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

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I write "high profile" documents for DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), including things like R&D 100 award nominations. From 1999-2010, I was editor of the EERE Network News, a weekly newsletter for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). I did about half of the research and most of the story selection, coding, and publishing of this document. In July 2010, Ernie Tucker took over as editor, and I now serve as backup. The email is sent to more than 40,000 subscribers each week and is also available on a Web page and via an RSS feed. I was also the lead writer on the NREL Research Review 2006 and 2007 and the NREL Annual Report 2009 and helped to blog from the 2007 Solar Decathlon, including both texts and photos. Over the years at NREL, I have worked on a wide range of projects, including editing most of the articles for an edition of Advances in Solar Energy (Volume 7); editing, testing, and reviewing multiple editions of The Sun's Joules CD; writing many, many brochures and fact sheets; and providing a great deal of content for the NREL and EERE Web sites. Among the recent publications that I have authored is "From Biomass to Biofuels: NREL Leads the Way," which was essentially intended to convince the oil industry to work with NREL. I was also involved in the early days of green power certification, and helped to launch a non-profit organization called the Renewable Energy Alliance (REA), which is now defunct. I also helped to build the REA Web site and the first Green-e Web site and helped layout flyers for use in grassroots green power marketing in Colorado. My involvement started in 1995, when I wrote an article on green pricing for Karl Rábago (who was then in charge of DOE's Office of Utility Technologies) and had it published in the September edition of Electrical World.

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