U.S. solicits comments on marine, hydrokinetic report

The Department of Energy seeks comments by Dec. 9 on a draft report examining the environmental effects of marine and hydrokinetic power projects.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for a report to Congress that addresses the effects of marine and hydrokinetic energy projects. (HNN 11/18/08)

DOE is developing the report with the Commerce Department, through the undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, and the Interior Department. Oak Ridge National Laboratory prepared the draft and also will prepare the final report, which is due to Congress in June 2009.

Staff members who prepared the draft summarized findings and answered questions at an Internet web seminar conducted Nov. 25. The document can be obtained from the Internet site www.ornl.gov/sci/eere/eisareport/report.html. Comments can be filed by clicking on the report’s �Feedback� link.

The report is based on a review of peer-reviewed literature, project documents, and environmental assessments of the new technologies. Technology developers, state resource and regulatory agencies, non-governmental organizations, and federal agencies also provided supplemental information for the draft report.

Draft sees need for more research, monitoring

The report notes there are numerous designs for converting the energy of waves, river and tidal currents, and ocean temperature differences into electricity. It lists more than 100 ocean energy and hydrokinetic energy technologies, most of which are in the conceptual stage.

The report concludes few marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies have been tested at full scale, making it difficult to resolve all of the uncertainties about specific environmental effects. However, it said information is available in scientific literature on potential effects, and assessment methods such as ecological risk assessment can be used to identify and evaluate adverse effects. Quantitative environmental impact assessment techniques, combined with adaptive management as part of project licensing, can be applied to reduce risks and uncertainties, it said.

Environmentally sound development of ocean and hydrokinetic energy technologies will benefit from the dissemination of site-specific monitoring of existing installations, the draft concludes. General research to understand the nature and severity of effects associated with stresses common to many technologies also is expected to benefit development of ocean and hydrokinetic technologies.

Basing environmental monitoring programs on adaptive management principles, as advocated by a number of resource and regulatory agencies, would allow ongoing research and monitoring to help refine technology designs, the report said. Such an approach also could improve environmental acceptability of future installations.

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