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January 2013 Issue

Advancing the Development and Deployment of Ocean Renewable Energy

By José Zayas
Director, Wind and Water Power Technologies Office,
U.S. Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind and Water Power Technologies Office is committed to advancing the development and deployment of affordable, clean and domestic wind and marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies. To advance the emerging industry of ocean renewable energy—including offshore wind, wave, tidal, ocean current and other MHK technologies—the office works with national laboratories, industry, universities and other federal agencies to conduct research and development. These efforts focus on improving the performance, lowering the costs and accelerating the deployment of offshore wind and MHK technologies to further diversify the nation’s energy portfolio and to provide clean, renewable energy to coastal populations.

Offshore wind, wave and tidal energy have the potential to significantly contribute to the U.S. total annual electricity production. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the gross offshore wind resource in the United States—extending out to 50 nautical miles from the coastline—is 4,150 gigawatts or 14,000 terawatt-hours per year, assuming an average capacity factor of 39 percent. In 2012, DOE released wave and tidal energy resource assessments estimating a maximum theoretical electric generation potential of 460 gigawatts or 1,420 terawatt-hours per year, approximately one-third of the nation’s total annual electricity usage.

Additional resource assessments for ocean thermal energy, ocean current energy and in-stream hydrokinetic energy were also released by DOE in 2012. Though not all of these available energy resources can be developed, offshore wind, wave and tidal energy can still provide a significant source of power to the country’s largest coastal population centers.

Offshore Wind Deployments and Demonstrations
DOE is working to remove market barriers and to promote the development of offshore wind in the U.S. As a part of the National Offshore Wind Strategy, DOE announced in December funding to seven Advanced Technology Demonstration projects totaling $168 million over six years.

The primary goals of this activity are to support the installation of offshore wind turbines in U.S. waters in the most rapid and responsible manner possible and to expedite the development and deployment of innovative offshore wind energy systems with a credible potential for lowering the cost of energy at which offshore wind can compete in the market without subsidies.

The seven projects selected are: Baryonyx Corp. (Austin, Texas), which plans to install three 6-megawatt turbines on advanced jacket foundations in the Gulf of Mexico; Fishermen’s Energy (Atlantic City, New Jersey), which plans to install six 5-megawatt turbines on innovative bottom-mounted foundations; Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. (Cleveland, Ohio), which plans to install nine 3-megawatt turbines on icebreaker monopile foundations in Lake Erie; Principle Power Inc. (Seattle, Washington), which plans to deploy five 6-megawatt turbines on semisubmersible floating foundations off the coast of Oregon; Statoil North America (Houston, Texas), which plans to deploy four 3-megawatt turbines on floating spar buoy foundations in the Gulf of Maine; the University of Maine, which plans to deploy two 6-megawatt turbines on concrete semisubmersible foundations near Monhegan Island; and Dominion Virginia Power (Richmond, Virginia), which plans to install two 6-megawatt turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach on twisted-jacket foundations.

Each project will receive up to $4 million to complete its engineering, site evaluation and planning phase. Upon completion of this first phase, DOE plans to select three of these projects to advance to the follow-on design, fabrication and deployment phase to achieve grid-connected operation no later than the end of 2017.

These projects are expected to yield innovations in turbines, blades, controls, support structures, electrical subsystems, construction and installation methods, and advanced materials that will reduce the cost of energy and financing risks, and begin establishing infrastructure for offshore wind installation, operations and maintenance.

The projects will collect meteorological, oceanographic, environmental monitoring, turbine, structural response, system performance and cost data, which are crucial to developing the tools required to continue reducing the levelized cost of energy. By building a publicly accessible base of experience around all aspects of project development, installation and operational cycles, these projects will decrease risks and uncertainties for all players with a stake in offshore wind development and build confidence for offshore wind in the U.S. market.

MHK Deployments and Demonstrations
In 2012, many DOE-supported industry demonstration projects progressed to in-water deployments to test and advance device performance and reliability, which accelerates commercialization.

First U.S. Commercial Tidal Project. The nation’s first commercial, grid-connected tidal energy project, off the coast of Eastport, Maine, leveraged a $10 million investment from DOE. Ocean Renewable Power Co. (Portland, Maine) deployed its TidGen tidal energy device, with a rated capacity of 150 kilowatts, into Cobscook Bay last August.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued the project a pilot license, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved primary contract terms for 20-year power purchase agreements (PPA), the first long-term tidal energy PPA in the U.S. The pilot project, consisting of three energy devices, will provide enough clean, renewable electricity to power 75 to 100 homes.

Roosevelt Island Tidal Project. Verdant Power (New York, New York) was the first company to be issued a tidal energy project pilot license for the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project, a 1.05-megawatt pilot project with up to 30 turbines in New York’s East River. New composite blade designs were developed and tested in collaboration with DOE national laboratories, and this past summer, Verdant demonstrated the rotor design in advance of its FERC pilot project, which is expected to be deployed in 2013.

Reedsport Oregon Wave Energy Park. Ocean Power Technologies Inc. (Pennington, New Jersey) was also issued a FERC pilot license, and the company plans to deploy the first 150-kilowatt PowerBuoy with DOE support off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon, this spring. This phased project is expected to build up to 10 buoys for a 1.5-megawatt, grid-connected wave energy project.

National Marine Renewable Energy Centers. Since 2010, DOE has supported the development of National Marine Renewable Energy Centers in Florida, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. These renewable energy centers are leaders in marine renewable energy research and development.

In August, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center launched a mobile test berth, the Ocean Sentinel, off the coast of Newport, Oregon. The Ocean Sentinel provides developers an open-ocean test berth to deploy and test their wave energy devices. Northwest Energy Innovations (Portland, Oregon) was the first company to deploy their Wave Energy Technology – New Zealand (WET-NZ) device with the Ocean Sentinel and concluded more than six weeks of testing in October.

Partnership with Department of Defense. In September, DOE selected Northwest Energy Innovations (Portland, Oregon) to conduct further tests of its wave energy conversion device for one year at the Department of Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site off the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay. These efforts complement an ongoing partnership with the Navy in which DOE provides technical support to test and evaluate wave energy options for powering U.S. Department of Defense facilities.

Small-Business Projects. Two MHK projects also completed short demonstration tests with funding from DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Dehlsen Associates LLC (Santa Barbara, California) demonstrated its Centipod wave energy converter off the coast of Santa Barbara. FloDesign (Wilbraham, Massachusetts) conducted two in-water demonstrations with the Mixer Ejector Hydrokinetic Turbine device at the University of New Hampshire’s tidal energy site and in the Muskeget Channel near Martha’s Vineyard. These demonstrations are critical to validate the performance of the devices.

Enabling Ocean Renewable Energy Deployment
DOE works to reduce barriers to ocean energy deployment through targeted environmental research, economic analysis, resource assessments and educational development.

Environmental Studies. In 2012, the Electric Power Research Institute released reports on DOE-funded fish strike experiments, which evaluated fish survival and injury rates following passage through a flume containing one of three hydrokinetic turbine designs. This research demonstrated that fish were largely able to avoid the turbines, and survival rates were very high. This study, as well as other information on MHK and offshore wind environmental research, can be found on the DOE Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Tethys website at http://mhk.pnnl.gov/wiki—a searchable database that makes global MHK and offshore wind environmental information available for users to classify and evaluate the environmental effects of renewable ocean energy development.

In December, DOE completed a collaborative, three-year international effort to collect data on environmental research that has been conducted on MHK deployments around the world. The information will be housed in the Tethys database, and a final report will be available this January. Plans are underway to continue this work in the future.

The DOE is also funding work to collect baseline environmental data in the Department of the Interior’s designated Wind Energy Areas. The research and development aims at bringing to market a new generation of environmental monitoring technologies to enable accurate assessments of offshore wind environmental impacts and to accelerate the permitting process.

National Resource and Design Database. DOE is taking the first steps to develop an integrated National Offshore Resource — Design Data Network. This network will catalog all available sources of relevant meteorological and geophysical data, identify significant gaps and create portals to make the information available to a variety of users.

Additionally, DOE recently acquired the Chesapeake Bay Light Tower, 13 miles off Virginia Beach, Virginia. In partnership with national laboratories, DOE plans to refurbish and upgrade the platform into a reference facility for atmospheric and ocean research focused on high fidelity characterization of the offshore wind and water energy resource potential, as well as validation of advanced innovative instrumentation. DOE is also working closely with NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Coast Guard to continue gathering data on the tower and hopes to further develop partnerships among the various entities in the offshore renewable energy space.

Looking Ahead
Moving forward, DOE will continue to make key investments to reduce the cost, improve the performance and reliability, and shorten the time to deployment for offshore renewable energy technologies. These investments, in collaboration with national laboratories, industry, university, government agencies and other partners, are key to ensuring the future ocean energy technology and to reducing uncertainties, mitigating risks and creating a robust U.S. ocean renewable energy industry.

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