Friday, December 5, 2008

News over troubled waters--wave and wind

Choppy waves reported this week for two companies planning to construct wind and wave energy farms in northeast U.S. waters.

The CEO of Deepwater Wind, which partnered with NJ utility giant PSEG to win the Garden State's approval for an offshore wind park, is no longer with the company.

Chris Brown – who had been the public face of Deepwater Wind as it rolled out its plan to build a 100-turbine wind farm off Rhode Island’s coast (more here) and to construct a wind farm off New Jersey's coast (more here) – “is no longer affiliated with Deepwater Wind and is pursuing other opportunities,” according to the chairman of Deepwater’s board of directors.

Where Brown has gone or why he departed are two facts not revealed so far by the company according to a story in the Providence Business News. By the way, that's Brown in the picture, upper left, signing the Rhode Island agreement back in October.

Rhode Island also is the source of our second story.

A Washington-state company has surprised state officials there by filing an application to build a vast wave-to-energy project costing $400 million to $600 million in U.S. waters south of Block Island.

Wave energy is an interesting technology, though still untested on a large scale, and you'd think the announcement would be met with positive interest. But it's the way the application was made and what it did not highlight that apparently is causing problems with some state officials.

According to a story in the Providence Journal, the company, Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Co., filed a permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) before seeking Rhode Island's approval.

The proposal calls for the erection of 100 structures, similar to offshore oil platforms, in a 96-square-mile area 12 to 25 miles south of Block Island. The structures would use wave energy to pump air through turbines to create electricity that would be sent to the mainland via Block Island.

Some state officials also are miffed that FERC is taking the lead on wave power because they believe the agency was highhanded in approving a liquefied natural gas project for Fall River that was opposed by a wide range of state, federal and local government agencies.

An additional concern is that the Grays Harbor application mentions the possibility of the company adding wind turbines to its wave structures once they are erected. Rhode Island officials may view this is a back-door move to gain approval for what could be the proposal's most controversial component.

Here's a final (and quite interesting) fillip to the story.

Grays Harbor simultaneously filed applications for similar projects in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. It hopes the federal government will treat all the projects as a single entity — one that would make it the largest new energy project in the country.

We wonder if the folks over at New Jersey's DEP, or the state's BPU, or the Governor's Office are aware of this.

Hey guys, remember where you read it first!

Getting energy from ocean wind and waves
Making waves in alternative energy

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