U.S., state of Washington coordinate hydrokinetic project review

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state of Washington have signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate procedures and schedules for reviewing hydrokinetic energy projects in state waters of Washington.

FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said June 4, 2009, the agreement would reduce some of the regulatory barriers to developing the emerging forms of hydrokinetic technology. FERC and the state of Oregon signed a similar memorandum, primarily for ocean energy projects, in 2008. (HydroWorld 3/28/08)

Under terms of the accord, FERC and Washington agree:
o Each will notify the other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license, or license;
o The parties will agree upon a schedule for processing applications as early as possible, including milestones for FERC and Washington to complete their processes; they also will encourage other federal agencies and stakeholders to comply with the schedules;
o They will coordinate environmental reviews of any proposed projects and will consult with stakeholders, including project developers, on the design of studies and environmental matters;
o If Washington prepares a comprehensive plan for siting hydrokinetic projects, FERC will take the plan into consideration when issuing a license.

“The next crucial step is to place some of these projects in the water so that any effects on the marine ecosystem can be thoroughly analyzed,” Commissioner Philip Moeller, of Washington, said. “It’s time for action on renewable energy technologies.”

FERC said the memorandum ensures the governments will undertake their regulatory efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner that recognizes economic and cultural factors.

In 2008, the state of Washington appealed the nation’s first hydrokinetic project license, arguing FERC may not issue a “conditional” license before obtaining state permits and authorizations. (HydroWorld 5/20/08)

FERC issued the conditioned license in December 2007 to Finavera Renewables Ocean Energy Ltd. for the 1-MW Makah Bay Offshore Pilot Project (No. 12751) in Washington. FERC had said a conditioned license does not authorize construction or installation, and expressly stated that no such authority would be granted until Finavera obtained all necessary authorizations, which it had obtained.

However, Finavera surrendered the Makah Bay license in April. (HydroWorld 4/29/09) Declaring the project was not economically viable, Finavera cited an unfavorable economic climate and restrictions on capital necessary to continue project development.

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