The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is holding a technical conference today in Portland to collect input on an expedited licensing process for new ocean energy hydro technologies.
A staff proposal could allow entities looking to test new technologies to complete the FERC licensing process in as few as six months.
Commissioner Philip Moeller will lead the conference, the latest in a series of measures the Commission has undertaken since 2006 to address intensifying interest in the development of ocean, wave and tidal, or hydrokinetic, technologies.
Five wave energy proposals for the Oregon Coast have already entered the FERC permitting process to site generators in the ocean near Lincoln, Douglas, Lane and Coos counties.
FERC staff estimates that the new hydrokinetic technologies, if fully developed, could double the amount of hydropower production in the United States, bringing it from just less than 10 percent to close to 20 percent of the national supply.
"Perhaps the greatest barrier to realizing the potential of new hydrokinetic technologies is that they are unproven," FERC Chairman Joseph T. Kelliher said. "These technologies must be demonstrated before large-scale commercial deployment can occur. Today we take a major step to reduce the barriers to the success of these new hydro technologies, by proposing a simplified licensing process suitable for licensing pilot projects."
"This new generation of hydrokinetic technologies will bring hydropower to the forefront of the renewable energy debate," Commissioner Moeller said. "It is generating a lot of enthusiasm throughout the country, particularly in coastal states like my home state of Washington."
The goal of the FERC staff proposal is to complete the full project licensing process in as few as six months, provide for commission oversight and input from affected states and other federal agencies, and allow developers to generate electricity while conducting the requisite testing.
The process would be available for projects that are 5 megawatts or smaller, removable or able to shut down on relatively short notice, located in waters that have no sensitive designations, and for the purpose of testing new hydro technologies or determining appropriate sites for ocean, wave and tidal energy projects.
At its December 2006 conference on hydrokinetic energy, the Commission learned that these technologies are in a developmental phase, which presents significant risks for developers due to a lack of information about engineering performance and environmental effects, and limited access to financing.
At least 14 entities responded to the Commission's February inquiry on the issue. They recommended that FERC address the unique characteristics of pilot projects by: permitting connection to the national grid both for study purposes and to generate revenue; implementing a simpler, faster review process; requiring site restoration following experimental deployments; and requiring a license period of five years rather than 30 to 50 years.
For more information on hydrokinetic energy, go to: (http://www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/indus-act/hydrokinetics/energy-pilot.asp)