U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Water Power Program

Federal Regulators and Washington State to Collaborate on Water Power

June 10, 2009

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) signed an agreement with the State of Washington on June 4 to coordinate their reviews of water power projects in Washington state waters. The agreement specifically applies to "hydrokinetic" projects, which draw on the movement of water from waves, tides, or currents. Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the two parties will notify each other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license, or commercial license. They will also agree on a schedule for processing any license applications, and they will coordinate the environmental reviews for the projects. The agreement also leaves room for the State of Washington to prepare a comprehensive plan on the siting of hydrokinetic projects, committing FERC to take the state plan into consideration when issuing a license for any hydrokinetic project. Oregon signed a similar agreement with FERC last year. See the FERC press release and the MOU (PDF 1.6 MB). Download Adobe Reader.

Water power technologies have been steadily advancing in recent months. In November 2008, Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) installed one of its PowerBuoy wave energy converters near Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, as part of an ongoing program with the U.S. Navy. The PowerBuoy is located about a mile off the coast in 100 feet of water. In April, the company was awarded an additional $1.1 million to support continuing upgrades and testing of the PowerBuoy. In December 2008, a SeaGen tidal energy system, developed by Marine Current Turbines (MCT), reached full power at 1.2 megawatts. The device is deployed off the coast of Northern Ireland and is delivering power to the electrical grid. In January, Voith Hydro Wavegen Ltd. received approval from the Scottish Government to install a four-megawatt wave energy system on the shore of the Isle of Lewis. And in April, Aquamarine Power successfully tested its Oyster wave energy converter off the coast of England, producing more than 170 kilowatts of power. The global recession has taken its toll, however, and in February, Finavera Renewables surrendered its permits for wave energy projects in California and Washington, as the company is focusing on wind power in the near term. See the OPT press releases on the PowerBuoy deployment and added funding, as well as the press releases from MCT, Wavegen, Aquamarine Power, and Finavera Renewables (PDF 28 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

With so much going on, DOE has created a Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology Database to keep track of it all, while the International Energy Agency has prepared an 83-page report on the current status of the technology (PDF 2.5 MB). Looking ahead, a new report from Pike Research concludes that the next five years could be crucial for ocean energy. The report projects that the ocean energy industry will provide 2,700 megawatts of power by 2015, and if the technology proves itself, 200,000 megawatts could be installed by 2025. That should spark some interesting conversations at EnergyOcean 2009, the world's leading conference and exhibition on renewable ocean energy, which takes place on June 16-18 in Rockport, Maine. See the Pike Research press release and the EnergyOcean 2009 Web site.