folks, act now! Your friends at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
(FERC) will give you piece of the Pacific Ocean. All you have to do is
file an application to reserve your piece of the ocean. Chevron and PG&E
have filed applications creating potential rights that constitute a claim over the ocean surface, similar to staking a mining claim.
If they "mine" these "claims," the necessary structures would occupy the
surface to the exclusion of others, including whales.
The California Energy Commission web site has some information on wave
energy leading one to believe that this State Commission might be
But Bob Aldrich of the California Energy Commission's Media and Public
Communications Office stated: "We do not have any “experts” to speak of
on wave energy at the Commission. I wrote the page, which was created
based on information from a number of places." He also reflected a
naive view: "You may also need Coastal Commission approval for such a
wave energy device.
In fact, the filings are with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, the people who allowed California to be ripped off by energy
companies a few years ago. Thus the claims are likely to be outside the
regulatory scope of State of California agencies such as the Coastal
Commission. Legal challenges would
inevitably end up in the Bush Supreme Court which has already
established its sympathies against state regulation.
seeking to have two 40-megawatt wave farms up and
running off the state's north coasts within a few years, according to
documents it has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC.
The Mendocino County wave farm will be
located off Fort Bragg in open ocean a half mile to 4.5 miles offshore.
A 68-square-mile area will be assessed. PG&E essentially will turn the
zone into a wave-energy testing ground, spending up to $3 million to try
out various technologies from up to four manufacturers. "A number of
different device concepts are being pursued by independent device
manufacturers, and there is no industry consensus at this time on the
optimal energy conversion technology," PG&E execs wrote in an
application for a preliminary permit for the project.
"The initial ... devices to be used will be selected from device
manufacturers who have sufficiently mature technologies available for
On July 2, Chevron California Renewable Energy, Inc. filed a preliminary
permit application with the FERC.
The Town of Mendocino would be dead center in the claim area, although wave energy
plants are not normally visible from shore. It would avoid the Van Damme
State Marine Area. The large study area is framed in order to locate a
smaller project area. That larger area is a rectangle that runs from
three miles offshore to less than a mile from shore, from Point Cabrillo
to a spot halfway between the mouth of Little River and Albion.
Like PG&E, Chevron plans to evaluate alternative designs and locations
of wave energy conversion devices.
"These devices would be combined in arrays for demonstration scale or
commercial scale power production," Chevron said in a July 5 letter to
local government agencies.
Wave energy technology is moving from the idea stage to the practical at
Chevron's proposal is nearly identical to PG&E's, including a
competition among manufacturers and technologies, which could make the
Mendocino Coast the world's leading spot for wave energy research, at
least as the world stands now. Wave energy plants proposed all over the
world generally come with a single technology.
PG&E is in preliminary discussions with Ocean Power
Technologies of New Jersey, the U.K's Ocean Power Delivery and Ireland's
Finavera Renewables. While wave energy technologies vary, they
essentially involve a device that floats on the ocean's surface and that
harnesses the power produced by the surf to drive a turbine that
generates greenhouse gas-free electricity. PG&E will deploy multiple
wave-energy devices in an array moored to the ocean's floor and
connected to the shore by a transmission cable.
Chevron, however, has picked a company and a technology to start with The Pelamis which resembles a chain of bobbing giant redwood trees or
wriggling giant sea serpents.
Waves jostle the links between Pelamis sections, pushing hydraulic rams
to provide the energy. http://www.oceanpd.com/Anims/pelamis_V4.html
Chevron estimates the power range from a tiny 2 megawatts to 60
megawatts, about twice as much as needed to power the entire coast. The
PG&E plan hopes for 40 megawatts.
Chevron is making
substantial investments in alternative energy. Although the Chevron
company has California in its name, all the mailing addresses are in
Chevron would connect the power via undersea cable to an unnamed PG&E
substation. Chevron promises public meetings and "extensive public
On August 14, 2006, Roger Bedard, Ocean Energy Leader, Electric Power
Research Institute (EPRI), gave a presentation
to the Fort Bragg City Council about the benefits of wave energy which,
according to minutes of the meeting,
included the following points:
• Wave energy is clean with no pollution or emission of greenhouse
• It is a sustainable and renewable source with high power density
and creates working class jobs.
• This new technology, with proper maintenance, will be one of the
most benign energy-producing
• He described three of the dozens of different types wave energy
devices made today.
• Fort Bragg is considered a possible site for wave energy because
it has the infrastructure: an
outflow pipe from the former mill site with an easement; a PG&E
substation nearby on Walnut
Street; and a harbor with machine shops and docks that could
possibly provide device deployment.
• Other fishing communities have formed a port liaison project where
engineers and scientists get
together with fishermen and crabbers and come up with a solution for
the greater good.
• National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reimburses
fishermen for their time spent
on the project.
• Hal LaFlash, Director Renewable Energy Policy & Planning, PG&E,
stated that PG&E is working
toward 20% renewable energy by 2010.
The minutes of that meeting show some signs of discussion:
The following was noted in response to question from the public:
• The effect of tsunamis is very small as the devices are located
about three miles offshore.
• The Coast Guard, which must approve installation of the plant, has
rules about beacons,
transponders and lights. Wave machines are also indicated on their
• Wave energy devices are modular and installed in small increments.
If there are no unforeseen
effects, another modular can be installed.
• Typically waves that reach the shore are reduced by 10%.
• Ocean Beach was not a viable site because it would have been very
costly to upgrade power from
the west side of San Francisco to the east.
• Three California communities – Morro Bay, Eureka, and Fort Bragg
will be considered as potential
sites September 20, by PG&E, the California Energy Commission, and
the Public Energy
• It costs $100 million to $150 million to build a plant which
employs about 30 people full time.
Independent developers invest in wave energy plants.
• Government subsidizes the first plants to get the market going.
Production tax credits are offered.
• There is no history on how long units last because the technology
is so new; however, they are
designed to last 20 years.
• The mooring is similar to mooring a ship with anchors, clump
weights, and cables.
• LaFlash added that PG&E has an open solicitation for renewable
• The on-shore facility might be at PG&E’s Walnut Street site
depending on voltage.
The following was noted by Council during discussion of this item:
• Councilmember Melo suggested that research be done on the Fort
Bragg Local Coastal Plan, in
particular Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area restrictions. The
easement for the wastewater
treatment plant goes out 600’. He believes that outfall was blasted
into the bedrock, not buried in
sediments. He stated that he supports finding out more about this.
• Councilmember Hammerstrom said that he appreciates the depths of
answers from Bedard and the
fact that he also admits when he does not know the answer. He asked
if the site could be relocated
from time to time to distribute its effects. Bedard replied that it
could be done, but there would be
cost impacts. It would have to be a really good reason to move it.
The President and CEO EPRI is Steven R. Specker, a PhD in nuclear
engineering, whose primary work background was with General Electric's
nuclear power division. The company's Strategic Vision is
described on its web site as follows:
The Electricity Technology Roadmap initiative began in 1997.
Although spearheaded by EPRI, over 200 organizations contributed to
the framing of this vision and the development of an initial report
in 1999. It was organized around five Destinations that are critical
milestones on the path toward achieving a sustainable global energy
economy by 2050. The five Destinations are:
(1) Strengthening the Power Delivery Infrastructure
(2) Enabling the Digital Society
(3) Boosting Economic Productivity and Prosperity
(4) Resolving the Energy/Environment Conflict
(5) Managing the Global Sustainability Challenge
One of its related reports is entitled Limiting Challenges Report
#12: Ecological Asset Management which in its Preface
contains the following paragraphs:
Eco-asset management harnesses market forces to preserve,
enhance, restore, and create the natural capital life itself depends
upon. In this report, eco-asset management is described within the
context of the societal objectives defined by the Electricity
Technology Roadmap, a collaborative exploration of the future of
the global electricity enterprise. Eco-asset management is
characterized as a market-based approach with promise for maximizing
the productivity of natural resources to promote economic vitality,
protect environmental and public health, improve the human
condition, and accelerate global progress toward a sustainable
For companies in the energy, agriculture, mining, timber, real
estate, land management, and other resource-based sectors, eco-asset
management oilers significant opportunities for increasing revenues,
reducing compliance costs, eliminating liabilities, and managing
risks. Improving environmental quality, protecting public health,
and demonstrating corporate citizenship represent additional—and
substantial—benefits. For government agencies and other
stakeholders, market-based approaches promise solutions for
achieving environmental goals more efficiently and at lower cost, as
well as for addressing complex challenges such as climate change,
water shortages, and biodiversity loss.
The Institution of Engineering and Technology, a British research
organization, noted the following about wave energy in a "fact file"
publication entitled Environmental Effects of Electricity Generation:
What hasn't been discussed is that the Mendocino County proposals would
place electrical generation and transmission facilities electromagnetic
fields in or near the Pacific Coast whale migration routes. It would
likely take a decade after full installation to know the real effects.
There are, basically, two types of wave energy device. The first
utilises the essentially up and down movement of the sea’s surface
and is usually located well away from a shore-line where the average
power of some 50kW per metre of wave front. The other type utilises
the action of the waves on the sea-shore. Clearly, which of these
devices is used has a considerable effect on the type of
environmental impact of wave technology.
Off-shore devices have received the most attention in the UK and
will therefore be considered first. As wave energy devices extract
energy from motion, the water surface behind the device is
essentially calm. There is, therefore, a reduction in the sea’s
action on the seashore, and hence an effect on its ecology. How
effective this change is depends on how far offshore the device is
moored and how long it is. The devices themselves could be a
navigation hazard, particularly if they broke their anchors. Seals
and predatory sea birds may also be attracted to the devices.
Although the actual method of energy extraction, the conversion of
this energy into electricity, and its subsequent transmission to
population centres have not been agreed, it is already clear that
the cabling ashore and the siting of transmission facilities, in
what would generally be areas of high scenic value, would cause the
greatest environmental concern about potential wave energy
exploitation. The impact of transmission facilities is, in fact,
common to many types of renewable energy sources.
Are we really ready to do this? If you are and want to get in on the
action, you'd better hurry as FERC is likely to fast track these
applications to approval before 2009 when a new President takes office.