Energy futureFirst U.S. hydrokinetic wave energy license granted

Published 16 January 2008

Federal regulator grants Canadian company Finavera conditional five-year license to build and operate wave energy farm off the shore of Washington State; wave energy buoy farm is first in the U.S.

A first: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the first time issued a license for a hydrokinetic energy project, which will be located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington State. The license, for the Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project, includes mitigation measures to protect the environment. The decision gives the licensee for the project, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-based Finavera Renewables Ocean Energy a conditioned five-year license for the proposed project. The FERC license is conditioned on Finavera obtaining all necessary federal permits before they may begin construction. In the meantime, the company may move forward with those portions of the license that do not require any type of construction.

In a 30 November 2007 policy statement FERC said that it may, in certain circumstances, issue conditioned licenses for hydrokinetic projects. “Issuing 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,” FERC said in its policy statement. To protect against any potential adverse impacts, the license contains a provision allowing FERC to shut down or remove the project should it find that operation unacceptably affects the surrounding environment. Additional mitigation measures include: Development of an anchoring plan for the underwater transmission cable and monitoring the cable to ensure the line is stationary and free of any entangled debris; assessing the intensity of the electromagnetic field emitted from the underwater transmission and buoy electrical cables; conducting a noise assessment and monitoring marine mammals to evaluate any noise effects and interactions with the buoys; development of a cultural resources plan; and preparing navigation and project safety plans. The proposed project, which will be located in the Pacific Ocean in Makah Bay 1.9 nautical miles offshore of Waatch Point in Clallam County, Washington, 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 of the buoy’s power cables 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 existing Clallam County Public Utility District distribution line

Finavera must notify FERC once it receives all the necessary state and federal permits for the project. The company also must begin on-site construction of the project within two years from the date of the license and complete construction within three years from the date of the license.