Hydropower, Offshore

Grays Harbor Proposes Ocean Energy Projects in Six States

A company that intends to install a wave energy demonstration system at Grays Harbor in Washington State has applied for preliminary permits for wave energy projects off the coasts of six other states: California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company LLC holds a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for its project off the coast of Washington, and it applied in late October for preliminary permits for seven sites—two in California and one in each of the other five states.

On November 28, FERC accepted the applications and opened a 60-day public comment period, catching the company off guard with its rapid response. The FERC notice drew media attention in Rhode Island, and on Monday, Burton Hammer, the company’s president, published a letter on the Grays Harbor Web site, apologizing to the affected state and local officials for failing to forewarn them a bout the projects.

Aside from the drama of the application process, the Grays Harbor proposals also have interesting technical aspects. The company is planning to install wave energy projects on relatively mobile platforms called jack-up rigs, which are used by the oil drilling industry. The rigs are towed out to sea and their support legs are jacked up, just like some types of car jacks, until the platform is suspended above the ocean.

Grays Harbor plans to use jack-up platforms, similar to this oil drilling rig, to support wave energy facilities and offshore wind turbines. Source: Blake Offshore LLC


To capture the wave energy, the platforms will feature oscillating water columns, which can be pictured as long tubes that are closed on their top ends, with their bottom ends submerged below sea level. As waves pass each semi-submerged column, they cause the air inside to be alternately compressed and decompressed. Turbines connected to the top of each column let air pass in and out, spinning the turbines to generate electricity.

Grays Harbor is proposing to mount the columns in the legs of the platform. The company is also proposing to mount wind turbines o n the platforms, although that would require a separate permitting process. Grays Harbor expects each platform to have a generating capacity of 10 megawatts. See the technology description on the Grays Harbor Web site.

This article was first published in the U.S. Department of Energy’s EERE Network News and was reprinted with permission.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com looked at the FERC application process earlier this year amid similar controversy for other projects.