Hybrid Offshore Ocean Power and Wind Facilities

Has anyone thought of combining offshore wind farms with ocean renewable energy technology? For example, could we use the offshore base of the wind turbine to produce energy from waves, tides, or currents? — Hillary B., Danbury, CT

Combined offshore wind, wave and tidal projects, also known as “hybrids,” hold great commercial potential down the line when wave and tidal technologies have become more established. At that point, wave and tidal production might compensate for the intermittency of offshore wind, while economies of scale developed from offshore wind could accelerate cost reduction for wave and tidal components. In the near term, however, discussion of hybrid offshore wind, wave and tidal projects is limited to demonstration or pilot projects. In particular, there has been discussion of siting hybrid offshore wind and wave and/or tidal projects at decommissioned oil rigs, which would serve as a platform for an offshore wind turbine and a tether for wave or tidal technologies. Moreover, jurisdictional conflicts and not just technological constraints may inhibit development of commercial hybrids. Different regulatory bodies such as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Corps of Engineers and various state agencies have principle authority for licensing wave/tidal and offshore wind projects respectively in state waters, while FERC and the Minerals Management Service (MMS) are engaged in disputes over regulatory authority for wave and tidal projects on the Outer Continental Shelf. We expect these regulatory constraints to be resolved by the time hybrid projects become more viable. In the meantime, developers are exploring hybrid possibilities for offshore wind and conventional fuel sources. The UK recently approved a unique hybrid offshore wind/natural gas project, which would generate power from wind while it is blowing, and natural gas when winds die down. (See discussion on this project and others linked below). Also, some liquified natural gas (LNG) developers have discussed the possibility of incorporating offshore wind to make the LNG terminal more palatable to local residents. There are many possibilities for offshore hybrid electrical generation facilities. While there are still many technical and regulatory hurdles to overcome, it is only a matter of time before these types of hybrid systems become more widespread.
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Sean is co-founder and president of the Ocean Renewable Energy Coalition and principal of Symmetrix Public Relations & Communication Strategies where he serves the non-profit, energy, and human resources sectors. He has provided public affairs and communications support for energy projects in 18 states during the past twenty years.

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