FERC licenses first tidal pilot project, 1.05-MW Roosevelt Island

WASHINGTON 1/24/12 (PennWell) — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued its first hydrokinetic pilot project license for a tidal energy project, the 1.05-MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project, on the East River in New York, N.Y.

Marine hydropower developer Verdant Power filed an application with FERC in December 2010 for the RITES project, seeking permission to install up to 30 tidal power turbine-generators on the river bottom off Roosevelt Island. In 2006-2008, Verdant demonstrated a Free Flow System including six full-scale turbines, delivering energy to businesses in New York City.

FERC developed the pilot license process in 2008 to allow developers to test new hydrokinetic technologies, to determine appropriate sites for such technologies, and to confirm the technologies’ environmental effects without compromising FERC oversight. Pilot licenses must be small, short-term, in an environmentally non-sensitive area, removable and able to shut down on short notice, and removed, with the site restored, before the license expires, unless a new license is issued.

“Issuing a pilot license for an innovative technology is a major step in the effort to help our country meet our renewable energy goals,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “FERC’s pilot process is doing what it should: allow for exploration of new renewable technologies while protecting the environment.”

FERC issued a 10-year pilot license Jan. 23, authorizing Verdant to conduct a three-phase development:
o Phase 1: three 35-kW, 5-meter-diameter axial-flow Kinetic Hydropower System turbines mounted on a single tri-frame in year 1 for a total 105 kW of installed capacity;
o Phase 2: nine additional 35-kW units mounted on three tri-frames in year 3 for a total of 420 kW:
o Phase 3: 18 additional 35-kW units mounted on six tri-frames in year 5 for a total of 1.05 MW.

The project also includes 480-volt underwater cables from each turbine to shoreline switchgear vaults that interconnect with a control room and interconnection points. It also includes facilities for navigation safety and operation.

Once Phase 3 is completed, the RITES project is to have annual generation of 2.4 gigawatt-hours utilizing tidal flows of the East River, actually a 17-mile tidal strait connecting Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean in New York Harbor. The units yaw with the flow, enabling them to generate during both ebb and flow cycles.

FERC found the project, as licensed, is expected annually to cost $2.08 million, or 867.42 mills per megawatt-hour, more than the cost of alternative power.

“The project’s value, however, lies in its successful testing and demonstration of Verdant’s KHPS turbine technology, and the project’s ability to raise the profile of, and advance, the emergent tidal energy industry,” the FERC order said.

FERC has issued 100 preliminary permits to study the feasibility of developing hydrokinetic projects. Another nine entities are in the pre-filing stages of developing license applications, while three have filed license applications.

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