation Britain has a leading role in developing the technology for marine power, which government advisor the Carbon Trust says could in future account for 20% of the country’s electricity. The government is stepping up support as part of a 405 million pound investment in renewable energy to help its ambition of cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from 1990 levels, while securing energy supply. (The challenge is more about getting to a place where we are comparable with other renewable technologies… We want to get somewhere around offshore wind,” said Lafayette.)

Britain’s Crown Estate, which owns the seabed within 12 nautical miles of the coast, is also holding a competition for a commercial marine energy project in Pentland Firth in northern Scotland.

Besides wave power, Britain is testing systems to extract the energy from tides: private company Marine Current Turbines Ltd (MCT) last year opened the world’s first large-scale tidal turbine SeaGen in Northern Ireland.

DEVELOPING LIKE WIND

wave_power_pelamis“We are often compared to the wind industry 20 years ago,” said Andrew Scott, project development manager at Pelamis Wave Power Ltd, which is developing the Sea Snake system, known as P2. Standing beside the train-sized serpent, Pelamis’ Scott said wave power projects are taking a variety of forms, which he said was similar to the development of the wind turbine. “You had vertical axis, horizontal axis and every kind of shapes before the industry consolidated on what you know as acceptable average modern day turbines.”

The Edinburgh Snake follows a pioneering commercial wave power project the company set up in Portugal last September, out of action since the collapse of Australian-based infrastructure group Babcock & Brown which held a majority share. “It’s easy to develop your prototypes and models in the lab, but as soon as you put them in water, it swallows capital,” said John Liljelund, CEO of Finnish wave energy firm AW-Energy, which just received $4.4 million from the European Union to develop its WaveRoller concept in Portugal.

At present, industry executives say marine power costs about double that from offshore wind farms, which require investment of around 2-3 million euros per megawatt. Solar panels cost about 3-4 million per megawatt, and solar thermal mirror power about 5 million.

UTILITY ACTION

Other utility companies involved in wave power trials include Spain’s Iberdrola, which has a small experimental wave farm using floating buoys called “Power Take- offs” off the coast of northern Spain. It is examining sites for a subsea tidal turbine project made by Norwegian company Hammerfest Strom.

Countries developing the technology besides Britain include Portugal, Ireland, Spain, South Korea and the United States: about 100 companies are vying for a share of the market, but only a handful have tested their work in the ocean.

Privately owned Pelamis has focussed on wave energy since 1998, has its own full-scale factory in Leith dock and sees more orders for the second generation in prospect.

Lafayette said E.ON examined more than 100 devices since 2001 before picking Sea Snake for its first ocean project, a three-year test: “They have a demonstrable track record … and commercial focus and business focus.”

A single Sea Snake has capacity of 750 kilowatts: by around 2015, Pelamis hopes each unit will have capacity of 20 megawatts, or enough to power about 30,000 homes.

Neither Pelamis nor E.ON would elaborate on the cost of the Sea Snake, but they said the goal is to bring it down to the level of offshore wind farms.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 2, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoAW-Energy, a Finnish renewable energy company developer of WaveRoller, a patented wave energy technology, has signed a $4.4M (3 million euros) contract with the European Union to demonstrate its technology.

The contract between AW-Energy and the EU is the first one under the “CALL FP7 – Demonstration of the innovative full size systems.” Several leading wave energy companies competed in the CALL. The contract includes a 3 million euro or $4.4M US grant agreement, providing financial backing for the demonstration project.

The project goal is to manufacture and deploy the first grid-connected WaveRoller unit in Portuguese waters. The exact installation site is located near the town of Peniche, which is famous for its strong waves and known as “Capital of the waves.” The nominal capacity of the WaveRoller is 300 kW and the project will be testing for one year.

The ‘Dream Team’ consortium is led by AW-Energy and includes companies from Finland, Portugal, Germany and Belgium. Large industrial participants include Bosch-Rexroth and ABB, together with renewable energy operator Eneolica and wave energy specialist Wave Energy Center, supporting with their experience to ensure successful implementation of the project.

“The experience of our dream team consortium is a significant asset to the project, and we are thrilled about this real pan-European co-operation. AW-Energy has been working hard the last three years with two sea installed prototypes, tank testing and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) simulations. Now we have the site, grid connection permission, installation license and the technology ready for the demonstration phase,” says John Liljelund, CEO at AW-Energy.

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Hydro Review, August 18, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69Off the north coast of Scotland in waters 10 to 12 meters deep, ocean energy developer Aquamarine Power Ltd. has bolted its Oyster wave energy converter to the ocean floor and expects to be generating power by year’s end.

A team of offshore professionals eased the 194-ton converter into the sea at the European Marine Energy Center in the Orkney Islands. “Getting Oyster into the water and connected to the seabed was always going to be the most difficult step,” said Aquamarine CEO Martin McAdam. “Its completion is a real credit to everyone who has worked hard on planning and executing this major engineering feat on schedule.”

The Oyster is designed to capture energy from near-shore waves. The system includes an oscillating pump fitted with double-acting water pistons. Each wave activates the pump, delivering high-pressure water by pipeline to an onshore turbine that generates electricity. All electrical components of the Oyster are onshore, making it durable enough to withstand Scotland’s rough seas, McAdam said.

Marine constructor Fugro Seacore installed the Oyster converter under a $2.9 million contract.

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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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SustainableBusiness.com News, April 30, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoA bill introduced in the Senate aims to encourage development of renewable ocean energy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today introduced the legislation as a companion to a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Wash.), that would authorize as much as $250 million a year to promote ocean research.

The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 and a companion tax provision would expand federal research of marine energy, take over the cost verification of new wave, current, tidal and thermal ocean energy devices, create an adaptive management fund to help pay for the demonstration and deployment of such electric projects and provide a key additional tax incentive.

“Coming from Alaska, where there are nearly 150 communities located along the state’s 34,000 miles of coastline plus dozens more on major river systems, it’s clear that perfecting marine energy could be of immense benefit to the nation,” said Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It simply makes sense to harness the power of the sun, wind, waves and river and ocean currents to make electricity.”

The legislation would:

  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to increase its research and development effort. The bill also encourages efforts to allow marine energy to work in conjunction with other forms of energy, such as offshore wind, and authorizes more federal aid to assess and deal with any environmental impacts. 
  • Allow for the creation of a federal Marine-Based Energy Device Verification program in which the government would test and certify the performance of new marine technologies to reduce market risks for utilities purchasing power from such projects.
  • Authorize the federal government to set up an adaptive management program, and a fund to help pay for the regulatory permitting and development of new marine technologies.
  • And a separate bill, likely to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration, would ensure marine projects benefit from being able to accelerate the depreciation of their project costs over five years–like some other renewable energy technologies currently can do. The provision should enhance project economic returns for private developers

 The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that ocean resources in the United States could generate 252 million megawatt hours of electricity–6.5% of America’s entire electricity generation–if ocean energy gained the same financial and research incentives currently enjoyed by other forms of renewable energy.

“This bill, if approved, will bring us closer to a level playing field so that ocean energy can compete with wind, solar, geothermal and biomass technologies to generate clean energy,” Murkowski said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, March 25, 2009

aquamarine-power_fb8xa_69

Aquamarine Power has signed a $2.7 million contract with Fugro Seacore to install their wave energy generator, the Oyster, at the European Marine Energy Center.

Aquamarine’s Oyster converter is designed for waters that are from 26-52 feet deep with anticipated installation 550 yards offshore in the second half of 2009.  The Oyster has a wave action pump sending pressured water in a pipeline to an electricity generator.

The generator, to be built in Orkney, Scotland, is expected to produce between 300 and 600 kilowatts for Scotland’s national grid.

The contract is part of the Scottish government’s goal to derive 50% its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

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PaceToday.com, March 16, 2009

abbAUSTRALIA:  ABB has helped Oceanlinx to construct a 250kW Wave Energy Conversion unit – a full-scale prototype designed to extract energy from ocean waves and convert it to electricity or to convert ocean water to clean water. 

The Wave Energy Conversion unit was completed at the ABB Performance Service Centre located in Port Kembla, NSW, Australia. The unit can save thousands of tonnes of CO2 and SO2 emissions annually, says ABB. 

It is a full-scale prototype with a unique commercially-efficient system for extracting energy from ocean waves and converting it to electricity, or utilising that energy to produce clean, fresh water from brine. 

ABB was involved in fabrication modifications and installation of the Wave Energy Conversion unit hood and steel work – including stiffening sections of the structure and fabricating two watertight doors. 

Oceanlinx Limited is an international company working in wave energy conversion. It developed the proprietary technology for extracting energy from ocean waves and converting it into electricity, or utilising that energy to provide desalinated industrial or potable grade water from sea water. 

Oceanlinx has a power purchase agreement with Australian utility Integral Energy for the supply of electricity from the 250kW prototype unit. 

All work was finished on schedule in early February, enabling the unit to be floated out to its operational location off the breakwater north of Port Kembla harbour, NSW, Australia.

“ABB were professional, safety conscious and flexible in meeting all our requirements and we have been delighted with the fabrication, modifications and installation work performed,” said Oceanlinx chief operating officer, Stuart Weylandsmith. 

Oceanlinx’s core patented technology is an oscillating water column (OWC) device, based on the established science of wave energy, but one which, when compared to other OWC technologies offers major improvements in the design of the system, the turbine, and in construction technique, according to ABB. 

The technology has been successfully constructed and tested with the first full scale Oceanlinx wave plant, installed at Port Kembla producing zero CO2 and SO2 pollution.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

As the Monday, February 9, 2009 before 2 p.m. deadline for filing FERC Motion to Intervene papers regarding the Green Wave LLC wave energy preliminary permit off the Mendocino village coast approaches, locals, the City of Fort Bragg and fishing organization are participating and electronically filing their views with FERC.

Here’s the excellent brief filed by the County of  Mendocino, California:  HERE

Have you filed your FERC Motion to Intervene today?

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Science Daily, December 20, 2008

0812161141021MIT researchers are working with Portuguese colleagues to design a pilot-scale device that will capture significantly more of the energy in ocean waves than existing systems, and use it to power an electricity-generating turbine.

Wave energy is a large, widespread renewable resource that is environmentally benign and readily scalable. In some locations — the northwestern coasts of the United States, the western coast of Scotland, and the southern tips of South America, Africa and Australia, for example — a wave absorbing device could theoretically generate 100 to 200 megawatts of electricity per kilometer of coastline. But designing a wave capture system that can deal with the harsh, corrosive seawater environment, handle hourly, daily and seasonal variations in wave intensity, and continue to operate safely in stormy weather is difficult. 

Chiang Mei, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been a believer in wave energy since the late 1970s. After the recent oil price spike, there has been renewed interest in harnessing the energy in ocean waves.

To help engineers design such devices, Professor Mei and his colleagues developed numerical simulations that can predict wave forces on a given device and the motion of the device that will result. The simulations guide design decisions that will maximize energy capture and provide data to experts looking for efficient ways to convert the captured mechanical energy to electrical energy.

One country with a good deal of expertise in wave energy research and development is Portugal. For the past three years, Mei has been working with Professors Antonio Falcao, Antonio Sarmento, and Luis Gato of Insitituto Superior Tecnico, Technical University of Lisbon, as they plan a pilot-scale version of a facility called an oscillating water column, or OWC. Situated on or near the shore, an OWC consists of a chamber with a subsurface opening. As waves come in and out, the water level inside the chamber goes up and down. The moving surface of the water forces air trapped above it to flow into and out of an opening that leads to an electricity-generating turbine. The turbine is a design by A.A.Wells in which the blades always rotate in the same direction, despite the changing direction of the air stream as the waves come in and out.

The Portuguese plan is to integrate the OWC plant into the head of a new breakwater at the mouth of the Douro River in Porto, a large city in northern Portugal. Ultimately, the installation will include three OWCs that together will generate 750 kilowatts — roughly enough to power 750 homes. As a bonus, the plant’s absorption of wave energy at the breakwater head will calm the waters in the area and reduce local erosion.

The challenge is to design a device that resonates and thus operates efficiently at a broad spectrum of wave frequencies — and an unexpected finding from the MIT analysis provides a means of achieving that effect. The key is the compressibility of the air inside the OWC chamber. That compressibility cannot be changed, but its impact on the elevation of the water can be — simply by changing the size of the OWC chamber. The simulations showed that using a large chamber causes resonance to occur at a wider range of wavelengths, so more of the energy in a given wave can be captured. “We found that we could optimize the efficiency of the OWC by making use of the compressibility of air — something that is not intuitively obvious,” Mei says. “It’s very exciting.”

He is currently working with other graduate students on wave power absorbers on coastlines of different geometries and on how to extract wave power from an array of many absorbers.

Mei continues to be enthusiastic about wave energy, but he is not unrealistic in his expectations. Although costs have been falling in recent years, wave energy is unlikely to be commercially viable for a long time — perhaps several decades. Nevertheless, Mei is adamant that more attention should be given to this renewable source of energy, and he would like to see a team of MIT experts in different fields — from energy capture and conversion to transmission and distribution — working collaboratively toward making large-scale wave energy a reality.

“Given the future of conventional energy sources, we need lots of research on all kinds of alternative energy,” he says. “Right now, wind energy and solar energy are in the spotlight because they’ve been developed for a longer time. With wave energy, the potential is large, but the engineering science is relatively young. We need to do more research.”

This article is adapted from a longer version that appeared in the autumn 2008 issue of Energy Futures, the newsletter of the MIT Energy Initiative.

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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.

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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.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 13, 2008

osuA new prototype of a wave energy device being developed by Oregon State University and Columbia Power Technologies was successfully tested last month in the ocean off Newport, Oregon, providing valuable data and moving the research program closer to commercialization.

In a $1 million research effort during the past year, 18 different “direct drive” wave energy technologies have been evaluated, five of the most promising selected from that group, and one approach has now been tested in the ocean. The work has been a collaboration of OSU, Columbia Power Technologies and the Facilities Engineering Command of the U.S. Navy.

“Our latest test went exceedingly well,” said Ted Brekken, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at OSU. “The buoy produced significant power, the hydrodynamic behavior fit our expectations and design, the placement and deployment went smoothly and we got a large amount of data to further evaluate. The Columbia Power Technologies and OSU team did a tremendous job in this collaborative effort.”

There are different approaches towards tapping the power of heaving ocean swells, scientists say, but OSU is focused on a direct drive technology that eliminates the need for hydraulic systems and may be more efficient and durable in a rugged ocean environment.

According to Annette von Jouanne, an OSU professor of electrical engineering, one approach may ultimately become the most dominant in this emerging alternative energy industry, as has been the case with wind power. However, different systems may work better depending on the application, she said.

“We may find that the best system is different depending on the need for low, mid-range or high power production,” von Jouanne said. “One might work best for commercial wave parks, while others could be better suited to local use by coastal communities or even small power devices that run sensors or self-powered buoys.”

In use, wave buoys might range widely in size, from a couple of feet to large commercial devices that are as much as 50 feet wide and 100 feet long, probably in a cylindrical shape, Brekken said. The above water portion of the buoy would be similar in size and visibility to a small boat. Researchers envision that energy production devices might have a lifespan of about 20 years with regular maintenance, similar to existing wind energy systems.

OSU is working in several areas of wave energy development, including new technologies, assessments of the potential biological or environmental impacts, site evaluations and outreach to coastal communities and interest groups.

In September, officials also announced funding support for a new Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center, to be based at the OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center, with a total of $13.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, Oregon legislature, OSU, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust, the University of Washington and other sources. A key part of this initiative will be creation of a wave energy test facility near Newport that would be available to academic researchers as well as private industry.

Experts have estimated that the electrical power available in the U.S. from wave energy might be similar to that of hydroelectric energy, and as such could become a significant part of a sustainable energy future. In Oregon, based on the amount of ocean space that is being considered for use in wave energy “parks,” it could be possible to supply as much as 10% of Oregon’s energy needs, Brekken said.

Further research is needed to address issues such as buoy spacing and placement, but a wave park that could produce 50-100 megawatts of electrical power might be about three miles long and one mile deep, Brekken said, or three square miles. It’s been suggested that Oregon might develop about seven wave parks. If buoys were placed in the areas between the offshore area from one to three miles off the state’s 300-mile-long coast, the space needed for seven energy production parks would be about one-third of 1% of this 600-square-mile area.

Continued research will further refine the optimal energy production and buoy technology, experts say, as well as methods to scale it up in size for commercial use, monitor its maintenance needs and reliability, and other issues.

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Excerpts from FRANK HARTZELL’s article in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News, September 18, 2008

PG&E “expects to be granted $1.2 million this week by the U.S. Department of Energy to study wave energy off Fort Bragg and Eureka” and is seeking “the new money earlier this summer to move its local wave energy study under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit to the commercial stage. In order to complete that study and get test equipment into the water, the Department of Energy grant is needed, PG&E says.”

“The most recent news of the federal Department of Energy grant will be a study undertaken by the utility as part of a team that includes Humboldt State University and the University of Texas at Austin. PG&E hopes the money will eventually make the project commercially viable.”

“PG&E believes there is potential to generate renewable, emission free, environmentally benign, and cost effective energy from wave energy at selected sites in the PG&E service territory in Northern California, and that successful wave energy demonstration may enable significant commercial development resulting in important benefits for both the Northern California region and the country,” the grant application by the utility states.”

“Clearly, PG&E needs to do in-water testing for wave energy to be viable. FERC’s preliminary permit process no longer allows for that to happen. FERC anticipates issuing a license to PG&E for wave energy off Humboldt next spring. A license would allow in-water testing and even legal power generation.”

PG&E’s objective is “to conduct in-water testing and evaluation of commercial/near-commercial WEC [wave energy converter] technology representative of what would be expected to be used in a commercial-scale power plant. This will enable PG&E to make an informed evaluation of WEC technology as to whether, and to what extent, wave energy should be included in PG&E’s energy portfolio, while simultaneously facilitating the commercial development of this new industry,” the PG&E application states.

“PG&E is the primary proposing organization and its project team includes CH2MHill, EPRI, University of Texas at Austin, Humboldt State University and other contractors to be named later.”

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