OREC Attends ReTech Conference 2012

OREC Attends ReTech Conference

After a five hour technical delay from Buffalo airport to Washington DC, I had my back firmly against the terminal walls; the prospect of missing day one of Retech was fast becoming a reality! But with the aid of an experienced pilot, a healthy plane, and a subtle high-altitude upgrade of attire… corners were cut and I was able to make it back to DC and in time for the final session of the day: The future of Hydropower, tidal and wave energy in the USA.

Putting the damp forehead and uncomfortable hotness aside, I persuaded myself to laugh out loud at an Ann Miles opening reference to there being more people than expected in the room for such a topic. Perhaps I should of laughed louder, there could have been 1/16th less people had I remained in Buffalo!

The panel was well assembled with presentations from FERC deputy director Ann Miles, Robert LaBelle from Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Jacob Irving, President of Canadian Hydropower Association and John Ferland, Vice-President from OREC partner, Ocean Renewable Power Company. Ann Miles spoke of Hydropower sites under FERC regulation, the potential capacity of hydropower in the USA and the permitting process for device testing and construction. Some successes were noted, in particular that of the 10 year licensing of Verdant Powers’ Roosevelt Island (NY) Tidal 1.05 MW device, which has been given a pilot project license, the first commercial license of its kind in the USA. Other successes noted were that of ORPC’s tidal pilot in Cobscook Bay, Maine as well as OPT’s wave park in Reedsport, Oregon.

93 permits have been authorized by FERC totaling 15,099MW of power production. However there are nearly 59,000 MW of tidal/wave power projects pending preliminary permits, which allows 3 years of application whilst studying the project further, which is ultimately and potentially a broad stepping-stone to commercial licensing. Such progress would represent a considerable increase in MHK energy production across the USA over the next 5 years.

BOEM continued to speak of recent successes within the MHK industry, adding light to the BOEM leasing process. MHK projects generally will require a BOEM lease if the project means to produce or support the transportation or transmission of energy from sources other than oil and gas or the project involves attachment of a structure or device to the sea bed. The presentation aided the audience by showing a timeline of the FERC and BOEM licensing process which is available on the slides for this session, available on our website.

Then the President of Canadian Hydropower, Jacob Irving spoke about the prolifcacy of Hydropower in Canada, attributing almost 60% of Canada’s electricity. This cast a sense of admiralty amongst the room, as Canada is today the 4th largest installer of hydropower technologies in the world, with an installed capacity of 74,000 MW. Even still, he was adamant that Canada had a long way to go, citing the potential of tidal and wave electricity exclusively separate from conventional hydropower (dams) as it is almost at maximum capacity. The room for growth in Canada’s hydro renewable energy scheme would be in wave and tidal technology rather than conventional hydropower.

John Ferland from ORPC closed up the day, and did so with a fantastic film that showed in-depth footage of the installation of its maiden TidGen device in Cobscook Bay, Maine. The film was remarkably shot, going under water at times to show the craftsmanship that was done to imbed these tidal devices to the seafloor. The TidGen device represents a huge success in MHK for the year 2012, providing 180KW of electricity to the grid (power for 25 – 30 houses approx.)

Over the next few days there were a host of other sessions on renewable energy, largely focussing on grid connection as well as advanced methods of funding for these technologies. For information on the other sessions, please see (here).