Congressional panels examine opportunities for ocean power

Officials testifying at a congressional hearing said there are plenty of opportunities for development of renewable energy in the oceans off U.S. shores.

Michael Olsen, deputy assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management for the Department of Interior, said interest in alternative energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf is growing, particularly in the Northeast and along the West Coast. Olsen said Interior’s Minerals Management Service is working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on a memorandum of understanding to coordinate federal review and authorization of proposed projects. (HNN 3/21/07)

FERC has jurisdiction over hydropower licensing, while MMS has authority over offshore energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The MOU should provide an efficient and effective process for reviewing and overseeing wave and current proposals for the OCS, he said.

Olsen was among ten panelists who presented testimony to the April 24 joint oversight hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee’s Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans, and Energy and Minerals Resources subcommittees.

Director Ann Miles of the Division of Hydropower Licensing in FERC’s Office of Energy Projects, testified on the commission’s growing involvement in projects to produce hydropower from ocean currents, tides, and wave action.

Miles said FERC expects the majority of the new technology projects will be located in state waters, not farther at sea on the OCS. Of 23 pending preliminary permit applications for ocean sites, only four would be located on the OCS, she said. Miles said the distribution of proposals reflects that the cumulative costs of development make it advantageous to locate projects near shore. Such costs include purchasing and installing transmission cable to bring project power on shore.

Ocean power could double U.S. hydro production

While development and commercialization of new technologies is just beginning, Miles said ocean-based hydro eventually could double U.S. hydropower production. She cited an Electric Power Research Institute study that estimates the potential for wave and current power in the U.S. to be more than 350 billion kWh annually. She said that figure would equal the output of traditional hydropower in its most productive years.

For the 2007 calendar year, Miles said the commission has issued 16 preliminary permits for proposed tidal energy projects and three for proposed ocean wave energy projects. In the previous two years, she said, the commission issued a total of three permits for tidal projects and eight for ocean current energy projects.

FERC issued preliminary permits in April to tidal energy projects proposed by ORPC Alaska LLC — 48-MW Resurrection Bay OCGen Power (No. 12678) in Resurrection Bay in the Gulf of Alaska, and 32-MW Cook Inlet Tidal Energy (No. 12679), in Cook Inlet, also in Alaska. The commission also issued permits to New Hampshire Tidal Energy Co. to study 200-MW Portsmouth Area Tidal Energy (No. 12664) and to UEK Corp. to study 40-MW Piscataqua Tidal Hydrokinetic Energy (No. 12722), both in New Hampshire’s Piscataqua River. It also issued a permit to Tidewalker Associates for 13.5-MW Half-Moon Cove Tidal Energy (No. 12704) on Cobscook Bay in Washington County, Maine.

Government support of technologies urged

Also testifying was Sean O’Neill, president of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition, a national trade association for marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy.

�Ocean renewables can help diversify our energy portfolio and improve our environment,� O’Neill said. �With the proper support, these resources will become a robust part of a reliable, affordable, clean electric supply portfolio.�

O’Neill said private developers have borne the costs of bringing ocean energy technology forward. He said government support now is needed. O’Neill said government funding also would provide confidence to private investors and help attract private capital.

Jason Bak, chief executive officer of Finavera Renewables Inc., an Ireland-based energy company involved in global development of ocean wave projects, also testified. (HNN 4/20/07) Bak said his company is within weeks of issuing contracts for construction of a prototype wave energy buoy for installation off the coast of Newport, Ore., later this year.

�We are the leaders,� Bak said. �Finavera’s Makah Bay is the first — and only — wave energy project to enter the federal licensing process.�

Finavera’s 2006 acquisition, U.S.-based AquaEnergy Group Ltd., has filed an application for a FERC hydropower license for the 1-MW Makah Bay Wave Energy pilot project (No. 12751) off Clallam County, Wash. (HNN 10/27/06)

House Ways and Means subcommittee eyes tax incentives

The House Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures subcommittee held a hearing the same day, focusing on proposals on tax incentives for alternative energy sources.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., spoke about the Marine Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act, which would make ocean, tidal, and wave power eligible for production tax credits. The bill also would extend a five-year accelerated depreciation benefit to ocean and tidal technologies, and establish a 30 percent investment tax credit. It would pump $50 million a year into marine energy research for ten years to help overcome hurdles.

Other bills that would extend production tax credits to kinetic hydro have been introduced in the Senate. (HNN 2/26/07)

Ocean Power Technologies prepares for public offering

Ocean Power Technologies Inc. announced April 25 that its initial public offering of 5 million shares of common stock is priced at $20 each.

OPT, which is commercializing proprietary systems to generate electricity from ocean waves, said its common stock would begin trading on the Nasdaq Global Market.

Ocean Power Technologies and Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative are developing the 50-MW Reedsport OPT Wave Park in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon. (HNN 3/13/07)

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