Alaska tidal permit surrendered

Monday, March 28, 2016

Five years after applying for and receiving a preliminary permit to study a proposed Alaska tidal energy project, the project developer has surrendered that permit.

At issue is ORPC Alaska 2, LLC's proposed East Foreland Tidal Energy Project.  The developer first applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit under Section 4(f) of the Federal Power Act on August 2, 2010. 

That application described a project site in middle Cook Inlet, a marine waterway of the northern Pacific Ocean. The proposed hydrokinetic project would lie offshore of the East Foreland, near the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula by Nikiski, Alaska.  The application described the site in middle Cook Inlet as offering a maximum tidal range of up to 9.20 meters, with geomorphology favorable to strong currents.  The application described the developer's intent to install a pilot or commercial project in a phased approach.

The FERC issued a first preliminary permit for the East Foreland project by order dated March 11, 2011.  As permitted, the East Foreland project would include a series of 150-kilowatt TideGen and/or 150-kW OCGen turbine-generator modules developed by ORPC, with a combined capacity between 5 megawatts (MW) and 100 MW, with an average annual generation between 13 and 340 gigawatt-hours.

Over the ensuing years, the permittee studied the site and the project and filed periodic reports to the Commission. The preliminary permit required the permittee to file a notice of intent and draft pilot license application within two years of the permit date, but ORPC requested and received a six-month extension

On March 3, 2013, the permittee filed a request for a successive preliminary permit for the East Foreland Tidal Energy Project.  The Commission granted a successive preliminary permit on June 16, 2014, describing a project with a combined capacity of no more than 5 megawatts.  Study and reporting activities continued.

But on December 11, 2015, the permittee filed a request for acceptance of its surrender of the East Foreland Tidal Energy Project's preliminary permit.  In that request, the permittee described its "significant progress in evaluating the feasibility of a tidal energy project at East Foreland, Alaska, over the past several years."

Yet the surrender request also described the headwinds that stalled the project:
Nonetheless, the strength of the conventional energy market in Alaska precludes timely integration of new technology, like tidal energy systems, and advancement of the Project at the pace established by the original Schedule of Activities. As a result, public and private funding sources have sought nearer-term market impact from their investments. This in turn has negatively affected ORPC’s ability to expeditiously gather site data during Alaska’s limited field season window and maintain pace with FERC milestones.
As a result, the request describes the permittee's decision to surrender the East Foreland tidal project's preliminary permit and "to continue our focus and dedication of resources towards technology optimization and development of near term market opportunities that are available to ORPC and its power system technology."

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