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Posts Tagged ‘Wave Farm’

MendoCoastCurrent, July 26, 2010

The Technology Strategy Board funding follows the support given earlier this month to AWS Ocean Energy by the Scottish Government’s WATERS programme (Wave and Tidal Energy: Research, Development and Demonstration Support).

Funding will further develop AWS Ocean Energy’s AWS-III, a ring-shaped multi-cell surface-floating wave power system.

The funding from the Technology Strategy Board is part of a £7m million funding package awarded to 9 wave and tidal stream research and development projects.

Simon Grey, Chief Executive of AWS Ocean Energy, says: “This latest funding is very welcome as we continue to develop our AWS-III wave energy device.

“Our trials on Loch Ness will restart in September for a 6 week period and thereafter a detailed assessment of the trial results will be undertaken before we start building and then deploy a full-scale version of one of the wave absorption cells.”

A single utility-scale AWS-III, measuring around 60 m in diameter, will be capable of generating up to 2.5 MW of continuous power.

AWS Ocean Energy says it is seeking industrial and utility partners to enable the launching of a 12-cell, 2.5 MW pre-commercial demonstrator in 2012 and subsequent commercialisation of the technology.

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GAYATHRI VAIDYANATHAN, New York Times, March 2, 2010

Harnessing the ocean waves for emission-free power seems like a tidy concept, but the ocean is anything but tidy. Waves crash from multiple directions on a seemingly random basis, and converting the kinetic energy into electricity is a frontier of alternative energy research that requires grappling with large unknowns.

But with several utility companies and states, and in one case, the U.S. Navy, investing in wave power, or hydrokinetic energy, may not be too far off in the utility mix. At least two companies hope to reach commercial deployments within the next three to five years.

Off the coast of Orkney, Scotland, is the Oyster, a white- and yellow-flapped cylinder, 40 feet tall and firmly locked into the ocean’s bed. With a total of seven moving parts, two of which are pistons, it captures waves as they near the coast. Oyster funnels them into a pipe and carries the power inland to a hydroelectric power generator. The generator has been supplying the United Kingdom’s grid with 315 kilowatts of energy at peak power since October.

A farm of up to 100 Oysters could yield 100 megawatts, according to Aquamarine Power, the Scottish company that developed the technology.

“From an environmental perspective, in the sea you have a very simple machine that uses no oil, no chemicals, no electromagnetic radiation,” said Martin McAdam, CEO of Aquamarine.

The Oyster provides a tiny fraction of the 250 gigawatts of power that the water is capable of providing, including conventional hydroelectric energy by 2030, according to the United Nations. At least 25 gigawatts of that will come from marine renewables, according to Pike Research, a clean technology market research group. The non-conservative estimate is as much as 200 gigawatts. And 2015 will be the benchmark year to determine which of these estimates will be true.

The field of hydrokinetic power has a number of companies such as Aquamarine, all with unique designs and funded by utility companies, government grants and venture capitalists. If at least 50% of these projects come online by 2015, marine power could supply 2.7 gigawatts to the mix, according to Pike Research. A gigawatt is the electrical output of a large nuclear power plant.

‘PowerBuoy’ joins the Marines

There are six marine renewable technologies currently under development that aim to take advantage of ocean waves, tides, rivers, ocean currents, differences in ocean temperatures with depth, and osmosis.

“The energy landscape is going to be a mix of different energy sources, with an increasing proportion coming from renewables,” said Charles Dunleavy, CEO of Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey-based research group also developing wave energy. “We aim to be a very big part of this.”

The company has been testing its wave energy device, called the PowerBuoy, in the ocean since 2005. It recently launched another device a mile offshore from the island of Oahu in Hawaii and connected it to the power grid of the U.S. Marine Corps base. It now supplies 40 kilowatts of energy at peak, enough to power about 25 to 30 homes.

“The Navy wants to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuel; they have a strong need to establish greater energy independence,” said Dunleavy.

The buoy captures the energy from right-sized waves (between 3 and 22 feet tall), which drive a hydraulic pump. The pump converts the motion into electricity in the ocean using a generator embedded into its base. A subsea cable transfers the power to the electrical grid. A buoy farm of 30 acres could yield 10 megawatts of energy, enough to supply 8,000 homes, said Dunleavy.

The structures rise 30 feet above water, and extend 115 feet down. They would not be a problem for commercial trawlers, which are farther offshore, or for ship navigation lanes, said Dunleavy. Recreational boaters, however, may have to watch out.

‘Oyster’ competes with the ‘top end of wind’

In comparison with a system such as the Oyster that brings water ashore to power turbines, creating electricity in the ocean is more efficient, said Dunleavy. “You lose a lot of energy to friction,” he said.

But Aquamarine’s system of having onshore power generation will cut down on maintenance costs, according to McAdam. Operation costs are expected to consume as much as 40% of the budget of operating a marine power plant, according to Pike Research.

Ocean Power is already selling its device for individual commercial use and building larger units of 150 kilowatts off the West Coast of the United States and for the utility company Iberdrola’s unit in Spain.

It is also developing the first wave power station under the Department of Energy’s stimulus program at Reedsport, Ore., according to Dunleavy. The farm, which currently has a 150-kilowatt unit, could grow by nine additional buoys.

And as for price, which is a major concern, Dunleavy said that cost compares with other renewables.

“It is cheaper than solar thermal and photovoltaics, and in the range of biomass,” he said. “It is at the top end of wind.”

The Oyster is also aiming to position itself as an alternative to wind power for utilities. McAdam said that by 2013, his company hopes to be a competitor to offshore wind installations. And by 2015, he hopes to compete with onshore wind.

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PennWell Publishing, February 22, 2010

Construction has begun off Oregon’s coast on a commercial U.S. wave energy farm, which is being developed by Ocean Power Technologies and is planned to supply power to about 400 homes, according to national media reports.

The system will be installed off the Oregon coast near Reedsport, and it will represent the first phase of an expected 10-PowerBuoy Reedsport wave power station with a generating capacity of about 1.5 MW. The development would be the first commercial-scale wave power farm in the United States.

The first buoy will measure 150 feet tall by 40 feet wide, weigh 200 tons and cost $4 million, according to Phil Pellegrino, spokesman for New Jersey-based developer Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. OPT has chosen Oregon Iron Works to construct its first commercial wave energy PowerBuoy system in North America.

Nine additional PowerBuoys will be constructed and installed under the second phase of the project. The additional buoys are scheduled to be deployed by 2012 at a total cost of about $60 million.

Ocean Power Technologies recently received an A$66.5 million (US$61 million) grant from the Australian government to build a 19-MW wave power project off the coast of Victoria, Australia.

Ocean Power Technologies plans to complete its first PB150 wave energy device in the UK for deployment in Scotland in mid 2010.

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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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Excerpts of FRANK HARTZELL’s article, Mendocino Beacon, May 7, 2009

gweclogo1GreenWave Energy Solutions, an “alternative energy startup has been granted a three-year preliminary permit to study wave energy off Mendocino.

It’s locals’ first look at action by a newly recast Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is tasked by the Obama Administration to make a greater push to develop alternative energy.

On May 1, FERC issued an exclusive preliminary permit to GreenWave Energy Solutions LLC. The permit’s area stretches from just north of Albion to off Point Cabrillo, about a half-mile from shore to three miles offshore.

Five men from the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California, including Tony Strickland, a Republican state senator, formed GreenWave Energy Solutions about two years ago.

Strickland, one of the state’s most ardent deregulators and anti-tax advocates, won the state Legislature’s closest race last November by a handful of votes. He made his involvement in alternative energy a key part of his campaign.

Green Wave Energy Solutions is composed of president Wayne Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante, developer Dean Kunicki and developer Gary Gorian. Kunicki and Gorian are major real estate developers in Southern California.

The preliminary permit reserves that area solely for GreenWave and also gives the company first rights to apply for a long-term power license in state waters.”

“The GreenWave proposal envisions eventual construction of a power plant with more than twice the capacity of that planned by PG&E. GreenWave’s Burkamp said the firm is not a shell corporation or a subsidiary of any other company.

GreenWave hopes to someday install 10 to 100 Pelamis or OPT hydrokinetic devices capable of producing 100 megawatts, with a 2- to 3-mile long powerline running to shore, the permit application states.

FERC’s permit conditions for GreenWave don’t vary much from those imposed by FERC under the former Bush Administration.

But locals made this preliminary permit one of the longest ever. And the application has more interveners and more people commenting than any other “hydrokinetic” project in the nation. FERC has issued and is considering hydrokinetic permits from the Yukon River to the Florida Keys for wave, tidal, ocean current and river flow power.

While issuing the permit, FERC briefly responds to each point raised by locals.

“As for the concerns raised by Mendocino County and Laurel Krause regarding the financial capability and experience of the applicant, it has been the Commission’s policy for some time that, at least where there is no competition for a permit, the Commission will not base grant of the permit on proof of an applicant’s ability to finance or perform studies under the permit,” FERC wrote. “However, as discussed below, application of the Commission’s strict scrutiny policy may include cancellation of the permit if the applicant is unable to demonstrate, for financial or other reasons, adequate progress toward the possible development of a license application.”

Although FERC is an independent agency, President Obama appointed Jon Wellinghoff as chairman of the five-member commission after the chairman under President Bush resigned and left FERC. With the commission now split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats, Obama now has the opportunity to change its direction with his appointment of a new fifth member.

FERC also recently accepted three preliminary permit applications from Sonoma County to study wave energy off its shores, a nod to local government that signals a change of direction for the independent federal commission.

That change began when Mendocino County and the City of Fort Bragg protested exclusion from the process and a lawsuit was threatened.

The permit is the first wave energy permit since the Obama Administration released new standards for the process of generating alternative energy on the outer continental shelf.

Under that plan, FERC has complete control of the wave energy process inside three miles. For projects like PG&E’s wave energy proposal, which extends on both sides of the three-mile line, a Minerals Management Service lease is required past state waters. PG&E withdrew from its efforts to get a MMS lease last year.

GreenWave’s permit area appears to extend just beyond the three-mile limit. John Romero of MMS said neither PG&E or GreenWave has sought a lease from MMS.

GreenWave’s application says the initial phase will involve spending between $1 million and $2 million and will be financed entirely through private equity.

“The estimated cost of the second phase (the actual installation of wave energy devices in the water and the generation of power from these devices) will be $20 million to $40 million,” the application states.

Burkamp told the newspaper that GreenWave’s application is different from PG&E’s in that GreenWave will focus on solving environmental issues, while PG&E Wave Connect is set up to test rival technologies.

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PATRICK BLUM, International Herald Tribune, March 15, 2009

LISBON: Projects for wind and wave energy beset by technical snags and dwindling investment

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisIn July, a Pelamis wave power generator, an articulated steel machine like a giant semi-submerged sausage, was towed into the deep Atlantic, off the coast of Aguçadoura in northern Portugal, and attached to a floating mooring.

By September, two more Pelamis units, each capable of generating 750 kilowatts of electricity, had joined the first, about three miles, or five kilometers, off shore, and the Portuguese power utility Energias de Portugal was able to announce proudly that “the world’s first commercial wave power project,” was transmitting electricity to the national grid.

Costing about €9 million, or $11.5 million, the three machines were the first phase of a plan intended ultimately to be expanded to 28 units, with a total generating capacity of 21 megawatts — enough to power more than 15,000 homes and save more than 60,000 tons a year of carbon dioxide from being spewed into the skies by conventional power plants.

In mid-November all three were disconnected and towed back to land, where they now lie in Leixões harbor, near the city of Porto, with no date set for their return to operation.

So what went wrong?

First, there was a buoyancy problem, said Max Carcas, a spokesman for Pelamis Wave Power, the British company that designed and built the units and retained a 23% stake in the project. According to a report on ocean energy systems published by the International Energy Agency, foam-filled buoyancy tanks for the mooring installation leaked and needed to be replaced, delaying startup.

The buoyancy problem was resolved, Mr. Carcas said during a telephone interview this month, but other technical issues emerged, as could be expected in a prototype project. “Like all things new, you have niggles to work through, and we continue to do that.”

Then, the financial crisis kicked in.

The Aguçadoura wave farm was announced in September as a joint venture between Pelamis and a group of three promoters including EDP, the Portuguese electrical engineering company Efacec, and the asset manager Babcock & Brown, an Australia-based specialist in power and other infrastructure investments.

But, by November, as the global credit crunch and falling share markets took a deepening toll of highly leveraged investors, Babcock & Brown announced a major program of asset sales to pay down its debt: and the Portuguese partners pulled back from the venture.

“Babcock & Brown are in process of winding down and we’re looking at offers for all our assets,” Anthony Kennaway, a Babcock & Brown spokesman, said from London. “Pelamis is part of that. All our assets are for sale. We are not putting any more money into the project.”

Against that background, Mr. Carcas, of Pelamis, said that there was no timetable for returning the generators to sea.

“As soon as things are resolved,” he said. “Could be next week. Could be anything.”

Harnessing ocean power for energy seemed an ideal option for Portugal, a small country with no oil and limited resources, and a long Atlantic coastline south of the Bay of Biscay, famed for its fierce waves and storms.

Portugal now imports more than 80% of its energy supplies, far above the European Union average. Domestic power generation is heavily dependent on hydroelectric projects, which are vulnerable to big fluctuations in output, depending on seasonal weather conditions.

Ambitious government plans still aim for a radical transformation of Portugal’s energy profile, with as much as 60% of the country’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020. That compares with an EU target of 20% for the union as a whole.

But the Aguçadoura project points up the risks of a strategy relying on cutting-edge, and potentially costly, technology. Whether or not the target is achievable, particularly in current economic conditions, is a subject of debate among the country’s renewable energy specialists.

“We assumed there would be no critical technical issues,” to hinder deployment of offshore generators, said Antonio Sarmento, director of the Wave Energy Center, WavEC, a Portuguese nonprofit organization that promotes ocean wave power generation.

“Also we assumed there would be no environmental impact and that the energy would be relatively cheap. So we were optimistic,” Mr. Sarmento said. “It’s an educated guess. We are still guessing. When you pick up a new technology and look at the future it’s difficult to say what will be.”

On the cost side, investments in ocean-based technologies “are very high and operating costs are not entirely negligible because you have the problem of corrosion from salt water,” said Colette Lewiner, head of the global energy and utilities sector at the French consultancy and services company Capgemini.

While the Aguçadoura partners put the cost of the first phase at a relatively modest €9 million, the true cost of such developments is difficult to calculate, said Hugo Chandler, a renewable energy analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris.

“Part of the problem is the absence of data,” he said. “Countries are still at an early stage and don’t want to reveal real costs.”

It’s a very young technology, Mr. Chandler said, but “the indications are that it is considerably more expensive than other technologies.”

Still, the Aguçadoura experience has not discouraged EDP from pursuing other high-tech ocean solutions. Last month it signed an agreement with Principle Power of the United States to develop and install a floating offshore wind farm off the Portuguese coast, one of the first projects of its kind in Europe.

The project would use proprietary Principle Power technology designed to allow wind turbines to be set in high-wind but previously inaccessible ocean locations where water depth exceeds 50 meters, or 164 feet. The agreement foresees commercial deployment in three phases, but sets no timetable.

Offshore wind power generation currently costs 50% to 100% more than equivalent onshore wind farms, according to a recent Capgemini report on clean technologies in Europe. But Portugal is eager to press ahead with the new technology. “Offshore wind is one of our key innovation priorities,” said the chief executive of EDP, António Mexia.

“The development of floating foundations for wind turbines is a prerequisite to the development of offshore wind farms world-wide, as areas in which the sea bed is less than 50 meters deep are scarce and fixed structures in deeper waters are economically not feasible,” he said.

Still, he noted, the agreement with Principle Power “is not a binding contract; there are a number of prerequisites, technical and financial, that need to be met.”

A €30 million first phase, covering development and infrastructure construction, could see a small, five megawatt floating generator in operation by the second half of 2012. But for that to happen, full funding would need to be in place “by the end of this semester,” Mr. Mexia said.

WavEC, meanwhile, has several wave power projects in the pipeline, including tests of prototype systems from three companies — WaveRoller, of Finland; Ocean Power Technologies of the United States; and Wavebob, of Ireland.

For sure, the economic recession and financial crisis are adding to the challenges facing such projects, as investors pull back. “There will be a pause, a slowdown, in renewable energy investment until we see the recovery,” said Ms. Lewiner, of Capgemini. But “these investments take time and you can’t sleep through the recession. These plants are needed.”

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MaritimeJournal.com, February 12, 2009

mj_newsletter_12-2-09_pelamisEdinburgh-based Pelamis Wave Power has won an order from UK renewable energy generator E.On for the next generation Pelamis Wave Energy Converter, known as the P2.

The P2 will be built at the Pelamis Leith Docks facility and trialed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney. This is the first time a major utility has ordered a wave energy converter for installation in the UK and the first time the Pelamis P2 machine will be tested anywhere in the world.

Pelamis already has the world’s first multi-unit wave farm operational some 5km off the north coast of Portugal at Agucadora, where three 750kW machines deliver 2.25MW of electricity to the Portuguese grid. Operator Enersis has issued a letter of intent to Pelamis for a further 20MW of capacity to expand the successful project.

Licenses, consents and funding have been granted for the Orcadian Wave Farm, which will consist of four Pelamis generators supplied to ScottishPower Renewables. This installation, also at EMEC, will utilise existing electrical subsea cables, substation and grid connection.

Funding and consent has also been granted for Wave Hub, a wave energy test facility 15km off the north coast of Cornwall UK which is expected to be commissioned this year. It will consist of four separate berths, each capable of exporting 5MW of wave generated electricity. Ocean Prospect has secured exclusive access to one of the Wave Hub berths for the connection of multiple Pelamis devices.

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JENNY HAWORTH, Scotman.com, February 12, 2009

na910MORE than three dozen energy companies from across the world are hoping to install wave energy devices in a stretch of sea off the north of Scotland. The renewable energy firms all have their sights on the Pentland Firth, which is considered one of the best locations in the world for generating electricity from the power of the tides.

Yesterday, the Crown Estate, which owns the seabed and will authorize any offshore  wave energy project, announced it had invited 38 companies to submit detailed plans for schemes in the Pentland Firth.

This is the first stretch of water off the UK to be opened up for development of marine renewables, meaning successful companies will be building among the first marine wave energy projects in the world.

Each company hopes to install dozens, or even hundreds of wave energy devices, such as tidal turbines, in the ocean.

Alex Salmond, the First Minister, hopes it will help Scotland become a world leader in renewable energy, saying “the fact that so many companies have already registered their interest in developing wave and tidal energy projects in the Pentland Firth and surrounding waters is extremely encouraging.”

“The Scottish Government has recently launched the world’s greatest-ever single prize for innovation in marine energy, the £10 million Saltire Prize, and the opening of the Pentland Firth for development is a timely and crucial move.”

The Crown Estate invited initial expressions of interest in the Pentland Firth from renewables firms in November 2008. A spokeswoman said she could not reveal how many companies had shown an interest because of competition rules, but she confirmed 38 firms would be invited to the next stage – to tender for sites in the Pentland Firth.

They must now submit detailed applications, spelling out how many devices they want to install in the water, by the end of May.

The Crown Estate will decide which are suitable, and the companies will then have to apply for planning permission from the Scottish Government.

Calum Duncan, Scottish conservation manager for the Marine Conservation Society, welcomed renewable technologies, but said the possible impact of the devices on sensitive seabed habitats must be considered, including the likely affect on mussel beds and feeding areas for fish, basking sharks and seabirds.

Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson and MSP for Orkney, also welcomed the strong interest but had reservations. “This energetic stretch of water will be a challenging resource to tame,” he said.

“We still know relatively little about the Pentland Firth and what will happen when we start putting devices in the water there.

“While the Pentland Firth is often described as the Saudi Arabia of tidal power, the challenges it presents also make it the Mount Everest.”

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CHRISTOPHER RUSSELL, The Advertiser, February 11, 2009

images3Wave energy company Carnegie Corporation has been licensed by the Australian state government to explore the seabed off the southeast coast. It is the first license issued in South Australia for a company to search for suitable sites for wave-harnessing technology.

Carnegie Corporation, which has demonstration wave energy projects operating in Western Australia, has been licensed to search an area covering 17,000ha adjacent to Port MacDonnell.

The South Australia (SA) “coast receives a world class wave energy resource and further adds to SA’s leadership in developing renewable energy including wind, solar and geothermal,” Carnegie Corporation managing director Michael Ottaviano said.

In an announcement this morning to the Australian Securities Exchange, Carnegie noted any successful site in the Southeast would be near existing power infrastructure, enabling the company to tap into the national electricity market.

Australian Premier Mike Rann welcomed the company’s investment. “Wave power – like geothermal power – has the potential to provide a huge base load of sustainable energy in the future,” Mr Rann said.

The license, signed today, also allows Carnegie to investigate building a 50MW wave power station. Carnegie’s CETO system operates by using an array of submerged buoys tethered to seabed pumps and anchored to the ocean floor.

Mr Rann said whether Carnegie determines that Port MacDonnell is a suitable site will depend on its tests. “But Carnegie is one of several emerging companies taking up the challenge of providing a new form of base-load sustainable energy,” he said. “It is one of two companies looking to SA to trial its wave power technology along our coastline – and we want to encourage others to do the same.”

Mr Rann said SA was the “most attractive in Australia” for investors in renewable energy. “SA now has 58% of the nation’s installed wind generation capacity and more than 70% of the geothermal exploration activity,” he said. “I have directed my department to prepare a similar framework specifically for the wave and tidal sector.”

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Publisher’s Note:  Feb 09, 2009 – Not only has Finavera surrendered their Makah Bay license noted below, they also announced surrendering the Humboldt County, California Preliminary Permit to explore wave energy:

“Finavera Renewables has filed applications to surrender its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license for the Makah Bay Wave Energy Pilot Project in Washington and the Humboldt County Preliminary Permit for a proposed wave energy project in California.”

MendoCoastCurrent readers may recall Finavera’s inability to secure CPUC funding for the Humboldt project; noted below capitalization, financial climate as key reasons in these actions.

MendoCoastCurrent, February 6, 2009

finavera-wavepark-graphicToday Finavera Renewables surrendered their Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Makah Bay, Washington wave energy project license, commenting that the Makah Bay Finavera project “never emerged from the planning stages.”

And “due to the current economic climate and the restrictions on capital necessary to continue development of this early-stage experimental Project, the Project has become uneconomic.  Efforts by Finavera to transfer the license were not successful.  Therefore, Finavera respectfully requests that the <FERC> Commission allow it to surrender its license for the Project. ”

Back in early 2007, Finavera’s Makah Bay project looked like it would become the first U.S. and west coast project deployment of wave energy devices.  And this project also had a unique status based on Native American Indian land/coastal waters, so the rules of FERC, MMS were different due to sovereign status.

Then AquaBuoy, Finavera’s premier wave energy device, sank off the Oregon coast due to a bilge pump failure in late October 2007.  

Recently noted was Finavera’s comment that they are currently focusing their renewable energy efforts toward wind energy projects closer to their homebase in British Columbia, Canada and in Ireland.

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DAVID FOGARTY, Reuters Climate Change Correspondent, February 5, 2009

ceto-overview1For millennia, Australia’s rugged southern coast has been carved by the relentless action of waves crashing ashore.

The same wave energy could soon be harnessed to power towns and cities and trim Australia’s carbon emissions.

“Waves are already concentrated solar energy,” says Michael Ottaviano, who leads a Western Australian firm developing a method to turn wave power into electricity.

“The earth has been heated by the Sun, creating wind, which created the swells,” he told Reuters from Perth, saying wave power had the potential to supply all of Australia’s needs many times over.

Ottaviano heads Carnegie Corp, which has developed a method of using energy captured from passing waves to generate high-pressure sea water. This is piped onshore to drive a turbine and to create desalinated water.

A series of large buoys are tethered to piston pumps anchored in waters 15 to 50 metres deep (49 to 131 feet). The rise and fall of passing waves drives the pumps, generating water pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

This drives the turbine onshore and forces the water through a membrane that strips out the salt, creating fresh water in a process that normally requires a lot of electricity.

The CETO (named after a mythical Greek sea creature) pumps and buoys are located under water, differing from some other wave power methods, for example, those that sit on the surface.

The CETO concept was invented in the 1970s by a Western Australian businessman Alan Burns and initial development began in 1999, followed by completion of a working prototype by 2005.

Ottaviano says the company, which works in partnership with British-based wind farm developer Renewable Energy Holdings and French utility EDF, is in the process of selecting a site for its first commercial demonstration plant in Australia.

The 50 megawatt plant, enough to power a large town, would cost between A$300 million to A$400 million ($193 million to $257 million) and cover about 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of seabed.

Funding could be raised from existing or new shareholders, he believes.

Several sites in Western Australia, including Albany in the south and Garden Island off Perth, looked promising.

“There’s significant interest in these sorts of projects, even in the current financial environment,” he added.

And a 50 MW plant was just a drop in the ocean.

He pointed to a study commissioned by the company that said wave power had the potential to generate up to 500,000 MW of electricity along the southern half of Australia’s coast at depths greater than 50 metres (165 feet).

At shallower depths, the potential was 170,000 MW, or about four times Australia’s installed power generation capacity.

Interest in renewable energy in Australia and elsewhere is being driven by government policies that enshrine clean energy production targets as well as state-backed funding programmes for emerging clean-tech companies.

“Australia is going to be one of those markets because of what the government is doing to drive investment in this sector. For starters, there’s quite a bit of direct government funding for projects like this,” he said.

The federal government has also set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2020, which is expected to drive billions of dollars worth of investment in Australia over the next decade, with much of it going into wind farms.

A second company, BioPower Systems, is developing underwater wave and tidal power systems and expects to complete pilot projects off northern Tasmania this year.

The company’s bioWAVE system is anchored to the sea bed and generates electricity through the movement of buoyant blades as waves pass, in a swaying motion similar to the way sea plants, such as kelp, move.

Tidal power, in which electricity is generated by turbines spinning to the ebb and flow of tides, has not taken off in Australia, partly because of cost, but is expected to be a big provider of green power in Britain in coming years.

Last week, Britain announced five possible projects to generate power from a large tidal area in south-west England. The largest of the projects could generate 8,600 MW and cost 21 billion pounds ($29 billion).

CONSTANT

Ottaviano believes wave power is one of the few green technologies that can provide steady, or baseload power.

Wind and solar photovoltaic panels can only operate at 25 to 30% efficiencies because neither the wind nor the sun are permanently available.

Government policies should promote the development of technologies that delivered large-scale, high-availability clean power competitively, he said.

“If you look from an outcome point of view and leave it up to the market to work out how that is going to be achieved, it comes down to geothermal certainly being one of the potential technologies because (of) its high availability and also potentially cost-competitive and harnessable at large scale,” Ottaviano said.

Australia has large geothermal potential in remote central and northern areas.

“Wave is another logical one because it is high availability. It is 90 to 100% available in most sites around southern Australia.”

“You could power the country 10 times over.”

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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 4, 2009

coos-bay-intro2Coos Bay, Oregon — The jobs are coming, so Ocean Power Technologies insists.

OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said Monday the company wants to get stimulus funds from the federal government.

“We have a strong interest in presenting a project that would be jobs-ready right now,” Bergstein said.

OPT wants to get a test buoy in the water soon. It recently formed an agreement with Lockheed Martin in which Lockheed would provide construction, systems integration and deployment work, according to a press release.

The announcement last week followed on a similar report from Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas and American Bridge in Reedsport that said they plan to share buoy construction work, if Oregon Iron gets OPT’s contract.

Bergstein said the Lockheed agreement is for higher level technical, systems integration work.

“It would not replace work on the coast,” he said.

OPT has said it hopes to get a buoy in the water this year and to submit plans to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the federal government in March.

The Obama administration recently put together the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, to boost the living standards of the country’s middle class. Its first focus is green jobs, those that use renewable energy resources, reduce pollution, conserve energy and natural resources and reconstitute waste. The task force’s first meeting is Feb. 27.

If the community can get behind OPT’s plans, Bergstein said, the company could submit it to the task force.

“We want to demonstrate that wave energy projects are the kinds of things that can bring jobs to coastal communities,” he said. “Nothing could say that better than being part of a stimulus package.”

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SUSAN CHAMBERS, The World, February 3, 2009

Coos Bay — The announcement came as a surprise to everyone.

beachpThe Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Thursday order issuing a preliminary permit for a 200- to 400-buoy wave energy project off of Newport shocked Ocean Power Technologies leaders as well as the public.

“It’s a project, a site that is not on our priority list right now,” OPT spokesman Len Bergstein said. “It was a little bit of a surprise to us in terms of timing.”

What’s different about this project is that FERC’s approval stirs up a hornet’s nest at the time OPT is trying to work with residents on the South Coast for community approval of two sites: a 10-buoy project off of Gardiner and a 200-buoy project off of the North Spit.

It also calls into question FERC’s intentions of adhering to a memorandum of understanding previously negotiated with Oregon to give the state greater siting power over wave energy projects in the territorial sea.

The approval also seems to be designed for FERC to flex authority over territory traditionally overseen by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service. Both agencies have claimed the area outside of Oregon’s territorial sea, beyond three nautical miles.

Mixed Messages

As the FERC notice of approval hit residents’ e-mail inboxes late Thursday, outrage began to build.

“My concern is this sends the wrong message,” said Lincoln County District Attorney Rob Bovett. “This is high-value crab grounds, about as valuable as you get.”

OPT applied for the permit in November 2006, but let the application slide. The jurisdictional battle meant the application was going nowhere fast. OPT decided to concentrate its work on the Gardiner and Coos Bay sites, both of which are inside the territorial sea.

Bergstein said as soon as he found out about the approval, he immediately called Lincoln County Commissioner Terry Thompson and other Lincoln County folks, particularly those involved with the Fishermen Involved in Natural Energy group.

“Clearly, we have not been prompting FERC,” Bergstein said.

Bovett, who was involved in the commenting on the original OPT application, said Fishermen Involved has been working with wave energy companies to determine the best sites for development that would have the least impact on the fishing industry and local communities. This, though, was different.

“FINE wasn’t involved in the selection of this box,” Bovett said.

State vs. FERC?

Bovett’s first question was: Does the memorandum of understanding not mean anything?

In March 2008, FERC and Oregon signed a memorandum designed to “coordinate the procedures and schedules for review of wave energy projects.”

Bovett just chuckled.  According to the deal, he said, FERC wasn’t going to issue permits willy nilly. 

Some of the discrepancy over the decision to issue a preliminary permit — which allows OPT to only study the area for feasibility — may be because Oregon hasn’t finished updating its territorial sea plan. The Ocean Policy Advisory Council and the state have been working on it, but the marine reserves issue has dominated the council’s time over the past year.

“This will obviously get everybody’s attention,” Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition Chairman Nick Furman said of FERC’s decision.

That’s putting it lightly.

Whereas the Reedsport and Coos Bay sites are considered by some to be ground zero as far as local communities negotiating with wave energy developers, the Newport site could be ground zero for state vs. federal and agency vs. agency jurisdiction and siting battles.

However, Bovett said, OPT holds the key right now.

The New Jersey-based wave energy developer should withdraw from  the site, he said. Otherwise, years of litigation seem likely — and courts ultimately would have the final say over which agency should be in charge of alternative energy.

“OPT can fix this,” Bovett said. “It’s exactly what they should do.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 31, 2009

On January 26, 2009, Lockheed Martin and Ocean Power Technologies agreed to work together to develop a commercial-scale wave energy project off the coasts of Oregon or California.

OPT is providing their expertise in project and site development as they build the plant’s power take-off and control systems with their PowerBuoy for electricity generation.  Lockheed will build, integrate and deploy the plant as well as provide operating and maintenance services. Lockheed and OPT have already worked together on maritime projects for the U.S. government.

Spanish utility Iberdrola is using OPT’s PowerBuoy on the Spainish coast in Santoña for first phase deployment, hoping to become the first commercial-scale wave energy device in the world.  In the Spainish project, Lockheed and Ocean Power are working toward an increased cost-performance of a power-purchasing agreement from which this U.S. wave energy project may benefit.

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Editors Note:  On May 11, 2009, PG&E pulled-out of Mendocino WaveConnect, read it here: http://tinyurl.com/qwlbg6 . The remains of the $6M are now solely allocated to Humboldt WaveConnect.

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

wave-ocean-blue-sea-water-white-foam-photoPG&E caught a major renewable energy wave today as the California Public Utilities Commission approved $4.8 million in funding their centerpiece wave energy project, WaveConnect. The program also received an additional $1.2 million in matching funds from the Department of Energy. PG&E’s WaveConnect, a project already two years in the making, launches with a $6M kitty.

WaveConnect is chartered with exploring wave energy development off the coasts of Mendocino and Humboldt counties in Northern California. The stakeholders in this region are dyed-in-the-wool political activists, living in environmentally-centric coastal communities and have reacted protectively, sounding alarms that PG&E and the Federal government’s wave energy plans may foul, diminish and destroy the Pacific Ocean and marine life.

Over the two years that PG&E and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) advanced WaveConnect, only recently have environmental concerns and study become part of the discussion. The opportunity for Mendocino and Humboldt coastal communities and local governments to embrace wave energy development and connect with WaveConnect has not gone well, especially as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has disallowed the City of Fort Bragg and local fishermen to be party in the WaveConnect FERC Preliminary Permitting.

Jonathan Marshall, publisher of Next100, a PG&E blog, wrote “PG&E’s first step will be to conduct meetings with local stakeholders and agencies to learn about their issues and concerns. After completing appropriate environmental reviews and permit applications, which could take a couple of years, PG&E then plans to build an undersea infrastructure, including power transmission cables, to support wave energy demonstration projects. The utility will then invite manufacturers of wave energy devices to install them offshore for testing and comparison.”

“The anticipated cost of wave power compares favorably to the early days of solar and wind,” says William Toman, WaveConnect project manager at PG&E. “It will take several stages of design evolution to lower costs and increase reliability.” The CPUC and the DOE are betting on this evolution as in this funding scenario engineered by PG&E, the CPUC awards $4.8M in ratepayer funds while the DOE $1.2M is a matching grant.

Wave energy may become a key source of renewable energy in California. It’s proposed that the 745-mile coastline could produce 1/5th of California’s energy needs if, admittedly a big if, economic, environmental, land use and grid connection issues — and community issues — don’t stand in the way.

Marshall wrote in closing “Making ocean power technology work reliably and at a competitive price will be the first big challenge. Serving offshore installations with power transmission lines will be another economic and engineering hurdle. Finally, ocean power developers must also convince local communities and government regulators that their installations will not destroy marine life, cause boating collisions or navigational hazards, or degrade ocean views.”

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Please Take Action By MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009 before 2:00 pm!

MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2009

ferc_seal1Just a couple of weeks ago, Ann Miles, Director of Hydropower Licensing at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission visited the Mendocino coast.  The centerpiece of her presentation on January 13, 2009 at Fort Bragg Town Hall was to explain the FERC Hydokinetic Licensing process.

For all those present at the meeting, Ms. Miles informed the Mendocino community of the WRONG DATE to file citizen Motions to Intervene in the Green Wave LLC proposed FERC project on the Mendocino village coastline.

FERC has kindly updated the mis-information and has indicated they wish to have the correct date promoted.  This correct date to file Motions to Intervene (directions follow) is now Monday, February 9, 2009 no later than 2:00 P.M. PST.

* * * * * * * *

Here’s a novel and effective way for you, your company and your family to state your position to the Federal Government on Mendocino wave energy development. It’s pretty simple to do, it’s empowering and it’s effective in that each filing can make a difference. Interested? Read on.

This action relates to Green Wave Energy Solutions’ application for a wave energy Preliminary Permit that was recently accepted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Since early December 2008, FERC has enabled a process for the public and interested parties to share their views (intervene).  The best way to participate is go online to the FERC web site and use the guide below to share your views on the Green Wave FERC hydrokinetic application.

Click on this HERE for a step-by-step instruction guide authored by Elizabeth Mitchell, FERC Coordinator for Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, FISH.

More about the FERC and Green Wave Energy Solutions Mendocino Wave Energy Permit

An application for a wave energy project in the ocean off Mendocino, California has been filed by Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC.  Green Wave has made an application to put 10 to 100 wave energy devices in 17 square miles of ocean, between 0.5 and 2.6 miles offshore, running roughly north and south between the Navarro River and Point Cabrillo on the North Coast of California.

On December 9, 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) began the permit process for the project by issuing a “Notice of Preliminary Permit Applications Accepted for Filing and Soliciting Comment, Motions to Intervene, and Competing Applications.”  

The law provides that interested individuals and organizations may become parties to the permit process.  In order to become a party, you and/or your organization(s) must file a “Motion to Intervene.”  The deadline for intervening in the Green Wave Project is Monday, February 9, 2009 by 2:00 P.M. PST.

You may intervene no matter what your current views are on the merits of wave energy.  Intervention gives you a place at the table as a full party to the permit process.  It also enables you to appeal future FERC rulings with respect to the permit. 

Intervening is not difficult, and you do not have to be a lawyer to do it.  If you file your motion to intervene by the Monday, February 9, 2009 deadline, and no one opposes your intervention, you automatically become a party after 15 days.

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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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Susan Chambers, The World, January 26, 2009

coos-bay-intro1Coos Bay, Oregon – Ocean Power Technologies is feeling pressure as local groups, the state and even the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission urge the company to shrink its 200-buoy Coos Bay plan.

Oregon Wave Energy Partners I, as Ocean Power Technologies, filed its notice of intent and preliminary application document with FERC in March 2008 for the 200-buoy array off the North Spit.

The Southern Oregon Ocean Resource Coalition, Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, Surfrider Foundation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife filed comments suggesting OPT slow down. Instead of going for a full build-out, phase it in after more studies are done, they said.

The 200-buoy plan also runs counter to FERC’s own advice.

In August 2008, FERC told OPT that, “since information about the potential environmental effects of large-scale projects, such as proposed in your (preliminary application document) is limited, we believe that in most situations, smaller pilot projects are better suited for development at this time.”

The coalition also debated the length of the license, should it be granted. Like hydropower licenses, which typically are in force for between 30 and 50 years, so too are hyrokinetic licenses — those that cover wave, tidal and current energy projects.

“… it is premature to license a project of the size and scope planned off of Coos Bay, especially given the 30- to 50-year license terms being sought after,” SOORC said, noting that more studies should be done first.

OPT has said it will be a few years before even the first few buoys are in the water. OPT hasn’t yet placed one buoy in the water at Gardiner but FERC could grant a license for the Coos Bay project before any studies from the Reedsport project are completed.

ODFW, too, said more studies must be done.

“ODFW believes that the proposed project size (200 buoys) is not consistent with state’s support of experimental wave energy projects,” ODFW wrote in its comments. “A full build-out of a commercial sized project at this stage would lack the applied knowledge from studies of previous experimental projects, thus ODFW would not fully understand the potential impacts of the project in order to responsibly and thoroughly comment on a large project.”

The Port of Coos Bay reiterated Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s plan for the territorial sea. Last year, Kulongoski wrote to FERC that large-scale projects “must be preceded by a comprehensive evaluation for this and other uses of these waters to ensure those ocean resources and other ocean values and uses will not be harmed.”

That shows, the port said, that a small demonstration project should be allowed first, with studies over several years on impacts to the environment and coastal communities — before a full license is granted.

OPT’s vice president of Business Development and Marketing, Herb Nock, said the company expected such comments.

“It’s a range of views,” Nock said. “We came back to the public meetings and are investing the time to understand the alternative uses of the sea.”

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BBC News, January 22, 2009

_45402571_siadar_wavepower_226One of the world’s largest wave stations is to be constructed in Scotland off the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles.

The station will create up to 70 jobs and advance Scotland’s bid to lead the world in renewable energy, First Minister Alex Salmond said.

Ministers have granted consent for an application by npower renewables to operate a wave farm with a 4MW capacity at Siadar.

It is one of the first marine energy projects to be approved in the UK.

The technology used is called “oscillating water column”.

Ocean waves move air in and out of chambers in a breakwater, which in turn drives a turbine from Inverness-based Wavegen, known as the Wells turbine, to generate electricity.

Stephen Salter, a professor of engineering design at the University of Edinburgh and a leading expert on renewable energy said that wave power had the potential to provide 100kw of power for every metre of ocean — amounting to a big conventional power station for every 10km of shoreline.

At 4mw of power the Lewis wave farm will be able to power around 1800 homes — a thousand times less powerful than a conventional coal fired Drax power station.

Even so Prof Salter said he believed the Lewis project to be the largest wave farm in the world, adding: “It is still small but the longest journey starts with a single step.”

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Today’s announcement is a significant step in Scotland’s journey to become a world leader in renewables.

“The Siadar wave farm will be one of the largest consented wave electricity generating station in the world.

“It is the first commercial wave farm in Scotland and is starting with a capacity to power around 1,800 homes.

“Nationally, this development will further strengthen our sector and locally, it has the potential to create up to 70 jobs in the Western Isles.

“This is good news for the Western Isles and for Scotland but its long-term potential is global.”

npower renewables’ managing director Paul Cowling said: “Scotland has immense potential in marine energy and the opportunity to be a world leader in marine renewables.

“This consent is an important milestone in the development of wave power technology and is to be celebrated.

“However, commercial demonstration projects such as Siadar still face significant economic challenges.”

Matthew Seed, chief executive officer of Wavegen said: “The Siadar Wave Energy Project will be a major step in the development of the wave energy industry in Scotland and worldwide.

“Wavegen’s proven technology will now be employed at full commercial scale, paving the way for real cost efficiencies which will bring the cost of wave energy closer to that of more established technologies.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 17, 2009

Here’s the post from MendoCoastCurrent in the Citizen’s Briefing Book at President-elect Barack Obama’s change.gov site:

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force

Immediately establish and staff a Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force chartered with exploring and fast-tracking the development, exploration and commercialization of environmentally-sensitive renewable energy solutions in solar, wind, wave, green-ag, et al.

At this ‘world-class incubator,’ federal energy policy development is created as cutting-edge technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing to refinement and implementation.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

If you wish to support this, please vote up this post at :

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Mendocino Energy:

Renewable energy incubator and campus on the Mendocino coast exploring nascent and organic technology solutions in wind, wave, solar, green-ag, bioremediation and coastal energy, located on the 400+ acre waterfront G-P Mill site.

Mendocino Energy may be a Campus in Obama’s Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

Vision:

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site shall be used for exploring best practices, cost-efficient, environmentally-sensitive renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag, among many others. The end goal is to identify and engineer optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions.

Start-ups, universities (e.g., Stanford’s newly-funded energy institute), the federal government (RED) and the world’s greatest minds working together to create, collaborate, compete and participate in this fast-tracked exploration.

The campus is quickly constructed of green, temp-portable structures (also a green technology) on the healthiest areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is currently being tested (one more sustainable technology requiring exploration). So, readying the site and determining best sites for solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, wave energy, etc.

To learn more about these technologies, especially wave energy, RSS MendoCoastCurrent.

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FRANK HARTZELL’s article with MendoCoastCurrent edits, January 15, 2009

After nearly two years of local pleas for specifics on the WaveConnect project, PG&E representatives surprised Fort Bragg and Mendocino County representatives with many new details.

Those included the promise by PG&E that all environmental studies would be public, not private information. In the recent past, PG&E had been resisting calls by competitors and ratepayer advocates before the California Public Utilities Commission to make public more information learned during the WaveConnect study.

Another surprise was that PG&E has found about 10 different viable wave energy technologies — far more than first envisioned. The utility will choose the top three or four wave energy devices and test those under a pilot project license.

On Tuesday, the pilot license process became the biggest issue for wave energy officials gathered at Town Hall to hear two top officials explain the roles of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, and the California Coastal Commission.

Both Tom Luster, who will oversee all wave energy projects for the California Coastal Commission and 23-year FERC veteran Ann Miles, FERC Director of Hydropower Licensing said Fort Bragg has had more interest in wave energy than anywhere else in California.

Miles said PG&E would need to file for a conventional license by this March under FERC rules. Using the “faster” pilot license gives them until March 2010 to get started.

Miles provided lengthy and knowledgeable explanations of convoluted FERC processes during the three-hour meeting. But PG&E’s new announcements, which came in private meetings last week, overshadowed the presentations by the top state and federal officials.

Luster explained how the California Coastal Commission would work with the State Lands Commission to review any wave energy project within three miles of shore.

PG&E is now saying their 40-megawatt powerplant will be located “well beyond” that three-mile state limit. The powerplant would likely come after the five-year pilot project license.

That announcement unexpectedly changed the game for the state.

Luster said the big power cable that extends to shore would be regulated by the Coastal Commission, but development beyond three miles would be regulated only for “federal consistency.”

While planning for an eventual project many miles from shore, PG&E will give up on areas more than three miles from shore for now, they have told FERC.

PG&E told Fort Bragg they would site the pilot project much closer to shore, to avoid the jurisdictional conflict between FERC and fellow federal agency Minerals Management Service, or MMS.

FERC claims the authority to be the regulatory authority for all water energy projects in the United States. MMS claims authority for ocean federal waters, which are those more than three miles from shore.

PG&E’s 68-square-mile preliminary permit area, which runs from Point Cabrillo to Cleone and to more than three miles offshore, will be trimmed down to eliminate areas beyond the federal-state jurisdiction line.

PG&E representatives are now promising significant help to local governments.

It was reported that all of the power generated by the 40 megawatt WaveConnect would be consumed in Mendocino County and would provide for nearly all of Fort Bragg’s electric demand when WaveConnect is generating.

Additionally, PG&E intends to pay their expenses, including reviewing, permitting and the community process for public participation.

Miles said FERC has no requirements in place to determine that a developer be able to pay for removal of devices in case of bankruptcy or disaster.

Luster said the State Lands Commission handles financial arrangements, such as bonding of projects.

Miles was making her first ever visit to Northern California. She was set to answer questions from the general public at a Town Hall forum Tuesday night.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 7, 2009

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher today issued the following statement:

Today I announce my intention to step down as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), effective January 20, 2009. Although my term as commissioner does not end until 2012, I will also immediately begin to recuse myself from FERC business, as I explore other career opportunities.  

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DAVID EHRLICH, Earth2Tech/GigaOm, December 23, 2008

environmental_defenseOcean energy could have a big part to play under President-elect Barack Obama’s environmentally friendly administration, but a coalition that’s pushing for more wave and tidal power says change is needed to expand the number of projects in the U.S. Right now, there are only a handful of ocean energy projects in the U.S. and they’re all in the testing phase, according to the coalition.

The group, which is led by the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental advocacy organization, said it has met with Obama’s transition team to discuss what it says is a confusing, and sometimes contradictory, array of federal regulations for ocean power. It claims that with federal help, ocean energy has the potential to generate 10% of the country’s demand for electricity, as well as create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S.

Earlier this month, Obama named four key members to his cabinet that will be responsible for energy and climate change, including Steven Chu as energy secretary.

One big conflict the new cabinet may have to deal with is a jurisdictional dispute between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Minerals Management Service, part of the Dept. of the Interior. Both agencies have claims on the waters where ocean energy projects would be installed.

Part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the Minerals Management Service the power to issue leases for renewable energy projects in the outer continental shelf a zone of federally owned seabeds outside of state waters, which the coalition said typically covers an area from 3-200 nautical miles offshore.

But that new law didn’t eliminate any preexisting federal authority in the area, and the FERC has said it has the authority to license wave and tidal projects in U.S. territorial waters covering an area within 12 nautical miles of the shore.

According to the coalition, despite negotiations between the two agencies, they’ve been unable to reach an agreement on the overlapping claims. The group said that the continued uncertainty from that conflict is making it harder to lock down financing for ocean energy projects in the States.

The coalition is made up of local governments, utilities, environmental groups and ocean power companies, including Pennington, N.J.-based Ocean Power Technologies, which recently inked a deal to develop wave power projects off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand.

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Excerpts from article by FRANK HARTZELL, The Mendocino Beacon, December 24, 2008

On January 13, 2009, from 5-7p.m. at Fort Bragg Town Hall, a “top official from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will appear to explain the agency’s strategy on developing what it calls “hydrokinetic” power as an alterative energy source.

Ann F. Miles, FERC’s director of the Division of Hydropower Licensing, will meet with county and city officials before attending the public meeting in Fort Bragg.

“The FISH Committee is looking forward to FERC’s visit, and welcomes the opportunity to learn about the different FERC licensing processes for wave energy, and how fishermen and other affected people can participate and have their voices heard,” said attorney Elizabeth Mitchell, who represents the Fisherman Involved for Safe Hydrokinetics.

Ocean waters off the Mendocino Coast, from Little River to Cleone, are now claimed under exclusive study permits by two different wave energy developers. GreenWave LLC claims 17 square miles of waters from Little River to Point Cabrillo, while PG&E claims 68 square miles from Point Cabrillo to Cleone.

Preliminary permits granted by FERC give not only exclusive study rights to the claimants, but also licensing priority to develop wave energy upon successful completion of the three-year studies.

Fort Bragg has become ground-zero for wave energy regulation. The federal Minerals Management Service, which is involved in an open feud with FERC over wave energy regulation, has sought to make Fort Bragg its test case.

FERC drew local ire by denying local efforts to intervene in the study process. At one point, protesters carried signs targeting the obscure federal agency with messages such as “Don’t FERC with us.”

One FERC insider said commissioners had complained that more fuss had been made in tiny Fort Bragg than the entire rest of the nation.

FERC later relented and on appeal granted intervener status to Mendocino County, for the PG&E project. The period to intervene and comment on GreenWave’s permit closes Friday, Feb. 6. As yet, nobody has filed anything with FERC, according to its Website.

“The commission’s existing procedures are well-established and well-suited to address this expansion of conventional hydropower with new technologies,” Miles told Congress last year, “and we are prepared to learn from experience in this rapidly evolving area and to make whatever regulatory adjustments are appropriate in order to help realize the potential of this renewable energy resource.”

FERC expanded its domain into all tidal, wave, river flow and ocean current study and licensing with its novel concept of a unified “hydrokinetic” regulation.

From the Yukon River in Alaska to the ocean currents off the Florida Keys, FERC has grown its regulatory territory dramatically since the start of the Bush administration. The agency is now explaining how dam regulation and wave energy innovation can go together. FERC recently granted the first hydrokinetic plant permit for production of energy in the Mississippi River in the state of Minnesota.

The independent agency has moved quickly with Neo-Con era disdain for regulation, eschewing calls from fellow federal and state agencies for a conventional rulemaking process. Instead FERC has adjusted its process as it goes along.

In her presentation to Congress, Miles focused on wave energy, not the more prevalent river current energy plans. She said wave energy projects will likely occur close to shore, not far out in federal waters.

“The cumulative costs of development … make it advantageous to locate projects nearer to the shore,” Miles told Congress.

Locals have complained that FERC has no intelligible process for public input. Governments and critics of FERC have been frustrated in efforts to get details.

FERC is a uniquely independent federal agency. It is under the Department of Energy but does not report to DOE, a structure that was created during the Great Depression. The president appoints FERC commissioners.

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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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CYNTHIA THIELEN, The Star Bulletin, December 21, 2008

Rep. Cynthia Thielen represents the 50th District (Kailua-Kaneohe Bay) in the State House

coh1An unusual consortium comprised of large utilities, environmental groups, energy think tanks and ocean energy developers has just written to President-elect Barack Obama about the tremendous potential of wave energy and the role it can play in reducing our nation’s dependence upon oil.

The group includes utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Portland General Electric and Florida Power & Light (the largest utilities in California, Oregon and Florida, respectively); environmental groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Surfrider Foundation and Natural Resources Defense Council; and academic entities Oregon State University and the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center. Taking the initiative on Hawaii’s behalf are Robbie Alm, COO of Hawaiian Electric Co., Virginia Hinshaw, chancellor of the University of Hawaii, and Ted Liu, director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. I encouraged these Hawaii leaders to participate in the important discussions with the new administration.

In its letter to the president-elect, the consortium is asking Obama to provide support for wave energy, citing “conservative estimates” that indicate wave energy could “supply at least 10% of the current U.S. demand.” That’s a staggering number for an economically imperiled nation that has spent $700 billion in the last two years on imported oil.

The consortium attached a white paper, titled “Ocean Renewable Energy: A Shared Vision and Call for Action,” to its letter. Among the guiding principles are encouraging pilot and demonstration scale projects, streamlining regulatory processes and cooperating in preparation of unified environmental documents.

Economic stimulation can’t take place at home if the U.S. ends up having to import wave energy conversion technology. The consortium stakeholders are making this a major focal point, stating that “without increased government action to encourage demonstration projects and to fund research and development, the promise of ocean renewable energy may never be realized, and the U.S. may see Europe corner the market on these technologies, in much the same way that it did with wind.”

The consortium also stresses the importance of pilot projects in determining the effects of wave energy technology on marine environments to ensure that we protect our ocean resources to the greatest degree possible while extracting energy from ocean waves.

I joined the stakeholders in the consortium and met with Obama’s transition team on December 16, 2008 in Washington, D.C., to discuss how best to integrate wave energy technology into the U.S. energy portfolio.

Hawaii is poised to become a leader. The Department of Energy designated the University of Hawaii as one of two national Marine Renewable Energy Centers. HECO, the administration and energy department signed a Memorandum of Understanding creating the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, an effort to meet 70% of Hawaii’s energy needs with clean energy by the year 2030. Since that time, Hawaii has seen bold plans in the renewable sector. Two of the more ambitious projects are Oceanlinx LLC’s wave energy project off Maui, and Better Place’s electric vehicles. But the electric vehicles must be able to obtain energy from clean, renewable resources, such as ocean waves.

The message I gave to Obama’s transition team is that Hawaii is one of the best places in the world for wave energy conversion, and we are ready. We have an abundance of year-round wave energy, a large, concentrated market on Oahu and our residents pay the highest electricity rates in the nation because our state exports up to $7 billion each year to import oil. With UH Chancellor Hinshaw, HECO executive Alm and economic director Liu joining the consortium’s call for action, our state will lead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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JESSICA LUSSENHOP, Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 9, 2008

“I hope I don’t get seasick,” says a Japanese translator as she and several visitors from the Tokyo-based company Hyper Drive prepare to board Velocity, a 60-foot Stagnaro whale-watching boat, to see the newest model of the company’s ocean wave-powered generator—which is at this very moment bouncing around in the waves about a mile off the Santa Cruz Harbor, creating small amounts of electricity.

Hyper Drive’s president and CEO, Shuji Yonemura, is explaining with some difficulty through his translator how the device actually works. “Within 10 years, we can bring it to land,” says the translator. “Powering a city. A whole city.”

Chief technology officer Mikio Waki chimes in, reporting that the trial model that is working today is producing about 20 joules of energy each time it bobs in the water. That’s enough to power a dim light bulb.

Roy Kornbluh, the principal research engineer from the illustrious Menlo Park research firm SRI International, asks the translator politely if he may clarify. “We are only making small amounts of energy today,” he says. “The focus is on the way we are making energy, using artificial muscle technology.”

Hyper Drive is a start-up company that partnered with SRI’s scientists looking to commercialize the device’s energy-gathering capabilities. This demonstration is the generator’s second run; the first was in August 2007 in St. Petersburg, Florida, when a buoy was tested in relatively placid Atlantic waters to determine if it could operate in a marine environment. This time the investors at Hyper Drive and the scientists from SRI International were looking for more active waters to determine whether or not their invention—a rubber-like material called Electroactive Polymer Artificial Muscle (EPAM)—could use the heaving motion of the waves to generate power. Philip von Guggenberg, the director of business development at SRI, figured Santa Cruz’s early-winter chop was a convenient solution.

“We’re hoping there’s not a hurricane,” he says. “But we are certainly looking for bigger waves.”

To the Japanese translator’s chagrin, after a rather placid morning, the afternoon waves have picked up. A quick trip takes the Velocity out to where the canary-yellow buoy is jostling about in the ocean, connected by a length of thick rope to the Shana Rae, a smaller boat equipped with computer equipment taking a reading 10 times every second. A legion of life-vest-clad scientists are clustered on its deck, including the main inventor of the artificial muscle, Ron Pelrine, identifiable by his bushy beard.

The Velocity pulls up alongside the buoy to allow its passengers to watch, entering into the same rocking dance.

Mounted on top of the buoy are two long cylindrical tubes, and inside, what looks like the black bellows of an elongated accordion is pumping jerkily up and down in response to the waves. The black material is the artificial muscle, a polymer coated in an electricity-conducing material. As the material expands and contracts, a small amount of mechanical energy is changed to electric energy, collected, and detected on the Shana Rae. Two jaunty white arms protruding from the base of the buoy serve to amplify the pitching motion, producing even more work inside the tubes. It seems wonderfully simple, almost too simple to have dragged five Japanese business-people, three U.S. Department of Energy representatives, one PG&E representative and a half-dozen of SRI’s brightest minds out into the ocean. But the simplicity is the whole point.

“Power-generating buoys exist, but they work on conventional approaches. The waves pump a cylinder, that spins a turbine, that drives a rotary,” says Kornbluh. “This is very simple. We like to say it’s just a souped-up rubber band.”

Everything has to start somewhere.

As the frantic appetite for energy alternatives brings all sorts of solutions out into the open, it’s easy to look at each skeptically, with their far-off promises for real solutions. SRI International’s solution is intriguing not just because of the uniqueness of its EPAM model, but also because of the enterprise’s track record.

SRI was one of the birthplaces of the Internet, a concept that once sounded so ridiculous that companies like AT&T turned their noses up at it. On Oct. 29, 1969, at 10:30pm, a scientist at UCLA used an interface message processor, or “node,” to talk to another node at SRI. It was the first host-to-host peep the Internet made. In 1977, SRI sent an inter-network transmission from a van in Menlo Park, through London, and back to USC.

The Tuesday after the EPAM demo in Santa Cruz marks the 40th anniversary of the so-called Mother of All Demonstrations in 1968, when SRI scientist Doug Engelbart showed how to use the first computer mouse. The grainy black-and-white videos show Engelbart, his hair scrupulously combed, explaining how to type, cut and paste, save a file, as well as use teleconference, multiple windows and hypertext linking.

The ’60s also brought Shakey the Robot, the first mobile robot able to reason its surroundings. From those beginnings in robotics, fast forward to the ’90s, when Roy Kornbluh wrote the paper that would jumpstart EPAM, a treatise on the need for a polymer that would bend and move like a muscle, as opposed to the static joints that named Shakey.

“We started with a clean sheet of paper and thought, what can we come up with to simulate a muscle,” says Pelrine. “We decided one of the best approaches would be to put a polymer between two electrodes.”

A current through the polymer caused expansion and contraction, which could create muscle-like movement—more fluid, more durable. And Pelrine also saw that the opposite was possible.

If the polymer were stretched and then allowed to relax, this would create energy, usable if captured by a material that can conduct electricity. Using polymers from commercial silicon and rubber, one branch of the project used EPAM to create a line of spidery little robots, while work began in earnest on the wave powered generator as well.

“There’s nothing necessarily magic about the material itself, but how it’s used,” Pelrine says.

On the Velocity, things are progressing well. Someone has their head hanging over the edge on one side, but on the other side, that’s good news for Pelrine and Kornbluh, who’re getting lots of data thanks to the raucous sea.

“This is really good,” says Pelrine from the Shana Rae. “We’re really psyched.”

“Every technician loves to see their creativity turned into reality,” Kornbluh says.

Of course, it’s the next step that is truly important. Hyper Drive hopes to use SRI’s technology to create larger units within two years that will generate about 100 watts of power. While too small to power a grid, this would be useful in producing self-sustaining navigational buoys that currently run on expensive lithium batteries that need replacing. In five to 10 years, von Guggenberg says, the company hopes to be able to produce kilowatts for large-scale industrial uses, for example, seaside industries like canneries. Then someday, of course, the groups hope to feed a power grid, perhaps with long string of buoys rolling up and down in the seashore, side by side, sending the power landward.

“Put this at a seawall or breakwater,” Kornbluh says. “Why not make it work for you?”

They are still toying with the ways of capturing that energy. Ideas include an actual line that runs from the buoys to land, a pipeline for hydrogen broken down by the buoy’s electrical power, or rechargeable battery cells that could be harvested from the buoy.

Though Santa Cruz has been ideal for the demo, von Guggenberg and the rest aren’t sure when they’ll be back for their next trial, or if they’ll return at all. “We can do it anywhere,” says von Guggenberg—pointing out yet another virtue of the technology.

Suddenly, right in front of the buoy, a seal leaps high into the air. He jumps over and over, circling the Velocity, the buoy and the Shana Rae again and again, to the delight of the Japanese visitors.

Von Guggenberg sighs. “Most of the time we work in the lab,” he says. “We love it when our customers ask us to take their experiment out. This is a lot more fun.”

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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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JAMES OWEN, National Geographic News, December 2, 2008

The race is officially on for a U.S. $15 million (10 million Euro) prize for harnessing the power of the oceans.

The winning marine renewable energy innovation would provide a serious energy alternative to burning fossil fuels, which contribute to global warming.

Details of the Saltire Prize Challenge were announced Tuesday in Edinburgh by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.

The award will go to the team that “successfully demonstrates—in Scottish waters—the best commercially viable wave or tidal technology capable of providing electricity to thousands of homes.”

The winning team must supply this electricity using only the power of the sea for a continuous two-year period.

“It is Scotland’s energy challenge to the world—a challenge to the brightest and best minds worldwide to unleash their talents and push the frontiers of innovation in green marine energy,” Salmond said.

“The Saltire Prize has the potential to unlock Scotland’s vast marine energy wealth, putting our nation at the very forefront of the battle against climate change.”

The prize, named after the cross of St. Andrew on the Scottish national flag, was inspired by other innovation competitions such as the U.S. $10 million Ansari X Prize.

That contest led to the first private spacecraft launch in 2004.

“Saudi Arabia of Ocean Energy”

Scotland boasts a quarter of Europe’s tidal power potential, according to Salmond.

He described the Pentland Firth, a region between Scotland’s north coast and the Orkney Islands, as the “Saudi Arabia of renewable marine energy.”

Scotland aims to meet 50% of its electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020.

There’s also huge potential for ocean energy globally, said prize committee member Terry Garcia, executive vice president for mission programs for the National Geographic Society. “It’s not going to be the sole solution to our energy needs,” Garcia said, but “this will be one of the important pieces of the puzzle.” The main purpose of the competition is to act as a catalyst for innovation, Garcia added.

“It’s both about making marine energy economically viable and being able to produce it in a sustained way on a large scale,” he said.

Wave and Tidal Power

The two major types of ocean energy are wave and tidal energy.

Wave energy technology involves floating modules with internal generators, which produce electricity as they twist about on the sea surface.

Tidal energy harnesses tidal currents with arrays of underwater turbines similar to those that propel wind farms.

Tidal ranks among the most reliable renewable energies because tides are highly predictable, said AbuBakr Bahaj, head of the University of Southampton’s Sustainable Energy Research Group in the U.K.

“But wave energy is driven by wind, which is notoriously difficult to predict,” he said.

Even so, wave power may have the higher electricity-generating potential.

In Britain, for instance, it’s estimated that wave power could potentially provide 20% of the country’s total electricity supply, against 5-10%for tidal power, Bahaj said.

The scientist says the main technical challenge is to create reliable power installations that can operate in difficult marine environments for five to ten years without maintenance.

“You also need to have multiple devices working together at each site,” he said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, November 29, 2008

Ann Arbor, Michigan — Slow-moving ocean and river currents could be a new, reliable and affordable alternative energy source. A University of Michigan engineer has made a machine that works like a fish to turn potentially destructive vibrations in fluid flows into clean, renewable power.

The machine is called VIVACE. A paper on it is published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.

VIVACE is a device that may harness energy from most of the water currents around the globe because it works in flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 2 miles per hour.) Most of the Earth’s currents are slower than 3 knots. Turbines and water mills need an average of 5 or 6 knots to operate efficiently.

VIVACE stands for Vortex Induced Vibrations for Aquatic Clean Energy. It doesn’t depend on waves, tides, turbines or dams. It’s a unique hydrokinetic energy system that relies on “vortex induced vibrations.”

Vortex induced vibrations are undulations that a rounded or cylinder-shaped object makes in a flow of fluid, which can be air or water. The presence of the object puts kinks in the current’s speed as it skims by. This causes eddies, or vortices, to form in a pattern on opposite sides of the object. The vortices push and pull the object up and down or left and right, perpendicular to the current.

These vibrations in wind toppled the Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington in 1940 and the Ferrybridge power station cooling towers in England in 1965. In water, the vibrations regularly damage docks, oil rigs and coastal buildings.

“For the past 25 years, engineers—myself included—have been trying to suppress vortex induced vibrations. But now at Michigan we’re doing the opposite. We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature,” said VIVACE developer Michael Bernitsas, a professor in the U-M Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.

Fish have long known how to put the vortices that cause these vibrations to good use.

“VIVACE copies aspects of fish technology,” Bernitsas said. “Fish curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish in front of them. Their muscle power alone could not propel them through the water at the speed they go, so they ride in each other’s wake.”

This generation of Bernitsas’ machine looks nothing like a fish, though he says future versions will have the equivalent of a tail and surface roughness a kin to scales. The working prototype in his lab is just one sleek cylinder attached to springs. The cylinder hangs horizontally across the flow of water in a tractor-trailer-sized tank in his marine renewable energy laboratory. The water in the tank flows at 1.5 knots.

Here’s how VIVACE works: The very presence of the cylinder in the current causes alternating vortices to form above and below the cylinder. The vortices push and pull the passive cylinder up and down on its springs, creating mechanical energy. Then, the machine converts the mechanical energy into electricity.

Just a few cylinders might be enough to power an anchored ship, or a lighthouse, Bernitsas says. These cylinders could be stacked in a short ladder. The professor estimates that array of VIVACE converters the size of a running track and about two stories high could power about 100,000 houses. Such an array could rest on a river bed or it could dangle, suspended in the water. But it would all be under the surface.

Because the oscillations of VIVACE would be slow, it is theorized that the system would not harm marine life like dams and water turbines can.

Bernitsas says VIVACE energy would cost about 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Wind energy costs 6.9 cents a kilowatt hour. Nuclear costs 4.6, and solar power costs between 16 and 48 cents per kilowatt hour depending on the location.

“There won’t be one solution for the world’s energy needs,” Bernitsas said. “But if we could harness 0.1% of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people.”

The researchers recently completed a feasibility study that found the device could draw power from the Detroit River. They are working to deploy one for a pilot project there within the 18 months.

This work has been supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Autrhority, the DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Universities Commercialization Initiative, and the Link Foundation. The technology is being commercialized through Bernitsas’ company, Vortex Hydro Energy.

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JASPER COPPING, TELEGRAPH/U.K., November 29, 2008

oceancurrent4The technology can generate electricity in water flowing at a rate of less than one knot – about one mile an hour – meaning it could operate on most waterways and sea beds around the globe.

Existing technologies which use water power, relying on the action of waves, tides or faster currents created by dams, are far more limited in where they can be used, and also cause greater obstructions when they are built in rivers or the sea. Turbines and water mills need an average current of five or six knots to operate efficiently, while most of the earth’s currents are slower than three knots.

The new device, which has been inspired by the way fish swim, consists of a system of cylinders positioned horizontal to the water flow and attached to springs.

As water flows past, the cylinder creates vortices, which push and pull the cylinder up and down. The mechanical energy in the vibrations is then converted into electricity.

Cylinders arranged over a cubic meter of the sea or river bed in a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts. This is more efficient than similar-sized turbines or wave generators, and the amount of power produced can increase sharply if the flow is faster or if more cylinders are added.

A “field” of cylinders built on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of a two-storey house, with a flow of just three knots, could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Just a few of the cylinders, stacked in a short ladder, could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Systems could be sited on river beds or suspended in the ocean. The scientists behind the technology, which has been developed in research funded by the US government, say that generating power in this way would potentially cost only around 3.5p per kilowatt hour, compared to about 4.5p for wind energy and between 10p and 31p for solar power. They say the technology would require up to 50 times less ocean acreage than wave power generation.

The system, conceived by scientists at the University of Michigan, is called Vivace, or “vortex-induced vibrations for aquatic clean energy”.

Michael Bernitsas, a professor of naval architecture at the university, said it was based on the changes in water speed that are caused when a current flows past an obstruction. Eddies or vortices, formed in the water flow, can move objects up and down or left and right.

“This is a totally new method of extracting energy from water flow,” said Mr Bernitsas. “Fish curve their bodies to glide between the vortices shed by the bodies of the fish in front of them. Their muscle power alone could not propel them through the water at the speed they go, so they ride in each other’s wake.”

Such vibrations, which were first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of “Aeolian Tones”, can cause damage to structures built in water, like docks and oil rigs. But Mr Bernitsas added: “We enhance the vibrations and harness this powerful and destructive force in nature.

“If we could harness 0.1% of the energy in the ocean, we could support the energy needs of 15 billion people. In the English Channel, for example, there is a very strong current, so you produce a lot of power.”

Because the parts only oscillate slowly, the technology is likely to be less harmful to aquatic wildlife than dams or water turbines. And as the installations can be positioned far below the surface of the sea, there would be less interference with shipping, recreational boat users, fishing and tourism.

The engineers are now deploying a prototype device in the Detroit River, which has a flow of less than two knots. Their work, funded by the US Department of Energy and the US Office of Naval Research, is published in the current issue of the quarterly Journal of Offshore Mechanics and Arctic Engineering.

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KEVIN FERGUSON, The Information Week, November 24, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MICHELLE MA, Seattle Times, November 17, 2008

What started out as a mad dash to extract energy from the ocean’s waves and tides has slowed to a marathoner’s pace — complete with a few water breaks and sprained ankles along the way.

In the past three years, more than 100 preliminary permits have been issued nationally for wave and tidal energy projects, and nearly 100 more are pending approval. But only one has won a license to operate — a small wave energy development off Washington’s northwest coast.

That project is still awaiting state and federal permits, and its British Columbia-based developer, Finavera Renewables, doesn’t know when the first devices will go in the water. It doesn’t help that a wave power buoy the company was testing off the Oregon coast unexpectedly sank last year.

Tapping the power of waves and tidal currents to generate electricity is promoted as one of many promising alternatives to the fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

But no one knows exactly how the technologies will behave in the water, whether animals will get hurt, or if costs will pencil out. The permitting process is expensive and cumbersome, and no set method exists for getting projects up and running.

“The industry is really young, and everything is hodgepodged right now,” said Jim Thomson, an oceanographer at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab who is involved in tidal research.

A new report that collected findings from dozens of scientists raises concerns about the impact wave energy developments could have on the ocean and its critters. Wave energy buoys could alter the food chain or disrupt migrations, the report says.

Still, developers, regulators and researchers are moving forward. A 2.25-megawatt project off the coast of Portugal went on line this fall, becoming the world’s first commercial wave energy development in operation. It can supply 1,500 households with electricity.

The first commercial wave energy park in the U.S. could go in off Reedsport, Ore., within the next two years.

Tidal energy has yet to go commercial, but devices have been tested in Ireland and Canada. Turbines have been placed in New York’s East River, and a demonstration project is planned for the Bay of Fundy off Northeastern U.S.

In the Northwest, the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) has narrowed its search for tidal power sites in Puget Sound, although the PUD doesn’t expect to have a test project in the water for another two years.

Race to develop

Dozens of developers have staked claim to plots in the ocean and in waterways that could provide wave and tidal energy. But despite the jostle for space, getting projects off dry land has proved difficult.

Wave power generators use the up-and-down motion of the ocean’s swells to produce electricity. Tidal generators act like underwater windmills, spinning as the tides move in and out.

To get small projects in the water quicker federal regulators recently created a five-year pilot license for tidal and wave developments. That’s meant to help developers gather data they need to launch future projects, said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Celeste Miller.

Yet even with a more streamlined process, no one has applied for the pilot license, Miller said. Finavera received its license for the 1-megawatt Makah Bay wave project before this option became available.

Given the unknowns in a young industry, it’s not surprising projects are taking longer than some developers would like, said Myke Clark, senior vice president of business development for Finavera.

His company encountered another hurdle when Pacific Gas and Electric’s agreement to buy power from a planned Finavera wave energy project off California was rejected last month by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Regulators said the rates were too high and the buoy technology not yet ready.

Clark said the decision wouldn’t affect Finavera’s Makah Bay project.

Research under way

Researchers from the University of Washington and Oregon State University hope that a new national marine renewable energy research center in the Northwest will help answer questions about tidal and wave energy.

A federal grant provides $1.25 million annually for up to five years. The UW will continue research on tidal energy in Puget Sound, while OSU will focus on wave energy.

“The feeling is that a lot of questions being asked now are only questions that can be answered with a responsible pilot [project],” said Brian Polagye, who is pursuing his doctorate in mechanical engineering at the UW.

Locally, researchers want to see where marine life in Puget Sound congregates and to create a standard way to evaluate sites around the country to determine which would be good candidates for tidal energy projects.

Admiralty Inlet, between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend, is the likely spot for the Snohomish County PUD’s small test project set to launch at least two years from now, said Craig Collar, the PUD’s senior manager of energy resource development.

The inlet’s tides are strong, and the area is large enough to accommodate a tidal project without interfering with other activities such as diving and ferry traffic.

Finavera wants to install four wave energy buoys in Makah Bay in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary to test its technology. Developers also plan to monitor the project for effects on wildlife and shoreline habitat, keeping an eye on federally listed species such as the marbled murrelet, a small bird that dives for food.

Finavera doesn’t intend to continue the project after its five-year license expires. Still, if the company can negotiate a purchasing agreement with the Clallam County Public Utility District, homes in the area could use the wave generated power while the project is in the water, Clark said.

The Makah Nation wants to see what effect the project might have on the environment before deciding whether wave energy is a viable long-term option, said Ryland Bowechop, tourism and economic-development planner for the tribe.

The buoys would sit just offshore from the tribal headquarters in Neah Bay.

“We are always concerned because our livelihood is the ocean,” Bowechop said.

Concerns linger

The environmental effects of wave and tidal energy are largely unknown and require more studies, dozens of scientists concluded after meeting a year ago at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore.

The group was concerned that electromagnetic cables on the ocean floor could affect sea life, and that buoys could interfere with whale and fish migration.

Large buoys might actually attract more fish, but the marine ecosystem could be altered if more predators move in. Buoys also could disrupt natural currents and change how sediment is moved. Shorelines might be affected as energy is taken from the waves.

Even if environmental concerns are checked, costs to extract the power remain high. Wave energy costs at least 20 cents per kilowatt hour to generate, compared with 4 cents per kilowatt hour for wind power, said Annette von Jouanne, leader of OSU’s wave energy program. Wind energy used to be much more expensive 20 years ago.

In comparison, coal-generated power costs about 5 cents per kilowatt hour, and power from dams can be as low as 3 cents, said Roger Bedard, ocean energy leader with the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute.

Tidal energy costs are harder to determine because there aren’t any projects trying to sell electricity, Bedard said.

Fishermen have their own worries. They fear that wave and tidal projects could further reduce access to fishing grounds, said Dale Beasley, a commercial fisherman in Ilwaco, Pacific County, and president of the Columbia River Crab Fisherman’s Association.

“There’s so many things coming at the ocean right now,” he said.

Beasley says the industry wants a say in how wave and tidal energy projects are developed.

“Coastal communities are going to have to figure out a way to deal with this, and if they don’t, the character of the coast will change dramatically,” he said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, November 9, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TERRY DILLMAN, South Lincoln County News, September 23, 2008

Oregon’s emergence as a national leader in developing wave energy technology crested Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced grant support to establish the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) in Newport.

The agency selected 14 research teams to receive as much as $7.3 million -representing a cost-shared value of more than $18 million – for projects to “advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers.” It’s part of the federal Advanced Energy Initiative designed to dramatically boost clean-energy research funding to develop cleaner, reliable alternative energy sources that cost less. The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) signed into law in December 2007 authorizes DOE to establish a program of research, development, demonstration, and commercial application to expand marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy production.

“Wave, tidal, and current-driven hydro power is an important clean, natural, and domestic energy source that will promote energy security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” John Mizroch, acting assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy, noted in announcing the selections.

A merit review committee of national and international water power experts made the selections. Two awards of up to $1.25 million in annual funding, renewable for up to five years, went to establishing marine energy centers.

One went to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu for the National Renewable Marine Energy Center.

The other went to OSU and the University of Washington to establish the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at HMSC, with “a full range of capabilities to support wave and tidal energy development” for the nation. DOE officials want the center to “facilitate commercialization, inform regulatory and policy decisions, and close key gaps in understanding.”

The federal grant will add to funding from the Oregon legislature, OSU, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET), the University of Washington and other sources to bring in $13.5 million in five years to – according to Robert Paasch, the interim program director for the new center – “help move the generation of energy from waves, ocean currents and tides from the laboratory to part of the nation’s alternative energy future.”

The main effort is to build a floating “berth” to test wave energy technology off the Oregon coast near Newport, as well as fund extensive environmental impact studies, community outreach, and other initiatives.

“This is just the beginning,” Paasch added. “There’s still a lot of work to do on the technology, testing, and environmental studies. But we have no doubt that this technology will work, that wave energy can become an important contributor to energy independence for the United States.”

Oregon can now lead those efforts, thanks to involvement by numerous partners.

The state legislature committed $3 million in capital funding to help create the new wave energy test center.

OWET – a private, not-for-profit organization founded in 2007 and funded by Oregon Inc. to be an integral part of the state’s effort to become the leader in renewable wave energy development – has provided $250,000 in funding, and is working to coordinate support from government agencies, private industry, fishing, environmental, and community groups.

OWET’s goal is to have ocean wave energy producing at least 500 megawatts of energy by 2025 for Oregon consumption.

The University of Washington has committed funding support and will take the lead role in innovative research on tidal and ocean current energy. The National Renewable Energy Center in Golden, Colo., will support studies on how to integrate wave energy into the larger power grid, and help it take its place next to other alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar.

Lincoln County officials immersed themselves in the effort from the outset. OSU’s wave energy test site is off county shores, and groups such as the Newport-based FINE – Fisherman Involved in Natural Energy – are active in providing input and advice from coastal constituencies.

“Oregon is now the unquestioned national leader in marine renewable energy,” Paasch said. “But as this technology is still in its infancy, we want to get things right the first time. We need extensive research on environmental impacts, we need to work with community groups and fishermen, and we need our decisions to be based on sound science as we move forward.”

OSU’s College of Engineering, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and Hatfield Marine Science Center will lead technology development, as well as diverse research programs on possible environmental impacts on the wave resource, shores, marine mammals and other marine life.

Construction of the new floating test berth should begin in 2010, Paasch said, after design, engineering work and permits have been completed. The facility will open on a fee basis to private industry groups that want to test their technology, and will provide detailed power analysis, as well as a method to dissipate the power.

“When complete, we’ll be able to test devices, see exactly how much power they generate and be able to assess their environmental impact, using technologies such as the OSU Marine Radar Wave Imaging System and on-site wave sensors,” Paasch

OSU will also continue its own research on wave energy technology led by Annette von Jouanne, professor of electrical engineering.

The university is working closely with private industry partners, recently finished a linear test bed to do preliminary testing of new technology on the OSU campus, and will test prototypes that OSU researchers consider as having the best combination of power production, efficiency and durability. In 2007, the university hosted a workshop to begin looking at the potential ecological implications of establishing wave energy parks along the West Coast. On-going research will continue to ponder that and many other questions.  Much of that research will take place at HMSC.

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MATT NAUMAN, San Jose Mercury News, October 27, 2008

The California Public Utilities Commission rejected a Pacific Gas & Electric contract for wave energy, saying the utility was going to pay too much for a technology that’s still largely experimental.

Last December, PG&E said it would be the first utility in the nation to get energy from ocean waves after signing a power purchase agreement with Finavera Renewables, which planned to operate a “wave farm” about 21/2 miles off the coast of Eureka. The deal was for 2 megawatts of power starting in 2012.

But the California PUC this month nixed the deal, saying wave energy technology was “in a nascent stage” and that Finavera’s system was “not currently viable.” The commission noted that a prototype buoy deployed by Finavera off the Oregon coast in 2007 sank before its six week test period was concluded.

The CPUC, which oversees power deals and rate hikes from the state’s big utilities, also said the San Francisco utility was going to pay too high a price for the wave-energy contract. The financial terms of power deals are not released publicly.

“We respectfully disagree with the decision,” PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer said. The utility will continue to pursue wave energy projects, she said, including through its Emerging Renewables Resource Program proposal that would fund two wave projects off the Mendocino County and Humboldt County coast that’s currently waiting PUC approval.

In a letter to the PUC, Brian Cherry, PG&E’s vice president of regulatory relations, said the rejection of the deal would have “a chilling effect on wave development in California.” The rejection will send wave companies to states other than California, he wrote.

Finavera Renewables, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, said the decision puts California “out of step” with the policies of the federal government, other states and cities. CEO Jason Bak said Finavera would try to form a private wave-energy consortium to diversify the risk and attract more funding for wave-energy technology. He also said the company would now focus on its wind projects in Canada and Ireland.

A report released Monday suggested that wave energy has great potential to be a source of renewable power. While only about 10 megawatts of ocean power have been installed worldwide to date, a report by researcher Greentech Media and the nonprofit Prometheus Institute found that could grow to 1 gigawatt (1,000 megawatts) of power by 2015. In California, 1 megawatt of power is enough to provide electricity for 750 homes.

More than $4 billion will be invested in ocean-wave research and the construction of wave farms over the next six years, the report says.

Daniel Englander, co-author of that report, doesn’t see the CPUC decision as a death blow for wave energy projects. “PG&E picked the wrong company,” he said. “Finavera isn’t a bad company, it’s just that their technology isn’t at a stage where it’s ready to deliver power commercially.”

Still, he expects several companies will have production-ready ocean power systems capable of delivering 2 megawatts or more within five years.

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SIMON GOMPERTZ, BBC News, September 24, 2008

The beach at Agucadoura, just north of Porto, is where electricity from the world’s first wave farm is being cabled ashore. Five kilometres out to sea a Pelamis wave machine is gently riding the Atlantic swell, generating power for the Portuguese grid.

The wave farm has just been officially launched after a frustrating delay of more than a year. “We had an issue with the underwater connections”, explains engineering manager, Ross Henderson. He is sitting with me in the beachfront substation which takes in the power. “I can’t believe such a small thing cost the project a whole year.”

The Practicalities

To understand the engineering problem, you have to appreciate how the wave machines work. Pelamis is an ancient word for sea snake. And it is true that the machines look like giant metal snakes floating in the water.

Each one has four long sections with three “power modules” hinged between them. There are large hydraulic rams sticking into the modules. As the long sections twist and turn in the waves they pull the rams in and out of the modules like pistons.

The huge force of the rams is harnessed to run generators in the power modules. But tethering the snakes to the seabed is a major challenge. The system has to be able to cope with the worst sea conditions.

Pelamis Wave Power developed an underwater plug, which floats 15 to 20 metres below the surface. The snakes can be attached in one movement without any help from divers. But when the system was installed off Portugal in slightly deeper water than engineers were used to, the plug wouldn’t float properly. The foam keeping it buoyant couldn’t stand the extra water pressure.

“We worked it out quickly, but it took a while to fix the problem,” laments Ross. “Our buoyancy foam was fine when we tried it out off Orkney but it couldn’t cope in Portugal.”

The Pelamis engineers designed new floats, changing the foam. Then they had to wait through a stormy winter before they could install them.

What Happens Next?

Two more wave machines should soon be in position, making three in all. At full production the company says they will be able to generate enough power for 1,500 homes.

And 25 more machines are on order for Portugal. It’s been an expensive wait, but Ross Henderson believes the company has built up the expertise to deal with a variety of sea conditions.

“We managed to do the changeover using much smaller boats than we’re used to in the North Sea, where everything is geared up for the oil industry.” So installations should be cheaper in future.

Pelamis is looking at new projects in Norway, Spain, France, South African and North America. Meanwhile, four machines are being installed off Orkney next year, with seven more due to go in north of Cornwall the year after.

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MendoCoastCurrent, October 16, 2008

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) claimed that it has jurisdiction over hydroelectric projects located on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), pointing to laws that define its role.

FERC addressed the jurisdictional question, raised by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Mineral Management Service (MMS), in the context of a rehearing order on two preliminary permits issued to PG&E to study the feasibility of developing wave energy projects in the OCS off the California coast. The projects are the Humboldt Project off the coast of the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt County near Eureka, and the Mendocino Project off the coast of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.

Commissioner Philip Moeller said the development of viable hydrokinetic resources needs a streamlined process like FERC’s. “It is indisputable that renewable energy is a valuable resource and hydrokinetic projects could harness a vast resource of new hydropower,” he said. “Instead of legal battles, my preference, and this Commission’s, has been to reach out to federal agencies and states to work in a cooperative manner to the same goal: timely development of a new renewable power resource in a responsible manner after input from all affected stakeholders.”

MMS has asserted that FERC only has jurisdiction to issue licenses and preliminary permits for projects within state waters, which for most states is defined as extending three miles offshore. Projects beyond state waters are considered to be located in the OCS.

But FERC says the Federal Power Act (FPA) gives it two bases of authority to issue preliminary permits and licensees for hydroelectric projects located on the OCS. First, the law expressly grants FERC jurisdiction to license in “navigable waters” without limitation as well as in “streams or other bodies of water over which Congress has jurisdiction.” 

The second authority is for those projects located on “reservations” of the United States. FERC concludes that the OCS is land owned by the United States, qualifying it to be a “reservation” under the FPA. “The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently held that the United States owns the submerged lands off its shores, beginning from the low-water mark,” FERC said.

Finally, FERC addressed comments by MMS about the meaning of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) as it relates to the jurisdiction question for hydroelectric projects located on the OCS. MMS asserted that EPAct 2005 intended for MMS to be the lead federal regulatory authority over wave and ocean current energy projects in the OCS.

In this order, FERC notes that EPAct 2005 does not limit the scope of its authority over hydroelectric power or withdraw FERC jurisdiction over projects in the OCS. “To the contrary, Congress expressly preserved the Commission’s comprehensive hydroelectric licensing authority under the FPA by including two saving clauses….,” FERC said.

FERC Chairman Kelliher stressed today that FERC recognizes the role of Interior, which through the Minerals Management Service (MMS) manages lands on the OCS. There is no conflict with FERC’s role as the licensing agency, he said.

“We have proposed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MMS that carefully delineates the roles of the two agencies in a manner that respects both our licensing, and Interior’s resource, roles,” Kelliher said. “We stand ready to enter into the MOU to clarify those roles.”

A preliminary permit gives the holder of a permit priority over the site for three years while the holder studies the feasibility of developing the site. It does not authorize construction of any kind. A license authorizes construction and operation of a hydroelectric facility.

FERC’s order also finds that although two local governments, the City of Fort Bragg and Mendocino County, asserted that they did not receive personal notification from FERC of the filing of the preliminary permit applications, only Mendocino County acted in a timely manner once it received actual notice of the application in order to preserve its right to intervene. As a result, Mendocino County’s request for late intervention is granted. However, the order finds that Mendocino has not provided grounds for the Commission to revoke the Mendocino Project permit or to reopen that proceeding. The order also denies motions for late intervention in both proceedings by FISH Committee.

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 23, 2008

optOcean Power Technologies, Inc., a New Jersey publicly-traded company deployed its first PowerBuoy with Iberdrola S.A, a Spanish renewable energy company, and its partners, at a site approximately three miles off the coast of Santoña, Spain.

As noted by Iberdrola, the deployment of OPT’s PB40 PowerBuoy is the latest milestone toward the building of the world’s first commercial utility-scale wave power generation venture to supply approximately 1.39 MW of electricity into Spain’s electricity grid. The PB40, incorporating OPT’s patented wave power technology, is the first of what is expected to be a 10-PowerBuoy wave power station to be built out in a later phase of the project, and generating enough electricity to supply up to 2,500 homes annually.

Mark R. Draper, Chief Operating Officer of OPT, said: “This deployment is of great significance to OPT and the wave power industry, demonstrating the commercial potential of our leading technology after a decade of in-ocean experience. We now look forward to the first supplies of electricity to the grid and the expansion of the wave power station.”

The project began with OPT’s development of the Santoña site, followed by OPT’s receipt of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract under which it would build and install the first PB40 PowerBuoy system, subsea power transmission cable and underwater substation and grid connection. In a subsequent agreement, OPT was also contracted for operations and maintenance (O&M) of the wave power station for up to 10 years. A special purpose company with Iberdrola as its major shareholder and OPT as a 10% shareholder has also been established for the purchase of the wave power station and the O&M services from OPT.

PowerBuoys provide a minimal visual profile due to most of their structure being submerged. They have a design life of 30 years with standard maintenance recommended every three to four years. The grid connection system for the PowerBuoys has been certified by an independent engineering firm.

The PB40 steelwork was fabricated by a local supplier in Santander, Spain, and the power take-off and control system was built at OPT’s facility in New Jersey, USA. The final integration and testing of the complete PowerBuoy was also conducted in Spain. The PowerBuoy is seven meters in diameter at the sea surface, 20 meters in length and weighs approximately 60 tonnes.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, September 23, 2008

For years, technological visionaries have painted a seductive vision of using ocean tides and waves to produce power. They foresee large installations off the coast and in tidal estuaries that could provide as much as 10% of the nation’s electricity.

But the technical difficulties of making such systems work are proving formidable. Last year, a wave-power machine sank off the Oregon coast. Blades have broken off experimental tidal turbines in New York’s turbulent East River. Problems with offshore moorings have slowed the deployment of snakelike generating machines in the ocean off Portugal.

Years of such problems have discouraged ocean-power visionaries, but have not stopped them. Lately, spurred by rising costs for electricity and for the coal and other fossil fuels used to produce it, they are making a new push to overcome the barriers blocking this type of renewable energy.

The Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power plans to turn on a small wave-energy farm — the world’s first — off the coast of Portugal by year’s end, after fixing the broken moorings. Finavera Renewables, a Canadian company that recently salvaged its sunken, $2.5 million Oregon wave-power machine, has signed an agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric to produce power off the California coast by 2012. And in the East River, just off Manhattan, two newly placed turbines with tougher blades and rotors are feeding electricity into a grocery store and parking garage on Roosevelt Island.

“It’s frustrating sometimes as an ocean energy company to say, yeah, your device sank,” said Jason Bak, chief executive of Finavera. “But that is technology development.”

Roughly 100 small companies around the world are working on converting the sea’s power to electricity. Many operate in Europe, where governments have pumped money into the industry. Companies and governments alike are betting that over time, costs will come down. Right now, however, little electricity is being generated from the ocean except at scattered test sites around the world.

The East River — despite its name, it is really a tidal strait with powerful currents — is the site of the most advanced test project in the United States.

Verdant Power, the company that operates it, was forced to spend several years and millions of dollars mired in a slow permit process, even before its turbine blades broke off in the currents. The company believes it is getting a handle on the problems. Verdant is trying to perfect its turbines and then install 30 of them in the East River, starting no later than spring 2010, and to develop other sites in Canada and on the West Coast.

Plenty of other start-ups also plan commercial ocean-power plants, at offshore sites such as Portugal, Oregon and Wales, but none have been built.

Ocean-power technology splits into two broad categories, tidal and wave power. Wave power, of the sort Finavera is pursuing, entails using the up and down motions of the waves to generate electricity. Tidal power — Verdant’s province — involves harnessing the action of the tides with underwater turbines, which twirl like wind machines.

(Decades-old tidal technologies in France and Canada use barrage systems that trap water at high tide; they are far larger and more obtrusive than the new, below-waterline technologies.)

A third type of power, called ocean thermal, aims to exploit temperature differences between the surface and deep ocean, mainly applicable in the tropics.

Ocean power has more potential than wind power because water is about 850 times denser than air, and therefore packs far more energy. The ocean’s waves, tides and currents are also more predictable than the wind.

The drawback is that seawater can batter and corrode machinery, and costly undersea cables may be needed to bring the power to shore. And the machines are expensive to build: Pelamis has had to raise the equivalent of $77 million.

Many solar start-ups, by contrast, need as little as $5 million to build a prototype, said Martin Lagod, co-founder of Firelake Capital Management, a Silicon Valley investment firm. Mr. Lagod looked at investing in ocean power a few years ago and decided against it because of the long time horizons and large capital requirements.

General Electric, which builds wind turbines, solar panels and other equipment for virtually every other type of energy, has stayed clear of ocean energy. “At this time, these sources do not appear to be competitive with more scalable alternatives like wind and solar,” said Daniel Nelson, a G.E. spokesman, in an e-mail message. (An arm of G.E. has made a small investment in Pelamis.)

Worldwide, venture capital going to ocean-power companies has risen from $8 million in 2005 to $82 million last year, according to the Cleantech Group, a research firm. However, that is a tiny fraction of the money pouring into solar energy and biofuels.

This month the Energy Department doled out its first major Congressionally-funded grants since 1992 to ocean-power companies, including Verdant and Lockheed Martin, which is studying ocean thermal approaches.

Assuming that commercial ocean-power farms are eventually built, the power is likely to be costly, especially in the near term. A recent study commissioned by the San Francisco Public Utility Commission put the cost of harnessing the Golden Gate’s tides at 85 cents to $1.40 a kilowatt-hour, or roughly 10 times the cost of wind power. San Francisco plans to forge ahead regardless.

Other hurdles abound, including sticky environmental and aesthetic questions. In Oregon, crabbers worry that the wave farm proposed by Ocean Power Technologies, a New Jersey company, would interfere with their prime crabbing grounds.

“It’s right where every year we deploy 115,000 to 120,000 crab pots off the coast for an eight-month period to harvest crab,” said Nick Furman, executive director of the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. The commission wants to support renewable energy, but “we’re kind of struggling with that,” Mr. Furman said

George Taylor, chief executive of Ocean Power Technologies, said he did not expect “there will be a problem with the crabs.”

In Washington State, where a utility is studying the possibility of installing tidal power at the Admiralty Inlet entrance to Puget Sound, scuba divers are worried, even as they recognize the need for clean power.

Said Mike Racine, president of the Washington Scuba Alliance: “We don’t want to be dodging turbine blades, right?”

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 19, 2008

The University of Hawaii (UH) has won an intensely sought-after award, being selected as one of two National Marine Renewable Test Centers, with Oregon State University as the other.

As a test center, UH will receive federal funding to study and encourage the implementation of wave energy systems in Hawaiian waters. The strong wave climate, combined with the highest use of fossil fuel and electricity rates in the nation, make Hawaii an ideal location for the development of lower-cost wave power.

It has been a banner year for renewable energy in Hawaii. After Congress passed the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” the U.S. Department of Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Hawaii in January, seeking to produce 70% of Hawaii’s electricity needs from renewable resources by 2030.

In February, Oceanlinx, one of the world’s leading wave energy developers, announced plans for a wave energy facility off Maui’s northern coast.

The extent to which wave energy companies are drawn to Hawaii will ultimately determine how many jobs are created by their presence. However, given the large market and available resources, the potential is tremendous. Wave energy converters require engineers, consultants, commercial divers, maintenance crews, marine transport services, technicians and shipyard services. In other words, a vibrant wave energy industry will create well-paying jobs while keeping billions of dollars in our state economy instead of shipping them primarily to foreign countries to pay for oil.

With the recent surge in oil prices, renewable energy systems have been experiencing a renaissance. Investors who wanted nothing to do with renewable energy companies a few years ago are now scrambling to get their money invested in leading technologies. Those investors now can compete to catch the wave.

While the UH’s designation as a National Marine Renewable Test Center will certainly make Hawaii a more attractive destination, it’s important to note that Hawaii lacks a mechanism to connect wave energy systems to its power grid. Enter the Wave Hub, an undersea “outlet” that enables multiple wave energy systems to hook into the grid.

Construction of a Wave Hub about 10 miles off the southwest coast of England is creating a real-world testing ground. That Wave Hub should prove a commercial success, as there is already intense competition between rival wave energy companies seeking berths allowing their systems to plug into the Wave Hub.

In conjunction with the UH Marine Test Center, we must develop a Wave Hub here in Hawaii, so wave energy systems can compete to prove their commercial viability. Once an optimal location is selected, then the state can prepare the necessary environment and permit documents and install the seabed device and cable. Wave energy companies will be able to “plug in” their devices, without each spending years in the application phase.

In addition to the vibrant wave energy climate, federal, state and academic support can make Hawaii the premier destination for wave energy development in the United States, not to mention the Pacific theater. This is an innovation economy by definition – one that will make Hawaii more secure and environmentally protected.

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 9, 2008

Fort Bragg, California City Council has filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Concerns escalated last August when FERC denied Fort Bragg’s second request for a rehearing on FERC’s national licensing policies for wave energy or hydrokinetic energy projects. The community stakeholders, Fort Bragg, Mendocino County, Lincoln County (Oregon) and Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH), were also denied rehearing by FERC. Under the Federal Power Act, there are no administrative appeals left and the only recourse is a lawsuit.

Fort Bragg contests FERC’s energy development process for national licensing of wave energy projects, including the proposed Pacific Gas & Electric wave energy pilot project off the coast of Fort Bragg.

The contested policies were established in two informal documents issued by FERC in April 2008 entitled Staff Guidance on Hydrokinetic Pilot Procedures” and “Staff FAQs on Conditional Licenses.”

Fort Bragg contends that FERC established these policies without complying with a number of federal laws including the Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

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GABE MELINE, Bohemia.com, September 3, 2008

While presidential candidates call for alternative forms of energy and “sustainable” is the word of the year, the idea of ocean-wave buoys along the Sonoma and Marin coast continues to attract attention as a potentially viable form of energy.

Though no firm proposal is in place, the wheels have been turning toward what some are already calling a “West Coast wave energy gold rush.” The county of Sonoma, in fact, has already submitted an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to lease an area of the ocean off the Sonoma Coast to oversee wave-energy development.

Dan Howard, superintendent of the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, agrees that ocean waves, like the wind and the sun, are a natural energy source which until recently has gone widely untapped. Still, the rush may be a long way off. “I would call it an experimental technology,” he says. “It’s safe to say, I think, it’s years away from any kind of implementation.”

Earlier this year, the Cordell Bank Sanctuary held a panel discussion with representatives from the buoy energy industry, the marine fisheries and environmental groups. “You start running into issues related to migrations—the grey whales, of course, are the first that come to mind,” Howard says. “The fishing industry, certainly, you’d have to work something out with the local commerce if it affected vessel traffic in any way. There are lots of conversations that need to occur.”

The concept of the wave-energy buoy has been implemented most successfully in Portugal, where the Aguçadora Wave Park, with its snakelike buoys, built in 2005 near Póvoa de Varzim, has been widely hailed a commercial success. Last year in Oregon, a different prototype of buoy was tested off the coast, measuring 72 feet tall and weighing 35 tons. Using a fixed coil with a floating magnetic field, the device would generate voltage with the rising and falling of the waves as the coil moves up and down inside the magnetic field.

The idea has been gaining currency. On Sept. 23, the West Coast Governors’ Agreement—a collaborative group between the governors of California, Oregon and Washington united to preserve ocean health—will host a meeting in Portland, Ore., to discuss with the public the development of wave and tidal energy activities on the West Coast. PG&E has already eyed the Mendocino Coast as a location to study hydrokinetic projects.

With all eyes on renewable energy, and with engineers working on different types of buoys, could we be on the crest of new source of energy? “I think the vast majority of people in the United States would support development of alternative-energy sources, certainly,” Howard says. “How we go about doing that, and doing it in the most environmentally sensitive and safe way, is the trick.”

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MADDALENA JACKSON with MendoCoastCurrent edit, The Sacramento Bee, August 11, 2008

Oil companies, some politicians and commuters paying $4 for a gallon of gas might look at California’s coast and think of crude oil pooled below the sea floor.

California’s North Coast, however, holds promise of another energy bounty.

In less time than it would take to fire up new offshore oil drills, waters off our coast could host undulating buoys driven by waves, producing abundant electricity for a power-thirsty state.

The Electric Power Research Institute estimates enough wave power can be extracted from coastal waters to account for about 15% of California’s electricity production.

Offshore wave technology is promising, but it’s untried. They also raise concerns about potential damage to the coast’s prized vistas and fish industry.

One proposal that’s progressing is to draw electricity from waves off the Mendocino coast already has generated problems for developers, government agencies and coastal residents.

Moreover, the potential for waves depends on someone building transmission lines to connect offshore power to the state’s grid.

Northern California’s biggest utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., may be that someone.

Out at sea, the ocean’s surface ripples rhythmically, and the up-and-down motion can be harnessed to produce electrical energy, via bobbing buoys, jointed snakes and undulating tubes.

PG&E plans to capture some of that potential. It has preliminary permits for two projects – one off Fort Bragg in Mendocino County and one off Eureka.

The Fort Bragg project, expected to yield 40 megawatts of electricity, would be “an undersea power plug,” said PG&E project manager Bill Toman. It “would provide about 20% of electricity consumption of Mendocino County.”

PG&E would build the expensive transmission lines. The utility would select three or four developers to test their power generators.

Results will lead to “a decision about whether we would build our own wave energy farm,” he said.

Mendocino coast residents are examining PG&E’s plans with cautious concern.

“Wave energy sounds like a good idea, as long as it doesn’t harm the environment,” said Bruce Lewis, a nature photographer and volunteer light-keeper at the Point Cabrillo Light Station. “Using the power of the waves seems like a better way of generating power than building oil platforms off the coast.”

Others are wary. “When you first hear about it, you think, ‘That’s a great idea!’ ” said Jim Martin, director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance.

He’s concerned wave power may interfere with fisheries. He wonders if electrical signatures from the devices also might disturb fish.

His biggest complaint right now, however, is that local fishermen and residents have had no say in the planning.

Martin is also associated with Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics, or FISH. With local lawyer Elizabeth Mitchell, FISH is battling for a role in the planning.

A federal deadline has passed for gaining an official voice in the legal planning for the wave projects, alongside PG&E and federal energy regulators.

Mitchell has filed a request for a belated entree with the Federal Electric Regulatory Commission. She argues that an isolated community, with limited high-speed Internet service, and few residents who even know what FERC is, could not have met the deadline.

Mitchell said she’s concerned that permits have been granted without environmental analysis or even identified technology. “We are guinea pigs for a worldwide science experiment without any rational planning.”

PG&E’s permit comes from FERC. But there is a question over wave power jurisdiction. The federal Minerals Management Service has jurisdiction from three to 200 miles offshore, and by years end hopes to have rules in place for alternative energy leases, said spokesman John Romero.

FERC, however, oversees onshore hydropower applications and has claimed jurisdiction for wave technology up to 12 miles offshore, based on its reading of legal documents.

“It’s a problem for anyone in charge of proposing a project,” PG&E’s Toman said. “At some point, it will hold things up.”

A delay would be welcome, Martin said. “A huge reason people come up here is to look at the ocean, and to reconnect with nature.”

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Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is looking to generate power from Scottish waters as well. Nasdaq-listed OPT reported July 28 that it had signed a berth agreement with the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland. OPT can, under the berth agreement, deploy and operate its unit as well as hook up to EMEC’s dedicated 2-MW subsea cable connected to the Scottish grid and will sell power to the grid up to the unit’s 2-MW capacity limit, using the EMEC berth for other deployments.

Across the Atlantic, wave energy development in the United States, another country looking to assume market leadership, suffered a temporary setback in late June 2008 when Finavera Renewables scuttled plans for a wave energy project off the Oregon coast to focus on developing the technology needed for other projects.

Finavera let preliminary permits granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) expire by not filing required reports. FERC cancelled Finavera’s preliminary permit on June 26 for the proposed 100-MW Coos Country project, saying the company had failed to file six-month progress reports on studies that the company was required to perform for the project to move forward. The preliminary permit allowed for further site assessment and so-called micro siting to determine the best location for the proposed wave park, and allowed studies on such topics as oceanographic conditions, marine mammal resources, shoreline conditions, and public safety. “We had to focus some of our resources on a couple [of] other high priority projects,” said Myke Clark, vice president of corporate development for Finavera.

These include a planned 2-MW wave energy initiative at Makah Bay, California, which has already secured a long-term power purchase contract in December 2007 with California utility Pacific Gas & Electric – the first commercial PPA for a wave project in North America. In developing the new technology, engineers are tackling such challenges as the intermittency of waves and how to produce electricity from new types of equipment cheaply enough to make it profitable, he said. “We’re definitely in an intensive phase right now in terms of this technology,” Clark said, adding that the company is cancelling the project because “we need to focus a bit more on the technology development.”

The marine energy industry in America faces policy as well as technology obstacles.

As FERC promotes development of hydrokinetic energy and companies seize opportunities, the agency has issued preliminary permits that allow environmental assessments and other studies to be performed – only to have its regulatory authority questioned by other federal agencies.

The US Department of the Interior in April 2008 asserted that FERC lacked the authority to issue leases for hydrokinetic projects on the Outer Continental Shelf and called on FERC to rehear its decisions to issue two preliminary permits for wave electricity projects being considered off the coast of California.

FERC issued a license to Finavera in December 2007 for a 1-MW wave energy project in Clallam County, Washington, but several parties sought rehearing of the decision, claiming FERC violated the Clean Water Act by issuing a license before the state ecology department had issued a water quality certificate and other state permits and authorizations. In a March 20 order FERC said the rehearing requests are moot since the state issued the necessary permits to Finavera in February 2008. FERC said that its initial order was a conditional license that did not authorize construction or installation of facilities and “expressly stated that no such authority would be granted until Finavera obtained all necessary authorizations.”

The US wave energy industry received a boost in late July 2008, though, when the US Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that regulates offshore energy development, said it intends to issue leases for thirteen alternative energy research projects in the federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf, including wave-energy projects off the California coast.

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Platts/McGraw-Hill, August 2008

The burgeoning wave energy sector, which has endured ups and downs in recent years through initial testing of devices and uncertain government support, has recently set sail with new projects that have brought the industry to the brink of commercial development.

Portugal has established its role as a pioneer in wave energy development. Through the Aguçadoura project off the coast of northern Portugal, for instance, Enersis and its technology partner Scottish company Pelamis Wave Power (PWP) completed initial deployment of a 750-kW PWP wave-power unit, in August 2008, that generated electricity for the Portuguese grid, a source familiar with the initiative told Platts. The unit initially encountered difficulties with buoyancy, but these problems were solved, the source noted.

Though the system did not reach peak generation, it produced “hundreds of kilowatts,” he said, adding that it has since been disconnected to prove it can be returned to harbor for inspection of the component parts. “Everything is in very good order,” the source added. The Aguçadoura project partners are looking to have three 750-kW machines ready by September 2008. The goal is to have 30 machines deployed within a few years exceeding 20 MW – a venture that could expand “up to 500 MW,” the source said.

The Portuguese government is supporting the project by a feed-in tariff provided specifically for marine energy of about €0.23/kWh (US36¢/kWh), according to PWP’s Web site.

Portugal has established its role as a pioneer in wave energy development, with national institute Instituto Superior Técnico studying the technology since 1977. It boasts a 250-350-kilometer (150-220 mile) stretch of coast deemed suitable for wave-energy exploitation.

Other companies are looking to join the rush in Portugal for wave power, as developers Tecdragon, EDP and Eneólica take major steps in experimental development.

Additionally, Portuguese steel construction giant Martifer has created a joint marine-energy venture with Scottish Briggs, while Generg conducts research and planning for a wave energy plant.

EDP, Portugal’s largest power utility, is in the final stages of talks to install wave energy demonstration projects in Portugal. This deployment would follow the company’s participation in a review of more than 50 offshore wave energy technologies. Final site selection has begun on one EDP project known as the Breakwave, a system financed with €2 million ($3.1 million) of European Union funds that uses oscillating water column technology.

More advanced is Tecdragon, which aims to install in Portugal’s São Pedro de Moel pilot zone the first world’s 7-MW wave-energy plant. “Until now the start of installation was not possible due to adverse meteorological conditions,” explained Tecdragon Manager Borges da Cunha. The system would be based on Wave Dragon technology, which the company describes as a “floating, slack-moored energy converter” that meshes current offshore and hydropower turbine technology. Wave Dragon, the company said, is the only wave energy converter being developed that can be freely scaled up.

António Sarmento, director of Portugal’s Wave Energy Center, said that over the next 30 years Portugal could invest €5 billion ($7.8 billion) to install up to 5 GW of wave energy capacity along its western coast and along the coasts of its Madeira and Azores islands.

Another EU member is jockeying with Portugal to become the world leader in wave energy deployment – and to reap the anticipated benefits in new jobs and export earnings that the emerging marine energy industry is expected to generate.

The UK wave power sector moved ahead on July 30 when Jim Mather, minister of enterprise and energy for the Scottish regional government, commissioned a 100-kw Wavegen turbine. Scotland offers developers some of the world’s best wave-power levels.

The 100-kW turbine is “a major step forward,” the Scottish government said, for the Siadar Wave Energy Project, which is being developed by Npower Renewables, RWE Innogy’s UK operating company, on the Scottish isle of Lewis. Npower Renewables submitted planning applications in April for SWEP, which would generate up to 4 MW using 40 Wavegen 100-kW turbines.

If the Scottish government approves the plans, construction could start as early as 2009 and would take an estimated 18 months to complete.

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EnvironmentalResearchWeb.org, Jul 22, 2008

Of all the renewable technologies, wave and tidal energy is currently the most expensive way of producing energy. But a project in the UK hopes to help this technology move along the learning curve and bring down costs.

When installed in 2010, Wave Hub will be the world’s first large-scale wave farm. Just off the coast of Cornwall in south-west England, Wave Hub will consist of four berths, each with a maximum capacity of 5 MW. These four berths will be connected to onshore electrical equipment via a 25 km long sub-sea cable. The water at the deployment site is approximately 50 metres deep and the project will cover an area of sea measuring 4 km by 2 km.

Wave Hub is designed to be a place where companies and researchers can develop and test their marine energy devices as a final stage towards commercialisation. Each wave device developer will be granted a lease of between five and 10 years in an area of approximately two square kilometres. The total number of devices to be deployed at Wave Hub is not expected to exceed 30.

“Getting planning consent for marine energy devices can be a lengthy and challenging process which often slows down their development,” says Nick Harrington, general manager for the Wave Hub project at the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA). “Wave Hub provides companies with a consented sea area in which to test their devices. It also provides a grid connection, monitoring and testing support, a power purchase agreement, access to suppliers and a research base, and opportunities to collaborate with other companies.”

In order to get planning consent for Wave Hub, the SWRDA carried out a detailed environmental impact assessment. This involved an analysis of the potential impacts of the project on different parts of the environment. This includes the effects of laying the cable (most of which will be offshore) and the impacts of the likely arrays of wave energy devices on marine ecology, fisheries, recreational users and navigation.

“The environmental impact of the Wave Hub will be much lower than other proposed schemes such as the Severn Tidal Barrage,” says Harrington. “The devices float on the water and will have very little impact on waves reaching the shore. There will be very little terrestrial land-take, with only one cable coming ashore, terminating near the site of a disused power station.”

Harrington believes the construction of Wave Hub could be very quick, taking about eight weeks to complete, but admits there are still some major challenges ahead before Wave Hub is finally installed. “We are conscious that the economic environment is quite challenging. The rising cost of oil has led to a boom in oil and gas exploration, which has increased substantially the cost of hiring vessels needed to install Wave Hub. Volatile markets have also seen significant increases in the cost of copper, which has increased the cost of the cable that will be laid between Wave Hub and the mainland.”

The first four berths have already been allocated to Oceanlinx, Ocean Power Technologies, Fred Olsen and WestWave, a consortium of E.On and Ocean Prospect.

“Wave and tidal energy is currently in the same position on the learning curve that wind energy was a few years ago,” says Harrington. “Doing anything at sea is costly and difficult but Wave Hub will help companies bring those costs down and help make wave energy a viable renewable energy solution for the future. The UK has one of the largest wave energy resources in Europe. Allowing for technical, practical and environmental limitations, according to The Carbon Trust, wave energy could generate up to one sixth of the UK’s electricity consumption. By 2020 the wave energy market in the UK could by worth £0.2 billion.”

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EPSRC in the U.K., July 3, 2008

A device consisting of a giant rubber tube may hold the key to producing affordable electricity from the energy in sea waves.

Invented in the UK, the ‘Anaconda’ is a totally innovative wave energy concept. Its ultra-simple design means it would be cheap to manufacture and maintain, enabling it to produce clean electricity at lower cost than other types of wave energy converter. Cost has been a key barrier to deployment of such converters to date.

Named after the snake of the same name because of its long thin shape, the Anaconda is closed at both ends and filled completely with water. It is designed to be anchored just below the sea’s surface, with one end facing the oncoming waves.

A wave hitting the end squeezes it and causes a ‘bulge wave’* to form inside the tube. As the bulge wave runs through the tube, the initial sea wave that caused it runs along the outside of the tube at the same speed, squeezing the tube more and more and causing the bulge wave to get bigger and bigger. The bulge wave then turns a turbine fitted at the far end of the device and the power produced is fed to shore via a cable.

Because it is made of rubber, the Anaconda is much lighter than other wave energy devices (which are primarily made of metal) and dispenses with the need for hydraulic rams, hinges and articulated joints. This reduces capital and maintenance costs and scope for breakdowns.

The Anaconda is, however, still at an early stage of development. The concept has only been proven at very small laboratory-scale, so important questions about its potential performance still need to be answered. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and in collaboration with the Anaconda’s inventors and with its developer (Checkmate SeaEnergy), engineers at the University of Southampton are now embarking on a programme of larger-scale laboratory experiments and novel mathematical studies designed to do just that.

Using tubes with diameters of 0.25 and 0.5 metres, the experiments will assess the Anaconda’s behaviour in regular, irregular and extreme waves. Parameters measured will include internal pressures, changes in tube shape and the forces that mooring cables would be subjected to. As well as providing insights into the device’s hydrodynamic behaviour, the data will form the basis of a mathematical model that can estimate exactly how much power a full-scale Anaconda would produce.

When built, each full-scale Anaconda device would be 200 metres long and 7 metres in diameter, and deployed in water depths of between 40 and 100 metres. Initial assessments indicate that the Anaconda would be rated at a power output of 1MW (roughly the electricity consumption of 2000 houses) and might be able to generate power at a cost of 6p per kWh or less. Although around twice as much as the cost of electricity generated from traditional coal-fired power stations, this compares very favourably with generation costs for other leading wave energy concepts.

“The Anaconda could make a valuable contribution to environmental protection by encouraging the use of wave power,” says Professor John Chaplin, who is leading the EPSRC-funded project. “A one-third scale model of the Anaconda could be built next year for sea testing and we could see the first full-size device deployed off the UK coast in around five years’ time.”

Notes for Editors:

The two-year project ‘The Hydrodynamics of a Distensible Wave Energy Converter’ is receiving EPSRC funding of just over £430,000.

The Anaconda was invented by Francis Farley (an experimental physicist) and Rod Rainey (of Atkins Oil and Gas). Manufacturing rights for the Anaconda now belong to Checkmate SeaEnergy, part of the Checkmate Group. There may be advantages in making part of the tube inelastic, but this is still under assessment.

*A bulge wave is a wave of pressure produced when a fluid oscillates forwards and backwards inside a tube.

The mathematical studies undertaken by the EPSRC-funded project are novel because the Anaconda’s response to pressures induced by surface waves is much more complex than that of a ship or an offshore structure. It has many more degrees of freedom, and motions of each kind (vertical and horizontal bending, bulging, stretching, ovalling, twisting) all interact because of the compliant nature of the rubber.

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Datamonitor, June 16, 2008

Spanish utility major Iberdrola and diversified technology group Tecnalia Corporacion Tecnologica have announced an agreement to develop the Oceantec wave energy project in the Basque Country of Spain, with the goal of putting into operation a high-performance wave energy device at a competitive cost.

This initiative, which is expected to stimulate industrial development in the Basque Country, will involve a joint investment of around E4.5 million with expectations that the device will be built and pass testing in 2009.

Iberdrola will participate in Oceantec through Perseo, its equity investment company. With an annual budget of E6 million, its principal objective is to support high technology projects in renewable energy and the environment.

Perseo will analyze initiatives and companies that are planning new ways of exploiting renewable energy, and of maximizing performance and cost. It will focus among other things on marine energy, where Iberdrola is already active in developing wave energy projects in Santona, Spain, and the Orkneys, Scotland.

Perseo will seek also to identify investment opportunities for Iberdrola in biotechnology that can provide solutions in the context of new fuel sources and CO2 capture. The launch of Perseo seeks to intensify Iberdrola’s role in new technology, with the new strategic plan for 2008-10 assigning E225 million to research and innovation.

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JOHN VIDAL, The Guardian, June 6, 2008

From a distance the bizarre structures sprouting from the high Alentejo plain in eastern Portugal resemble a field of mechanical sunflowers. Each of the 2,520 giant solar panels is the size of a house and they are as technically sophisticated as a car. Their reflective heads tilt to the sky at a permanent 45 degrees as they track the sun through 240 degrees every day.

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm, generating electricity straight from sunlight, is taking shape near Moura, a small town in a thinly populated and impoverished region which boasts the most sunshine per square metre a year in Europe.

When fully commissioned later this year, the £250m farm set on abandoned state-owned land will be twice the size of any other similar project in the world, covering an area nearly twice the size of London’s Hyde park. It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.

Portugal, without its own oil, coal or gas and with no expertise in nuclear power, is pitching to lead Europe’s clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewables. Its intention, the economics minister, Manuel Pinho, said, is to wean itself off oil and within a decade set up a low carbon economy in response to high oil prices and climate change.

“We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas,” said Pinho. “What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.”

He expects Portugal to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This means lifting its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain’s target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Having passed its target for 2010 it could soon top the EU renewables league.

In less than three years, Portugal has trebled its hydropower capacity, quadrupled its wind power, and is investing in flagship wave and photovoltaic plants. Encouraged by long-term guarantees of prices by the state, and not delayed by planning laws or government indecision, it has proved a success. Firms are expected to invest £10bn in renewables by 2012 and up to £100bn by 2020.

However, Portugal says it wants to develop a renewables industry to rival Denmark or Japan. When the government invited companies for tenders to supply wind, solar and wave power, it demanded they work with manufacturing companies to establish clusters of industries.

This is a great success, say regional governments. In northern Portugal, where the world’s biggest wind farm, with more than 130 turbines, is now being strung across the mountainous Spanish border, a German firm employs more than 1,200 people building 600 40-metre-long fibreglass wind turbine blades a year.

The turbines are earmarked for Portuguese farms first, but orders are being taken from Britain and other countries. Half the workforce are women who once worked in the declining textile industry.

It is Portuguese plans for wave power that are prompting the most interest in Europe. The world’s first commercial wave farm is being assembled near Porto. Three “sea snakes”, developed by the Edinburgh-based company Pelamis, will shortly be towed out to sea and will start pumping modest amounts of electricity into the grid later this year.

It is the start of a potentially giant global industry with Portuguese firm Enersis planning to invest more than £1bn in a series of farms that together would power 450,000 homes.

Pinho dismisses nuclear power. “When you have a programme like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the UK is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important.

“Countries that do not invest in renewables will pay a high price in future. The cost of inaction is very high indeed. The perception that renewable energy is very expensive is changing every day as the oil price goes up.”

He added: “Energy and environment are the biggest challenge of our generation. We need to develop a low-carbon model for the world economy. The present situation is dangerous.”

EU Renewable League

Top

  • Sweden 2005 39.8%, target by 2020 49%
  • Latvia 34.9%, target 42%
  • Finland 28.5%, target 38%
  • Austria 23.3%, target 34%
  • Portugal 20.5%, target 31%

Bottom

  • Cyprus 2.9%, target by 2020 13%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Ireland 3.1%, target 16%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Belgium 2.2%, target 13%
  • UK 1.3%, target 15%

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Publisher’s Note: On May 21, 2008 FERC rejected the Requests for Rehearing from Fort Bragg, Mendocino County & FISH. The article below was written before that decision was handed down.

MendoCoastCurrent, May 6, 2008

On May 5, 2008, Mendocino County filed their response to PG&E’s comments related to Mendocino County’s Request for Rehearing on the Wave Energy project off the Mendocino coast. This is the latest filing at FERC in response to PG&E’s bid to explore wave energy on the Mendocino coast near Fort Bragg, California.

Mendocino County’s position is that PG&E brought no new information in their comment about Mendocino’s Request for Rehearing, although the issues around the initial notification on the wave energy preliminary permit are highlighted. Mendocino makes the case that PG&E had no statutory requirement or obligation to notify as the Federal Powers Act places the written notice obligation “squarely with the Commission.”

Originally, PG&E’s commented that there was an ‘extreme delay’ in Mendocino’s seeking the rehearing and Mendocino claims their Motion to Intervene “was filed as soon as possible after the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors was presented with the details of the WaveConnect permit application at its September 19, 2007 meeting.”

So due to the Commission’s failure to meet their own standards with regard to written notice and no basis for PG&E’s position of ‘extreme delay’ in requesting Intervener status, the “only reasonable resolution at this time is rescission” of the preliminary permit.

Mendocino addresses PG&E’s vagueness of the wave energy project description (proposed project locations, number of wave energy converters) in the preliminary permit application and adds that “the local community was denied both the opportunity to investigate the feasibility of a competing applications and a voice regarding the terms and execution of the permit itself.”

Additionally, Mendocino has requested their own requirements for any wave energy project off the Mendocino coast, essentially defining its own process to include more checks and balances as well as transparency of plans and findings to local governments and the public:

  • Within one year of permit issue, PG&E shall submit a plan to FERC and Mendocino that details type, number and location of devices for study within the next five years;
  • PG&E shall provide local government with access to all consultant reports, findings and communications related to environmental impact and other impacts resulting from construction, operation and removal of the proposed project;
  • PG&E shall promptly notify Mendocino if it sets up any obstruction, measuring devices, observable towers or other equipment in permit area;
  • PG&E shall notify Mendocino if it decides to surrender the permit;
  • After consultation with Mendocino, PG&E shall remove any and all equipment constructed or installed within the permit area if it decides to surrender their permit;
  • Within one year of permit issue, PG&E shall submit a plan to FERC and Mendocino detailing removable of all equipment at the end of permit period;
  • PG&E shall give Mendocino all evaluation and monitoring from the proposed research projects and provide regular updates of findings, also making this available to the public;
  • Upon submitting Notice of Intent or Pre-Application Document to [license] the project, PG&E shall provide Mendocino a full description of all alternative project proposals under consideration by PG&E as well as related studies and reasons for accepting or rejecting.

Mendocino states “had the County had an opportunity to intervene in the preliminary permit proceedings, the County would have not only had an opportunity to determine the feasibility of a competing project but the County would have also raised its concerns about the vagueness of the project description and to propose additional permit conditions to clarify the project.”

Mendocino adds its wish to have had ample time to intervene and consider partnering with adjacent counties or private entities regarding a competing application as well as ample time to propose additional permit conditions to meaningfully participate.

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Updates from Frank Hartzell’s article announcing FERC’s granting of GreenWave’s application:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

*****

DAVID SNEED, The Tribune of San Luis Obispo, April 2008

A Southern California company is eyeing the coastline off Montaña de Oro State Park to study the feasibility of an emerging renewable energy technology—converting wave action to electricity.

Green Wave Energy Solutions LLC has laid claim to a three-mile-wide swath of ocean a mile off the tip of the Morro Bay sand spit to Point Buchon —17 square miles in all — in which it hopes to eventually test the feasibility of wave power.

The Thousand Oaks company has applied to federal energy officials for permission to do the study.

“We’re still early on in development, but we feel there is a tremendous window of opportunity to do this,” said Wayne Burkamp, a San Francisco attorney who is GreenWave’s president.

The application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit would not give the company permission to put wave energy devices in the water. Rather, it would give the company three years to study the feasibility of wave energy.

“It’s like a mining claim,” said Allison Detmer, director of the state Coastal Commission’s energy program.

The application is one of several before FERC laying claim to coastal waters of California for possible development of wave energy.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) recently received a preliminary permit to study the feasibility of wave energy off the coast of Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

Green Wave also has an application for the Mendocino coast. Wave energy projects are also in the works in Oregon and Washington.

The San Luis Obispo County project is the southernmost.

Undecided technology

Neither the PG&E nor GreenWave applications state what type of wave energy devices would be used.

Two types are under development, Burkamp said. Both use the up-and-down motion of waves to generate electricity. One consists of a snake-like line of tubes floating on the surface of the ocean that undulates as waves pass by. The other employees a buoy that uses the pitching and heaving motions caused by waves to generate power.

Green Wave officials aren’t providing additional details on what technology they might use.

“Given the time horizon for getting through the permitting process (which could be years) and the uncertainties of what the technologies will actually look like, GreenWave believes it would be misleading to provide detailed specifications of a technology at this stage,” Burkamp wrote in the application to FERC.

A wave power facility off San Luis Obispo County could generate as much as 100 megawatts of power, the application states. That’s enough power for about 90,000 homes.

By contrast, Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant generates 2,200 megawatts.

The company anticipates spending as much as $2 million during the initial feasibility phase, while actual installation of a wave-power facility would cost as much as $40 million.

Regulatory hurdles

According to the application, Green Wave’s study area is one to three and a half miles offshore and seven miles long. Wave energy components would not be visible from shore, Burkamp said.

“A project area of this size is required to allow flexibility for performing the necessary assessments and properly siting the project components,” the application reads.

This area was chosen because of its abundant wave action and its proximity to Morro Bay. The city has a port and power plant, where electricity generated by a wave power plant could land and hook into the power grid, Burkamp said.

He said a test project could be in the water within a year to a year and a half. However, Coastal Commission officials say the establishment of a wave power facility anywhere in California is years away.

“This industry is very young, and they need to do a lot of testing first,” Detmer said.

Wave power facilities would also face many regulatory hurdles. Burkamp estimates that a facility would require 26 federal, state and local permits.

Placing wave energy devices in the water and laying transmission lines on the ocean floor would both require coastal development permits, Detmer said. Projects located farther off shore than three miles would be under the jurisdiction of the federal Minerals Management Service.

Environmental groups are reacting with caution to the recent interest in wave power. They support the idea of renewable energy sources such as wave power, but are waiting for details about specific projects.

“We think it’s important that all of these projects proceed with caution,” said Rick Wilson, coastal management director with the Surfrider Foundation. “Even though this is clean, green technology, there can be potential impacts to fishing and environmental impacts.”

Possible environmental impacts include noise, increased vessel traffic and blockage of whale migration routes.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 29, 2008

wave_star_nissum_bredning_2006_182Wave Star Energy in scale 1:10 has now been in operation and grid connected since April 2006 at Nissum Bredning in the North Western corner of Denmark.

Since then the company’s test machine has logged almost 4.000 operational hours in the first six months of daily operation, been through seven significant storms and is a major step on the way towards commercial wave power.

The 1:10 scale model is 24 metres long and designed to stand in water which is a couple of metres deep and operates in waves which are 1:10 og fhte wave height in the North Sea.

The 20 floats on either side of the machine, which generate the electricity by being pressed upwards by the waves, are one metre in diameter and generate electricity from waves of a height of just 5 centimetres. But in spite of its size the test machine has been built in exactly the same way as the 240-metre long Wave Star machines of the future.

“The 1:10 machine is controlled in exactly the same way as the full-scale machine and this means that it provides us with practical operational experience,” explains Per Resen Steenstrup.

The test machine has an output of 5.5 kilowatt and can generate electrical power corresponding to the electrical power consumption of two single-family houses. The plan is that it will remain in Nissum Bredning until August 2008. Wave Star Energy has already begun work on the construction of a first series produced 1:2 model of the 6 megawatt machine, which is the ultimate goal.

“Each time the size of the machine is doubled – and can thereby operat in a wave height which is twice as high – the power of the machine increases 11 times. With wind turbines the effect is only quadrupled at the same wind speed,” says Per Resen Steenstrup.

This means that the 1:2 model will have an output of 500 kilowatt.

“As soon as we have tested the 1:2 model and documented its output data in the North Sea, we will begin to market the Wave Star machine. And the prospects are huge. To put it into context you could say that, in the course of the 25 or so years which the wind turbine industry has been in existence, it has succeeded in reducing the price per kilowatt hour roughly seven times. But we just need to reduce the price four times to get down to the same level,” explains Per Resen Steenstrup.

The Wave Star wave power machines will be designed for an operating life of approx. 50 years in an ocean environment. The plan is that the machine will undergo a major inspection every 10 years, when the machine will be towed into land, thereby avoiding costly offshore operations. In reality the machines will be written off in less than 20 years, so the remaining operating life represents pure profit.

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