While still largely experimental, wave energy is gathering momentum with this morning’s Boston Globe reporting that a large wave and wind project a dozen miles south off Massachusetts’ well-heeled Nantucket Island.
Wind and wave hybrids deploy a combination of wind and wave turbines on fixed platforms similar to oil rigs. Projected output is 100 megawatts, the company said in its preliminary application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dated Dec. 3.
The tidal part of technology employs an Oscillating Water Column with waves passing through a perforated shaft to drive air upward through wind turbines atop the platforms. However, the article cites experts expressing doubt that waves on the East Coast could generate much power given that the wind tends to counteract waves whereas Pacific Coast waves enjoy a prevailing wind. So it’s estimated that 90% of the energy would come from wind turbines.
The project is the undertaking of Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company based in Seattle and calls for 100 platforms with wind and wave-driven turbines. It has also identified six others areas in the U.S. for similar projects. They include Hawaii, south of Block Island in Rhode Island, off the Hamptons in New York’s Long Island, near Atlantic City and near San Francisco and Ventura, California.
Grays Harbor’s technology embraces fixed platforms similar to oil rigs as opposed to floating platforms. It claims to have secured $256.95 million in funding. The company filed preliminary FERC applications Nov. 12 for these six projects. They too are projected to produce 100 megawatts of output.
Grays Harbors’ Nantucket project differs from the ambitious Cape Wind offshore project which has been wracked by delays over challenges to its Nantucket Sound site for 130 wind turbines. Residents of Cape Cod and Nantucket, many of them wealthy and including Sen. Ted Kennedy, object to the environmental impact, namely what they claim is a spoiled view. Gray Harbors’ says its Nantucket platforms could only be send on “exceptionally” clear days and from fewer vantage points.
The sensitivity of the complex permitting process is evident in a letter of apology to state and local officials in how quickly FERC opened up the Grays Harbor applications for comment. Rather than December, Grays Harbor Co-founder and President Burton Hamner recommended that comment start in January. State and local officials, the letter suggests, were apparently caught off-guard by FERC’s rapid response.