Hydrokinetic energy projects in 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hydrokinetic energy projects generate electricity from moving water, capturing the power embodied in tides, waves, and currents without the use of dams.  Hydrokinetic energy resources are estimated to have a tremendous power potential -- according to one U.S. Department of Energy study, approximately 1,420 terawatt-hours per year, or approximately one-third of the nation's total annual electricity usage.  The technologies required are relatively new, do not have decades of operational experience, and remain relatively expensive.  Nevertheless, federal records show growth in hydrokinetic project development.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates most hydrokinetic energy projects under its hydropower jurisdiction pursuant to the Federal Power Act.  Project developers may seek preliminary permits granting the right to study a particular site and priority to apply for a project license. 

Relatively few projects have received licenses to date.  In 2012, the Commission issued a pilot project license for the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project in the East River near New York City.  Last month, the Commission issued a pilot project license to the Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County for a 600 kilowatt tidal project in Puget Sound, Washington.

As of last month, six projects have been issued preliminary permits that remain in effect:
  • Ecosponsible, Inc.'s Niagara Community project, a 1.25 megawatt inland project proposed for the Niagara River in New York
  • Ecosponsible, Inc.'s Niagara Community #2 project, a similar 1.25 megawatt inland project proposed for the Niagara River in New York
  • Iguigig Village Council's Iguigig RISEC project, a 40 kilowatt inland project proposed for the Kvichak River in Alaska
  • The Town of Edgartown, Massachusetts's Muskeget Channel Tidal Energy project, a 4.94 megawatt project proposed for the Muskeget Channel off the island of Martha's Vineyard
  • Turnagain Arm Tidal Energy's Turnagain Arm Tidal project, a 240 megawatt tidal project proposed for Cook Inlet, Alaska
  • Resolute Marine Energy, Inc.'s Yakutat project, a 750 kilowatt wave project proposed in the Gulf of Alaska
 As of March, another 15 applications for preliminary permits were pending before the Commission.

EPA issues draft permits for carbon sequestration

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued the first draft permits for injecting and storing carbon dioxide in underground rock formations, which could advance carbon capture and sequestration efforts.

EPA promotes carbon capture and sequestration for its expected ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while enabling low-carbon electricity generation from power plants.  The process entails capturing and compressing carbon emissions at their source, piping the gas to injection wells, and injecting the gas into geologically stable rock formations capable of holding the gas for long periods of time.

EPA's simplified schematic of deep geologic carbon sequestration, available from EPA at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ccs/.

Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, EPA regulates most injections of waste and other materials into the ground.  EPA has developed a series of programs to manage such injections, including a "Class VI" geologic sequestration program.  While oil producers have long injected carbon dioxide into their wells to enhance oil recovery, EPA has not previously issued any permits under its Class VI program.  This lack of Class VI activity is largely because carbon capture and sequestration in the U.S. remains in its infancy, but some industry observers have expressed concerns that EPA's regulatory process is too restrictive to allow the technology to flourish.  The record of permit applications shows some support for these concerns: for example, Christian County Generation, LLC of Taylorville, IL withdrew its applications for two Class VI sequestration wells for the Taylorville Energy Center on July 9, 2013, and Archer Daniels Midland's applications for Class VI permits for two injection wells to store carbon emissions from its Decatur, Illinois agricultural products and biofuel production facility have remained pending since 2011.

Carbon capture and sequestration's future may be brightening, as on March 31, 2014, EPA issued four draft Class VI permits to FutureGen Industrial Alliance, Inc. for its proposed FutureGen 2.0 project.  The Alliance is a non-profit organization whose membership includes major coal producers, coal users, and coal equipment suppliers, including Alpha Natural Resources, AngloAmerican, JoyGlobal Inc., Peabody Energy, and Xstrata Coal Pty. Limited.  The FutureGen 2.0 project is designed to capture over 90 percent of the carbon emissions from a 168 megawatt power plant in Meredosia, Illinois, and to inject them into four nearby wells for deep geologic sequestration.

EPA's draft permits now face a public hearing on May 7 and public comments through May 15.