Company Seeks to Study Ocean
by Scott Hadly, Scripps Howard News Service
A Washington state company has asked federal regulators for a permit to study the potential of producing electricity from ocean waves off the California, Hawaii and Atlantic coasts.
Grays Harbor Ocean Energy applied for the permit in October from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a first step in what would be a multiyear process.
The company asked for permits in seven locations on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, he said. Those sites include areas off San Francisco and Ventura County in California, as well as sites off Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
According to company officials, if all seven sites are developed, they could produce up to 7,700 megawatts of power, enough for 2 million homes.
Building the facilities would cost $20 billion to $30 billion, the company estimates.
The company, which was formed last year, is not producing any power but is building a demonstration project near Tacoma.
Although the permit would simply give the company the right to study the area, if it is approved the company would also get priority for use of the wave and wind "field" in that location, according to officials with the federal agency.
Modeled after a wave energy facility being built off the coast of the United Kingdom, the Ventura Ocean Energy Project, which would be five to 10 miles off the Ventura County coast, would include a wind power component, said the company's president, Burton Hamner.
Hamner said the Ventura County site, for example, could produce up to 1,000 megawatts of power, though the permit indicates it would produce about 100 megawatts during peak winter storm periods and average about 40.
The company is considering an offshore platform fixed to the ocean floor that holds an "oscillating water column." The up-and-down action of the waves pushes air back and forth and drives a turbine that generates electricity.
Wind turbines would augment power production. The electricity produced would be conveyed along the seafloor via cables that would come ashore near Ventura, Hamner said.
The cost of building such facilities isn't cheap, but it is competitive with construction costs of nuclear power plants or so-called clean-coal power plants, Hamner said.
"Using the numbers from construction in the U.K. as a rule of thumb, their costs are about $5 million per megawatt installed," he said. "That's everything, soup to nuts."
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