NYC tidal energy project in question

Friday, November 14, 2014

The future of a proposed New York City tidal energy project is in question.  New York Tidal Energy Company's (NYTEC) East River Tidal Energy Pilot Project would be located in the East River at Hell Gate, in New York City, New York.  But a recent letter by federal regulators questions whether the developer intends to continue pursuing the project.

Marine hydrokinetic (or MHK) projects generate electricity from moving water such as tides, waves, and free-flowing rivers without the use of dams.  While technologies vary, many rely on underwater turbines powered by tidal spin generators.  Hydrokinetic energy development is generally regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which issues preliminary permits and licenses for project development.

The East River project's regulatory process began in 2006, when Oceana Energy Company subsidary NYTEC applied to the FERC for a preliminary permit for what it called the Astoria Tidal Energy Project.  That application described a project composed of between 50 and 150 Tidal In Stream Energy Conversion (TISEC) devices consisting of rotating propeller blades, integrated generators with a capacity of 0.5 to 2.0 MW each, anchoring systems, mooring lines, and interconnection transmission lines.  The project was estimated to have an annual generation of 8.76 gigawatt-hours per-unit per-year, which would be sold to a local utility.  After resolving a dispute with fellow New York City tidal developer Verdant Power, LLC, the FERC granted a preliminary permit for the Astoria project on May 31, 2007NYTEC won another preliminary permit on January 10, 2011.

On June 1, 2009, NYTEC filed a draft application for an original license for the East River Tidal Energy Pilot Project.  That license application described the proposed East River Tidal Energy Pilot Project.  As reenvisioned, the East River project would consist of: (1) a 2-meter-diameter 20 kW capacity hydrokinetic device during Phase 1, which would be replaced by a 6-meter-diameter 200 kW device in Phase 2; (2) an underwater cable connecting the hydrokinetic device to shore at one of two proposed locations; and (3) appurtenant facilities for operating and maintaining the project.  After soliciting comment from stakeholders and agencies, on November 9, 2010, the Commission issued a letter concluding the pre-filing process.

In the ensuing 4 years, while the docket experienced some activity, no final license application for the pilot project has been filed.  On November 10, FERC staff issued a letter to Oceana Energy Company asking for a status update on the proposed project within 14 days.  The letter states that staff wants to "adjust resources to workload requirements," and suggests that staff will close the docket if the developer intends to continue pursuing the proposed East River Tidal Energy Pilot Project.

What does the future hold for the East River Tidal Energy Pilot Project?

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