March 2008

A FERC first

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a license for a hydrokinetic energy project, which will be located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington state. 

Hydrokinetic energy uses the moving water of tidal streams to power underwater turbines much like windmills use moving air. 

IHS reported the license for the Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project includes mitigation measures to protect the environment, said FERC. 

"For the first time, we allow the harnessing of electricity from wave energy-power that results from the gravitational pull of the moon," said FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller. 

The proposed project will consist of: 

  • Four 250-kilowatt steel wave energy conversion buoys and an associated mooring/anchoring and electrical connection system
  • A 3.7-statute-mile-long direct current underwater transmission cable connecting from one buoy power cable to the shore station
  • A metal shore station with an access road and parking area
  • A 20-foot, 12-kilovolt transmission line to connect the shore station to the nearby Clallam County Public Utility District distribution line

The FERC decision gives the licensee for the project, Finavera Renewables Ocean Energy Ltd. (Finavera), a conditioned five-year license for the proposed project. 

The FERC license is conditional upon Finavera obtaining all necessary federal permits before they begin construction. The company may move forward with those portions of the license that do not require any type of construction. 

In a November 2007 policy statement, FERC said it might in certain circumstances issue conditioned licenses for hydrokinetic projects.  "Issu-ing conditioned licenses for hydrokinetic technologies will have no environmental impact, will not diminish the authority of the states or other federal agencies, and will improve the ability of project developers to secure financing of demonstration projects," said FERC in its policy statement.