Members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission met with developers of new hydroelectric technologies to learn how to help them address environmental, financial, and regulatory challenges peculiar to their cutting-edge projects.
About 115 people attended the Dec. 6 meeting at FERC headquarters to explain or learn about ways to generate electricity from ocean waves, tides, and currents, and from free-flowing rivers. Others listened or participated over the Internet.
December technical conferences on hydropower have become an annual event at FERC. However, the latest gathering focused its attention forward, rather than looking back. Chairman Joseph Kelliher emphasized the conference was different from those in recent years, which examined conventional hydropower projects whose licensing proceedings were significantly delayed.
Rising tide of ocean permit applications
Kelliher said FERC has seen increasing interest in new hydroelectric technologies over the past year, and noted a surge in preliminary permit applications. About 40 permit applications for ocean projects are before the commission, all of which have been filed since March, Kelliher said.
FERC staff has issued 11 permits for applicants to study the feasibility of tidal energy projects proposed for California, New York, and Washington, and ocean current energy projects proposed off Florida.
In November, FERC received the first license application for a wave energy project, AquaEnergy Group Ltd.’s 1-MW Makah Bay Offshore Wave Energy pilot project (No. 12751) off the coast of Washington. (HNN 10/27/06)
Kelliher said FERC convened the meeting to learn the ramifications of non-conventional hydro technologies from representatives of industry, federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public. (HNN 11/15/06) In addition to Kelliher, Commissioners Suedeen Kelly and Philip Moeller attended the four-hour meeting.
Following the chairman’s remarks, George Hagerman, senior research associate, Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute, presented an overview of resource, technology, and business issues.
FERC examined three areas: environmental effects of developing new infrastructure; financial issues involving the costs of research, development, and building; and regulatory processes that might affect the ability of the new industry to succeed.
FERC to determine next steps
Kelliher said the conference would provide FERC a greater understanding of the technologies, enabling it to formulate �next steps� in its regulation of the young industry. The docket for the proceeding, No. AD06-13, will remain open two weeks for comments, after which FERC will determine whether additional steps are necessary.
One panel addressed known and potential effects of the new technologies on the environment and other resources. Scheduled panelists were: Mary Boatman, alternative energy programmatic environmental impact statement coordinator, Minerals Management Service; Glenn Cada, research staff, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Jim Gibson, senior regulatory specialist, Devine Tarbell and Associates; and John Novak, executive director of generation and environmental sectors, Electric Power Research Institute.
Financial issues and the costs of the new technologies were addressed by: Andrew Dzykewicz, chief energy adviser to the Rhode Island governor; Wayne Krouse, chairman of Hydro Green Energy; George Taylor, chief executive officer of Ocean Power Technologies Inc.; and Alla Weinstein, president of AquaEnergy Group Ltd.
The third panel examined whether FERC’s permitting and licensing processes work for the new technologies. Panelists were: Thomas Bigford, chief of the Habitat Protection Division, National Marine Fisheries Service; Michael Grainey, director of the Oregon Department of Energy; Des McGinnes, business development manager, Ocean Power Delivery Ltd.; Richard Roos-Collins, director of legal services, Natural Heritage Foundation; and Gil Sperling, corporate counsel, Verdant Power Inc.