June 21, 2011 - more on hydrokinetic energy

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yesterday, I started a look at the potential of generating electricity from moving water: hydrokinetic energy.
The Doughty Dam in North Berwick, Maine.  The hydropower at this site was responsible for the settling of North Berwick.
Let's say you have a new technology to generate electricity from moving water, and you've found a site where you'd like to try it out.  While you have a limited opportunity to test turbines without getting a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, most hydrokinetic projects will need to get FERC approvals such as a preliminary permit, license, or exemption from licensing.

A preliminary permit is the traditional first step toward getting a FERC license.  Once you get a preliminary permit, you have first priority to file an application for a full license at that site within three years.  While the permit doesn’t authorize you to build or run the project, it secures your exclusive right to acquire a license for your site during the permit’s term.

The next step is securing a license.  FERC encourages projects, even small or experimental ones, to secure licenses.  In fact, after Verdant Power tested its turbines near New York City for several years, FERC has recommended licensing Verdant Power’s 1 MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project as a pilot project.

Compared to traditional licensing, pilot project status qualifies an applicant for an expedited review process.  Pilot projects must be small; FERC applies a case-by-case determination of whether a project qualifies for a pilot license, so there is no bright line for how big is too big.  Guidance suggests 5 MW is a reasonable size cap, with some projects expected to be “substantially smaller”.

Pilot project licenses are short term – generally 5 years.  Pilot projects are also intended not to be permanent on their own; unless the developer gets a new license before the pilot license expires, the developer must remove the project and restore the site when the pilot license expires.  On the other hand, a pilot project license is one step closer to ultimate licensure, as compared to unlicensed testing.

Hydrokinetic technology holds great promise, and developers are lining up to capitalize on it.  As of June 2011, FERC has issued 70 preliminary permits for hydrokinetic projects, totaling 9,306 MW.  147 more preliminary permit applications are pending – interestingly, 145 of which are on inland waterways.  79 hydrokinetic projects with 8,002 MW capacity have entered the pre-filing process for licensure, with 3 more projects in the post-filing phase.

No comments:

Post a Comment