FERC proposes new licensing process for hydrokinetic projects

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has proposed a new licensing process for ocean and other hydrokinetic energy pilot projects that could allow developers to complete licensing in as little as six months.

Pilot project licenses would be available for proposed projects that are: 5 MW or less; removable or able to shut down on short notice; outside of waters with sensitive designations; and operated for the purpose of testing new technologies or determining appropriate sites for ocean, wave, and tidal energy projects.

As proposed, licenses for pilot projects would be short term, perhaps five years, and developers could generate electricity while testing. At the end of the five-year period, the project developer could either apply for a standard 30- to 50-year license or decommission and restore the site. FERC said July 19 the pilot project license would include standard safeguards that would allow FERC to alter or shut down a project to prevent unacceptable environmental effects.

Earlier this year, Chairman Joseph Kelliher directed FERC staff to determine whether FERC could establish a simplified process suitable to license pilot projects for new technologies, one that could be implemented under the commission’s existing legal authority.

�Perhaps the greatest barrier to realizing the potential of new hydrokinetic technologies is that they are unproven,� Kelliher said. �These technologies must be demonstrated before large-scale commercial deployment can occur. Today we take a major step to reduce the barriers to the success of these new hydro technologies, by proposing a simplified licensing process suitable for licensing pilot projects.�

Kelliher acknowledged the success of the new pilot license would depend on the cooperation of other federal agencies and state agencies. For the pilot license to work, he said, it will be necessary for federal and state agencies to identify any necessary environmental studies early in the process, and issue any necessary permits in due course.

�It stands to reason that the potential impact of a pilot project authorized to operate for five years under conditions that allow the commission to halt operation if it determines environmental impact is unacceptable will be quite different than a large-scale project licensed to operate over a half century,� Kelliher said. �For that reason, the scope of the environmental studies necessary to authorize a pilot license should be reduced.�

FERC sets technical conference on proposed process

FERC also announced Commissioner Philip Moeller will lead a technical conference Oct. 2 in Portland, Ore., to present the proposed licensing process. Representatives from industry, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, Indian tribes, and the public will have an opportunity to comment at that time. The conference will be followed by a 30-day written comment period.

The notice of the technical conference and a diagram of the proposed pilot licensing process are on FERC’s Internet site at www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/indus-act/hydrokinetics/energy-pilot.asp.

Information on time and location of the conference will be announced in September. All interested persons may attend. While registration is not required, for planning purposes, FERC is encouraging registration on the Internet at www.ferc.gov/whats-new/registration/hydrokinetic-10-07-form.asp.

Direct questions about the conference to Kristen Murphy, (1) 202-502-6236, E-mail: kristen.murphy@ferc.gov, or Tim Welch, (1) 202-502-8760, E-mail: timothy.welch@ferc.gov.

FERC conducted a conference on hydrokinetic energy in December 2006 and issued a notice of inquiry on preliminary permits for new technologies in February. (HNN 2/15/07) The commission also is working with the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service on a memorandum of understanding on jurisdictional issues involving projects that would be developed on the Outer Continental Shelf. (HNN 6/11/07)

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