Tom Banse’s radio report on West Coast wave energy aired Thursday morning on The California Report. It’s also posted to the Climate Watch Radio section on this site.
A Crib Sheet for West Coast Ocean Energy
Every now and then when the government gets something right, it’s only fair to give credit. So today we give props to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for making public records easily accessible. Combined with our handy-dandy crib sheet, you can be the reporter and dig up all sorts of newsworthy nuggets. We’ll get to some examples, but first the overview:
Starting in 2006, there was a “gold rush” on the ocean to stake claims for wave energy sites. Now the spray is settling and an industry shakeout is occurring. Energy developers have given up on about a third of the wave power projects they proposed along the West Coast. Some tidal power proposals are ebbing away as well. When things go sideways, we rarely get a press release about it. Often the news pops up first in a filing to FERC.
FERC is the agency that oversees wave and tidal power projects in state waters (up to 3 miles offshore). The agency’s webmasters set up an “eLibrary” to archive project applications and correspondence.
You can see on the crib sheet that FERC dismissed three ocean energy projects in California waters last month. The simple explanation is that the three projects ended up on the wrong side of a bureaucratic turf battle. The Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) won jurisdiction over all energy development on the outer continental shelf, defined in this case as more than three miles offshore. Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company president Burt Hamner explained in an e-mail:
FERC has cancelled its entire preliminary permit process for projects located on Federal ocean waters, and thus dismissed our seven pending applications for preliminary permits (as well as those of a few others). The new MMS framework says that applicants for wave projects must first get a MMS lease for space, then apply to FERC for a commercial hydropower license. But, MMS is prohibited from issuing leases in national marine sanctuaries. Two of our projects, San Francisco and Hawaii, are in sanctuaries. Therefore these are terminated because there is no way to get a lease or permits there.
At the City of San Francisco, utility specialist Randall Smith said the FERC dismissal of the city’s preliminary permit for the Oceanside project “doesn’t put us back to square one, but does force a step back.” Smith elaborated, “The difference with MMS is getting a lease. That’s a little more protracted.”
The voluminous dockets for PG&E’s WaveConnect projects off Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, and the Green Wave Mendocino Wave Park suggest those are the ones moving ahead the fastest. PG&E recently secured $6 million to pay for environmental studies, design work, and permitting. The utility started its community outreach by scheduling two town meetings–in Eureka on May 19 and Ft. Bragg on May 21–both scheduled for 6 pm.
And now, the secret code: An easy way to keep tabs on a marine energy project is to make note of the applicant’s docket number (the one that starts with P-xxxxx) and then periodically plug that number into a “Docket search.” (Click on “Submit” rather than the more prominent “Search Consolidated Dockets” button.)Here are all of the West Coast wave energy projects proposed to FERC, listed from north to south, as of this week:
P-12751 Makah Bay (Finavera) license surrendered 4/09
P-13058 Grays Harbor Ocean Energy (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company) 11/2007
P-13047 Oregon Coastal Wave Energy (Tillamook Intergovernmental Dev. Entity) 10/2007
P-12750 Newport OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) permit surrendered 3/09
P-12793 Florence Oregon Ocean Wave Project (Oceanlinx) 4/2007, withdrawn 4/08
P-12713 Reedsport OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 3/2006
P-12743 Douglas County Wave Energy (Douglas County, OR) 9/2006 (oscillating column device on Umpqua River jetty)
P-12749 Coos Bay OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 3/2006
P-12752 Coos County Offshore (Bandon, Oregon) (Finavera) permit cancelled w/o objection 6/08
P-12779 Humboldt County WaveConnect (PG&E) 2/07
P-12753 Humboldt County Wave Energy (Finavera) permit surrendered 2/09
P-13075 Centerville OPT Wave Park (Ocean Power Technologies) 11/2007
P-12781 Mendocino County WaveConnect (PG&E) 2/07
P-13053 Green Wave Mendocino Wave Park (Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC) 10/07
P-13377 and P-13378 Fort Ross Project- N & S (Sonoma County Water Agency) 2/09 pending
P-13376 Del Mar Landing Project (Sonoma County Water Agency) 2/09 pending
P-13308 San Francisco Ocean Energy Project (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC) 10/08 Dismissed 4/09
P-13379 San Francisco Oceanside Wave Energy Project (City and County of SF) filed 02/09 Dismissed 4/09
P-13052 Green Wave San Luis Obispo Wave Park (Green Wave Energy Solutions, LLC) filed 10/07 pending
P-13309 Ventura Ocean Energy Project (Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company) 10/08 Dismissed 4/09
Total proposed wave energy projects since 2006: 21
Total projects scrubbed by developer: 5
Total projects rejected by FERC: 3
For extra credit – Noteworthy tidal energy projects:
P-12585 San Francisco Bay Tidal Energy Project (Oceana Energy) 10/08
P-12672 Columbia River Tidal Energy Project (Oceana Energy) Permit surrendered 3/08