ST Special Feature—January 2010 IssueMarine Renewable Energy Projects Pick up Steam
The past year saw a new president enter the White House and a new political and economic landscape emerge. With affordable, clean, renewable and domestically produced energy one of President Barack Obama’s major goals since his campaign—and the government eager to stimulate the economy through federal initiatives and subsidies—the viability of alternative energy sources in the U.S. has never been greater.
Obama’s administration has been vocal about its desire to pursue alternative energy, including more than $80 billion in clean energy investments in The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and authorizing leases to generate electricity from wind, ocean currents and other renewable marine sources in federal waters.
In an Earth Day speech last April, the president emphasized that renewable energy is an imperative for the United States’ continued prosperity and role as a global leader.
“We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy,” Obama said. “We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects. We can hand over the jobs of the 21st century to our competitors, or we can confront what countries in Europe and Asia have already recognized as both a challenge and an opportunity: The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy.”
As Obama noted, while major steps are being taken in this country, the U.S. has lagged behind several other nations in developing alternative ocean energy sources.
To help give our readers insight into recent developments in the U.S. and international ocean renewable energy industry, Sea Technology has compiled reports from major industry players and regulators on their accomplishments over the past year and their goals for the near future.
Minerals Management Service. On April 22, Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the completion of the final framework for the Offshore Renewable Energy Program. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 granted authority to the U.S. Department of the Interior to manage renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and the secretary of the interior delegated responsibility for these projects to the Minerals Management Service (MMS).
On June 26, Salazar offered interim policy leases to Hoboken, New Jersey-based Deepwater Wind LLC (two leases); Bluewater Wind Delaware LLC (Newark, Delaware); Bluewater Wind New Jersey Energy LLC (Hoboken); and Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey LLC (Cape May, New Jersey), for a total of four facilities off the coast of New Jersey and one offshore Delaware. Deepwater Wind declined one lease, but all others have been executed. In addition, interim policy applications are under review for activities offshore Georgia and Florida.
The MMS also received a request from Cape Wind Associates LLC (North Falmouth, Massachusetts) to construct and operate a wind facility located in federal waters 4.7 miles offshore Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The MMS published the Cape Wind Final Environmental Impact Statement in January 2009 and will announce its decision on whether to approve the project after completing all outstanding reviews.
Also in 2009, the MMS established federal/state/local/tribal task forces for facilitating intergovernmental cooperation to consider commercial leasing offshore.
The MMS and task forces from Delaware, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Virginia are working to ensure that future renewable energy projects are efficiently and effectively reviewed to support the administration’s goal of broadening the nation’s energy resource portfolio.
The MMS said it is committed to safe and environmentally responsible renewable energy development activities on the OCS.
Since 2005, the agency has spent approximately $7 million on biological, oceanographic and socioeconomic studies in areas likely to be considered for OCS renewable energy development, with additional studies to be initiated this year.
In addition to finalizing regulations and initiating ocean studies, the MMS oversaw testing of offshore renewable energy devices at Ohmsett, an agency-managed wave simulation tank in Leonardo, New Jersey. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is working with the MMS to gain experience with respect to tank testing of marine hydrokinetic devices. The MMS Technology Assessment & Research Program began conducting research on renewable energy issues in 2008; four projects have been completed and three will be finished in 2010 with the opportunity for more testing during this time.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directs the secretary of the interior, in cooperation with the secretary of commerce, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the secretary of defense, to establish an OCS mapping initiative to assist in decision making related to renewable energy activity on the OCS. This marine cadastre initiative will identify OCS locations of federally permitted activities, obstructions to navigation, submerged cultural resources, undersea cables, offshore aquaculture projects and any area designated for the purpose of safety, national security, environmental protection or conservation and management of living marine resources.
American Wind Energy Association. The U.S. offshore wind energy industry is gearing up to supply clean and environmentally friendly energy to the United States. Offshore wind energy efforts are under way along the East and West coasts, in the Gulf waters offshore Texas and in the Great Lakes.
Offshore wind in the U.S. will build on the success and experience of Europe, which has had wind projects in the water for nearly 20 years. The European experience has provided technological advances and environmental case studies that reveal minimal environmental impacts.
In addition, the proven environmental benefits of offshore wind, particularly its ability to mitigate climate change, underscore the need to get projects in place as soon as possible. Over the last year, many strides have been made, including the release of the MMS’s rule for permitting alternative energy projects on the OCS and the subsequent exploratory leases for data collection issued for waters off New Jersey and Delaware. Still, barriers to development remain, and it is essential that these are overcome if U.S. offshore wind energy potential is to be realized.
For example, a national renewable electricity standard has been proposed as a means of increasing the use of renewables and reducing greenhouse gases. It would also drive the market for wind energy. In several East Coast states, offshore wind will be the key to meeting such renewable energy goals. The good news is that investing in offshore wind will create American jobs all along the supply chain.
The bottom line is clear: With the continued and combined efforts of industry, nongovernmental organizations, states, local governments and federal agencies, as well as key administration support, large-scale offshore wind will be a valuable industry for the United States.
NRG/Bluewater Wind. On November 9, NRG Energy (Princeton, New Jersey) acquired Bluewater Wind, combining its strong project pipeline of offshore wind parks in the northeast and Great Lakes with NRG’s own successful development, engineering, procurement and construction teams.
Bluewater has several offshore projects in development, including two in advanced stages off the Delaware and New Jersey coastlines. Bluewater also has a 25-year, 200-megawatt power purchase agreement with Delmarva Power & Light Co. (Wilmington, Delaware) that has been approved by the Delaware Public Service Commission and other state agencies, the first long-term power purchase agreement signed for an offshore wind park in the United States.
In New Jersey, Bluewater was awarded a $4 million rebate from the state to build a meteorological tower to collect wind data for offshore projects. Bluewater has also proposed offshore wind projects in Maryland and New York and is exploring offshore wind development in the Great Lakes, Canada and other northeast locations.
Cape Wind. Cape Wind, America’s first offshore wind farm proposal, would locate 130 wind turbines five miles offshore Cape Cod on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. First proposed in 2001, Cape Wind has contributed to the evolution of a regulatory framework in the United States for reviewing and approving offshore wind farms.
The project will have a nameplate capacity of 468 megawatts, and, in average wind conditions, will supply most of the electricity used on Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In addition to creating hundreds of jobs, Cape Wind will reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by almost one million tons per year.
Cape Wind completed state and local permitting in 2009 and is now in the final stage of federal permitting. Salazar has stated that he hopes to make the final decision on the project by the end of this year. In addition, on December 2, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced that Cape Wind and National Grid, New England’s largest electric utility, had signed a memorandum of understanding to enter into contract negotiations for a long-term power purchase contract.
Ocean Renewable Power Co. During 2009, Portland, Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) obtained federal permits to install and test its power systems at tidal and river energy sites on the East and West coasts—Western Passage, Maine; Cobscook Bay, Maine; Cook Inlet, Alaska; and Nenana, Alaska—and began to develop these sites in collaboration with local communities, public officials, universities, environmental watchdogs and other major stakeholders.
In November, ORPC also secured a revenue-generating contract to supply tidal energy to the U.S. Coast Guard in Maine.
In 2010, ORPC will install, test and monitor its first grid-connected tidal power system in Maine. Monitoring will include environmental assessments to ensure that the technology has no adverse effects on sea life or marine ecosystems. In 2011, the company plans to install, test and monitor its first grid-connected river power system in Alaska.
In the years to come, the company said it is looking to expand its operations in North America and eventually begin offering its technology and expertise to river and ocean energy projects worldwide.
Verdant Power. Founded in 2000, Verdant Power Inc. is headquartered in New York, New York, with subsidiaries established in Canada and the United Kingdom. The company’s systems employ underwater turbines to generate clean, renewable energy from the currents of oceans, rivers and man-made channels and can be scaled to operate in a variety of settings worldwide.
The company’s Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project is currently operating in New York City’s East River.
In late 2008, Verdant Power successfully completed the RITE project’s Phase 2 demonstration, delivering energy from the tides of the East River to New York City customers.
Preparations for the RITE Phase 3 build-out have begun with Verdant Power’s application for a commercial pilot license to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This license would allow the company to expand the RITE project to a 30-turbine, one-megawatt pilot project and to deliver the energy generated by the field commercially. Verdant Power is also planning an expansion of the project into the west channel of the East River, for an additional two to four megawatts of installed capacity.
The company also has a project under way in Canada. The Cornwall Ontario River Energy (CORE) project will generate clean, renewable energy from the currents of the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Canada. Phase 1, a pilot demonstration of Verdant Power’s river turbine system as well as an updated deployment and anchoring methodology designed for enhanced operation and cost effectiveness, is currently under way. Phase 2 will be the installation of a commercial-scale system that could generate up to 15 megawatts of power locally.
Ocean Renewable Energy Group. The Ocean Renewable Energy Group (OREG) is the Canadian sector association representing and advocating on behalf of the wave, tidal and in-stream energy industry. OREG’s goal is to continue to build on the historical ocean energy leadership shown on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and ensure Canada’s future energy industry world leadership.
The Canadian ocean energy sector continues to expand and move toward commercial energy production. The past year saw a licensing agreement between Vancouver, Canada-based Clean Current Energy Systems and Alstom (Levallois-Perret, France); New Energy Corp. (Calgary, Canada) continued selling and deploying in-stream hydrokinetic devices in Alaska, the Yukon, Manitoba, British Columbia and India; and the Nova Scotia tidal energy demonstration center also advanced with the deployment of the OpenHydro (Dublin, Ireland) tidal turbine, in partnership with Nova Scotia Power (Halifax, Canada).
In 2010 OREG hopes to see ocean energy in Canada continue to evolve, with three projects that have received provincial funding in British Columbia moving forward and continued developments at the Nova Scotia demonstration center. In-stream river projects are in the final planning stages in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
OREG’s members are the solid foundation of a new economic and energy opportunity for Canada. This collaboration between researchers, technology and project developers, supply chain organizations, utilities and regional governments will continue to attract interest from financiers, large industrial players and governments. OREG will work on the challenges with a perspective that Canada must have at least 15,000 megawatts by 2050 and significant pilot power plants by 2011 to 2012.
Nova Scotia Power Project. On November 12, an OpenHydro commercial-scale tidal turbine was successfully installed in the Bay of Fundy off the Canadian Atlantic coast as part of a the Nova Scotia Power Project.
The Bay of Fundy is considered by many to be the Mount Everest of tidal sites, with the highest tidal range in the world. Reportedly, 100 billion tons of seawater flow in and out during one tide cycle; more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers.
The project comprised the design, manufacture, commissioning and installation of a single 10-meter, one-megawatt-rated Open-Centre Turbine in the Bay of Fundy.
The objectives of the project are to demonstrate the technical and environmental performance of a one-megawatt turbine over an extended period. This will provide the knowledge necessary to begin preparations for the development of commercial-scale tidal turbine farms.
European Marine Energy Centre. The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) is gearing up for a busy year, with six different wave and tidal machines expected to undergo sea trials during 2010.
The center, based in the Orkney Islands, provides the world’s first at-sea, grid-connected test berths for technologies that can harness renewable energy from waves and tidal currents.
Oyster, a wave energy converter developed by Edinburgh, Scotland-based Aquamarine Power, is already generating electricity for the U.K. national grid while undergoing a test program at EMEC, and OpenHydro generated a first for Britain and Ireland last year when its prototype tidal turbine fed electricity into the grid from EMEC’s tidal test site.
Oyster is due to be joined by a 150-kilowatt PowerBuoy® created by Ocean Power Technologies (Warwick, England) and a 750-kilowatt machine—nicknamed the sea snake—built by Pelamis Wave Power (Edinburgh). The Pelamis P2 device has been commissioned by E.ON UK (London, England).
Tidal turbines developed by Bristol, England-based Tidal Generation Ltd. and Atlantis Resources Corp. (London) are also expected to undergo trials at EMEC this year. Atlantis describes its machine as the “most powerful turbine ever to hit the water.”
“These are exciting times for us, with our facilities playing such an important role at the cutting edge of marine power development,” EMEC managing director Neil Kermode said.
“With six very different technologies due to undergo sea trials at EMEC, this is clear evidence of progress being made towards the commercial-scale harvesting of clean, sustainable energy from the seas around us,” Kermode continued.
“To keep up with demand, we are installing more berths at both the wave and tidal test sites and developing new nursery facilities to help developers get their machines into the water as soon as they can.”
Aquamarine Power. Aquamarine Power’s Oyster is currently the world’s largest working hydroelectric wave energy device, supplying sustainable, zero-emission electricity to homes across Scotland for the first time.
The first full-scale Oyster was officially launched by Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, at EMEC in November. Oyster is now producing power by pumping high-pressure water to its onshore hydroelectric turbine. The performance of the device will be monitored, and the results from the testing will provide a basis for the design of the next-generation, commercial-scale Oyster.
Oyster is designed to capture the energy found in nearshore waves in water depths between 10 and 16 meters. The simplicity of Oyster’s design (minimal underwater moving parts and all electrical components easily accessible onshore) makes it robust enough to withstand the rigors of Scotland’s seas—which are some of the harshest in the world.
Oyster is designed to be deployed in farms of multiple devices. A farm of 20 Oysters would provide enough energy to power 9,000 average three-bedroom family homes.
The Scottish government recently announced funding of £1 million for the development of Oyster 2, and the next-generation device should be installed in the water within two years.
Aquamarine Power has won numerous national and international awards for innovation in the renewable energy sector, including Innovator of the Year at the 2009 British Renewable Energy Awards and Best Green Industry SME (small and medium enterprise) at the 2009 Scottish Green Awards.
Marine Current Turbines Ltd. Marine Current Turbines (Bristol) has had several world firsts—the latest being the installation of the 1.2-megawatt SeaGen in Strangford Narrows, Northern Ireland, in April 2008, the only truly commercial-scale tidal turbine in the world. SeaGen is accredited by the U.K. electricity regulator Office of Gas and Electricity Markets as an official power-generating station and consistently feeds about five megawatt-hours per tide (6.25 hours) into the grid—equivalent to the average energy needs of 1,500 U.K. households.
The newly developed SeaGen system is being readied for commercial deployment in large numbers. It uses twin axial flow rotors with full-span pitch control that are mounted on either side of a support column and can be raised above sea level for maintenance. SeaGen derivatives will develop between one and 1.5 megawatts at current speeds of around 2.4 meters per second and can deliver from 3,000 to 7,000 megawatt-hours per annum, depending on site conditions.
Marine Current Turbines has a business plan to install turbines capable of producing approximately 1,800 megawatts by 2020. The first 10.5-megawatt SeaGen commercial array is at the planning stage and will be installed in 2011 to 2012 off Anglesey in North Wales (subject to consents). Several other projects are being planned, both in the U.K. and around the world.
The characteristics of the marine current energy resource give it real prospects for generating power at a commercially competitive cost within the next few years and, moreover, of doing it eventually on a grand scale. Tidal turbines also have minimal environmental impact, and the energy they deliver will be as accurately predictable as the movements of the tides (unlike weather-dependent renewables such as wind, wave and solar energy).