Wave, Tidal, and Offshore Wind Energy: Ocean Energy Notes

Ocean Energy Notes (March 7, 2013)

With input from the Oregon and California Departments of Fish and Wildlife

Outer Continental Shelf

BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) is responsible for leases for energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf. At present there isn’t a lot of activity off the West Coast (per conversation with BOEM 2/12/13).

In Washington, the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary prevents any development on the OCS from the Canada border to the mid-Washington coast, and there aren’t any large population centers on the south Washington coast that would enable ocean energy development.

Among the three states, Oregon is taking the lead, having just approved its Territorial Sea Plan. The State of Oregon has applied to BOEM for a research lease to test devices, but there are no commercial leases on the horizon.  Principle Power is considering applying for a lease for offshore floating wind turbines off Coos Bay, but BOEM has not received a lease application yet.

In December 2012, the Department of Energy funded seven offshore wind demonstration projects totaling $168 million over six years. One West Coast demonstration project, spearheaded by Principle Power, was selected and would be located in Federal waters off Coos Bay, Oregon. Maps of coastal wind speeds indicate Oregon as having the highest average offshore wind speeds off all coastal states in the continental U.S. (National Research Energy Laboratory). The demonstration project will receive up to $4 million for Phase 1 to conduct engineering, site evaluation, and planning, including addressing challenges associated with installing utility-scale offshore wind turbines, connecting offshore turbines to the power grid, and navigating new permitting and approval processes. Upon completion of Phase 1, the DOE Wind Program will select up to three of these projects for commercial development, eligible for up to $47 million over four years, subject to congressional appropriations. Projects are intended to be operational by 2017. This process is out front of the national marine spatial planning process for defining appropriate offshore areas for developing ocean energy.

Principle Power’s “WindFloat” technology has a turbine with a rotor diameter of 120-170m that floats on a ballasted heave plate, which is moored to anchors via four mooring lines. The project site is at 300-400m depth range and within the migratory path of several marine and avian species. Consultations have not been initiated, but will likely start this year. The project is receiving substantial funding to complete the engineering, site evaluation, and planning phase and includes installation of five semi-submersible floating foundations outfitted with six-megawatt direct-drive offshore wind turbines. More information is available at: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/offshore_wind.html

BOEM established the Oregon Outer Continental Shelf Renewable Energy Task Force in 2011 and has convened four task force meetings and a science meeting. BOEM’s stated goal at the September 2012 meeting was to define a process for identifying “suitable” areas off Oregon for offshore energy development, but no apparent progress has been made on this front. A BOEM-sponsored science meeting was held at OSU in November, 2012. Additional information is available at:  http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Oregon.aspx

In California, there are no developments pending on the OCS.

State Waters


Admiralty Inlet: This is a pilot tidal energy project in Puget Sound, conducted by Snohomish Public Utilities, which uses two Openhydro turbines that should be fully licensed by FERC in 2013. In January 2013 FERC released a draft environmental assessment that found that placing the two turbines in Admiralty Inlet would not harm the environment or nearby fiber-optic cables. The owner of the fiber-optic cables disagrees; there are also concerns about effects on killer whales and native plants. If all goes well for the Snohomish County PUD, which is leading the project, the turbines could be in place in mid-2014. The draft EA is available here. Related article.


Atmocean in Charleston:  Last August, Atmocean received a COE permit to perform a short-term test of its device in federal waters off of Charleston.  A notable concern is that they locate the test far from rocky reefs.

Reedsport OPT Wave Park: cean Power Technologies (OPT), a New Jersey company, is preparing to deploy its wave energy device off the coast of Oregon this spring. Last fall, they installed one anchor and subsurface float, and a marker buoy on the surface. OPT received Energy Department support to develop and refine its PB150, a computer-equipped buoy more than 100 feet long. The buoy captures energy by bobbing up and down as waves pass by. FERC gave OPT approval on Aug. 20 to build a grid-connected 1.5-megawatt wave power farm off the Oregon coast, making it the first wave power station permitted in the United States. OWET conducted initial baseline studies and additional baseline studies are still expected from OPT.  Implementation Committees (as required by the FERC license) will review study results and modify the project as necessary. In August 2012, OPT received its FERC license for the full 10-buoy build-out.  The license requires that OPT begin the build-out within 2 years and complete it within 5 years. Coordination with agencies has begun, as required by the FERC License. Related article.

OPT Coos Bay: This project will not proceed. OPT has surrendered their FERC Preliminary Permit for this site.

NOOTS (Newport Open Ocean Test Site): This National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) project (OSU/UW collaboration) is funded by the Department of Energy. It is a wave energy research and test site located in state waters off Yaquina Head. Equipment was deployed in August 2012 and consists of 1 test berth and 1 device, plus all the mooring associated with each. This device is not grid-connected. Tests have been performed on acoustics and electromagnetic fields, and data have been gathered on benthic conditions and potential impacts. Related article.

In August 2012, Northwest Energy Innovations (NWEI) was the first company to test its technology, a scaled model of its wave energy conversion device, at the test site. The results of those tests will enable NWEI to improve the device and inform development of a commercial-scale device. NWEI received a grant from the Energy Department to support the tests and to conduct grid-connected testing on its device at the Navy’s Wave Energy Testing Site in Hawaii. Related article.

PMEC (Pacific Marine Energy Center): This is NNMREC’s newest test site for testing grid connectivity and testing multiple devices at once. In December 2012, NNMREC convened a community stakeholder group to help identify a suitable location for the site.  Though not yet formally proposed, they are considering a site approximately 6 nm off Newport, south of Yaquina Bay.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and BOEM have joint oversight of the project. The process and scope of the project are not yet defined and no permit applications have been submitted.   A key concern is for rocky reefs located in the nearshore vicinity. An appropriate cable crossing method would need to be identified for both reef and shoreline.

Oregon’s Territorial Sea Plan: In January 2013, the state of Oregon adopted new rules designating about 2 percent of Oregon’s territorial sea (the area from 0-3 miles offshore) as “Renewable Energy Facility Suitability Study Areas.” The goal: to select locations where energy development would be least likely to conflict with existing users or resources. Four sites were selected, including one near Astoria, one near Neskowin, and two near Reedsport. Siting and development of wave energy projects could take years or decades. Related article.  Fore more information, see www.oregonocean.info.


San Onofre Wave Energy (JD Products): FERC terminated the Individual License Process in March 2012. In February 2013, JD Products submitted a grant application to DOE for funding a prototype fabrication and testing. A Preliminary Permit remains in place for project.

Golden Gate (Oceana) Tidal Energy: This project is on hold pending funding and license issues with FERC.