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January 2012 Issue

Empowering Deployments Of Marine Renewables in the US

By Jose R. Zayas
Program Manager
Wind and Water Power Program
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
U.S. Department of Energy

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Wind and Water Power Program works to advance the development and deployment of clean, affordable and reliable wind and marine hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies. The DOE has increased its focus on the advancement of marine renewable energy, including offshore wind, wave, tidal, ocean current and ocean thermal technologies.

Marine renewables have the potential to serve as clean sources of energy for coastal states with high population loads. At least 10 percent of the nation's electricity needs could be met by marine renewable energy, according to a study published in a June 2010 issue of Oceanography magazine. To reach such deployment levels, however, key technology and market barriers will need to be addressed.

In 2011, the DOE announced 47 awards totaling more than $50.5 million across 20 states to advance offshore wind technology development and remove market barriers, as part of a coordinated strategy with the Department of the Interior (DOI) that is designed to deploy significant offshore wind energy systems. (DOE funding is subject to congressional review.) The awards will help the U.S. compete in the global wind energy manufacturing sector while promoting national security, economic development and job creation.

Ocean Power Technologies Inc.'s PB150 PowerBuoy deployed approximately 33 nautical miles from Invergordon, Scotland. The 150-kilowatt device was installed in April 2011.

Marine Hydrokinetic Deployments
The DOE continues to support industry demonstration projects through its Technology Readiness Advancement Initiative and Advanced Water Power grants. Return on these federal investments is beginning to be realized.

Two companies successfully deployed devices in the water in 2011. Columbia Power Technologies' (Corvallis, Oregon) SeaRay prototype wave energy converter was deployed in February in Puget Sound, Washington. Last June, Free Flow Power Corp. (Boston, Massachusetts) deployed an axial flow turbine in the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Operational data are being collected to evaluate technical and environmental performance.

Numerous other projects are expected to enter the water early this year. This January, Ocean Power Technologies (Pennington, New Jersey) will deploy a 150-kilowatt wave energy converter off Reedsport, Oregon. Last year, the DOE adopted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's environmental assessment and issued a finding of no significant impact for the device. Operational data will be collected over two years.

Ocean Renewable Power Co. (Portland, Maine) is developing a five-unit, grid-connected array of cross-flow tidal turbines near Eastport, Maine, for deployment in March. A federal pilot license application for this project was submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2011.

Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County in Everett, Washington, is continuing its efforts to deploy, operate, monitor and evaluate two Open-Centre Turbines, seabed-based tidal turbines developed and manufactured by OpenHydro Group Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland), in Puget Sound's Admiralty Inlet.

Deployments of devices in the water are critical for the nascent MHK industry, both to obtain necessary operational and performance data of the devices and to raise public awareness. Federal investment and support of deployment projects will help industry demonstrate and validate devices' performance. Performance and cost data from these initial deployments will inform research and development decisions, allowing the DOE to target devices and technologies with the best technical and economic viability.

Offshore Wind
The DOE is positioning itself at the forefront of the global race to develop deepwater offshore wind technology, which is widely believed to be more cost-effective than state-of-the-art land-based and offshore shallow-water turbine technology.

To develop these systems in the U.S., the DOE has committed $12 million in funding and other resources to the DeepCwind Consortium at the University of Maine, which will deploy a one-third-scale tension-leg platform floating wind system in the waters off Monhegan Island, Maine, this summer.

The DOE also supports the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in advising and collecting performance data from Principle Power Inc.'s (Seattle, Washington) full-scale semisubmersible floating offshore wind system in Portugal, and SWAY's (Bergen, Norway) 1-to-6-scale deployment of a hybrid spar-tension-leg platform in Norway. Both of these systems were deployed in November.

Technology Development
The DOE's Wind and Water Power Program invests in high-risk technology innovations that private firms cannot or will not undertake. Recent grants from the program include research targeted at expanding the capabilities of existing, land-based wind turbine models to handle the unique aspects of offshore wind turbine designs. Concurrently, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is updating its offshore wind cost of energy baseline model to enhance the DOE's understanding of U.S. offshore wind cost drivers and economics.

The DOE launched in May 2010 an effort to develop MHK reference models. These computational models will provide a benchmark against which new designs and technologies can be measured. The performance characteristics analyzed include energy conversion performance, environmental impact and life cycle cost. The baseline models will assess the performance of marine energy devices, using scaled model testing to validate analytic and empirical design assumptions and technical approaches. Use of the models will lead to understanding the devices' key cost drivers so future designs can focus on modifications that will reduce energy costs.

Environmental Research
The DOE researches, monitors and mitigates the potential environmental effects of renewable offshore energy technologies. As part of this responsibility, the DOE led a project in 2011 to complete Tethys, a publicly accessible environmental research database that will house domestic data and information from an international environmental data-sharing agreement. The database, which will include information from Canada, Norway, Spain, Ireland, New Zealand and South Korea, is under development by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for release in fiscal year 2012.

The DOE has also spearheaded the development of a well-attended series of webinars aimed at increasing awareness of environmental research involving MHK technologies.

In 2011, DOE allocated nearly $6 million for environmental studies specific to offshore wind technology impacts on the OCS. The Biodiversity Research Institute was awarded $4.5 million to model wildlife densities and movements across temporal and spatial species on the mid-Atlantic continental shelf. The data from this study will support and inform permitting processes.

Two projects will receive DOE funding to explore monitoring technologies and aid in assessments of avian and bat interactions, behaviors and migratory patterns. The Biodiversity Research Institute will receive funds to model wildlife densities and movements on the mid-Atlantic Continental Shelf, and Stantec Inc. will be awarded funds for a deepwater offshore bat and avian monitoring program to address avian and bat interactions, behaviors and migratory patterns.

Interagency Collaboration
The DOE and the DOI signed a memorandum of understanding for the coordinated deployment of marine renewables on OCS in 2010 and carried out actions outlined in the memorandum in 2011. Notably, BOEMRE and the DOE signed an interagency agreement to provide collaborative financial support for research and technology development activities at the Hawaii National Marine Renewable Energy Center. The two agencies also continue collaboration on five environmental projects collectively funded in 2010.

In January 2011, the DOE signed a memorandum of understanding with NOAA to further collaboration between the agencies on renewable energy modeling and weather forecasting, which will allow more efficient use of the nation's renewable energy resources. The DOE continues to participate in the new National Ocean Council and contribute to planning for the national Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning process.

In February 2011, the DOE and DOI unveiled a the first interagency plan for offshore wind energy, as outlined in a jointly produced document called 'A National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States.' The DOE's $50.5 million in new funding opportunities is part of this national strategy.

The departments also named several high-priority wind energy areas in the Mid-Atlantic that will spur rapid, responsible development of wind energy. These initiatives are part of the DOI's 'Smart from the Start' program, announced in November 2010 and designed to speed appropriate commercial-scale wind energy development. Both agencies are planning for deployment of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030.

Looking Ahead
Marine renewables hold enormous promise in the clean energy mix of the future. Progress in 2012 will be marked by additional MHK device deployments, anticipated receipt of federal pilot project licenses for two MHK projects and recently awarded offshore wind technology development projects proceeding in earnest.

In the coming years, the DOE will make targeted investments to reduce the cost and improve performance of offshore renewable energy technologies and address market barriers that have hindered their widespread incorporation into the nation's electricity generation mix. The DOE's industry partners, national laboratories and academia will continue to vigorously pursue deployments of increasingly larger capacity devices, identify technology leaders and assess the resource potential. Finally, the DOE will expand its collaboration with international partner countries dedicated to marine renewables and leverage international investments, expertise and experience in deploying marine renewables in the U.S.

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