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Earlier this month we posted that Energetech’s Australian wave power plant had gone online. In researching that story we discovered that Energetech is also working on a pilot project to build and install a wave power plant off Point Judith, Rhode Island. Project GreenWave is a non-profit pilot, with funding from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. If this pilot project were successful, it would become the first wave power installation in the U.S.
The $3.5 million project got underway in 2003 with sediment sampling and underwater surveying and analysis — with much of the analysis being done by the University of Rhode Island and its renowned ocean-graphics department. Energetech is currently preparing for a FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) filing and is hopeful about the project’s progress, though they make no estimate of when the plant might go online. As with any first-of-its-kind project involving coastal installation, federal and state agencies have to create a system for project approval and permits — so there is still a level of confusion over who has regulatory jurisdiction for wave energy projects in the U.S., which has slowed the approval and installation process.

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Analysis has shown Point Judith to be an ideal location due to local wave and geological structure, proximity to the power grid, and ease of installation (less than a week). The station itself would be located just outside the Point Judith breakwater and about a mile offshore. Care is being taken not to disrupt commercial ship traffic or recreational boaters. The station will be designed to: withstand “100 year storm criteria”, be easily towed to port, make 100 times less noise than an outboard motor; and have only one moving part — the turbine.

Ultimately, wave power may provide a great source of clean, sustainable power for coastal communities and regional power grids. With Washington’s invigorated interest in, and funding of alternative energy projects, perhaps the hearing and permit process for this type of project can be streamlined and fast-tracked. The Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound has served to illustrate how controversial an ocean-based alternative power project can be. One can only hope that less obtrusive wave power installation proves to be both energy rich and controversy poor.

If you’re into pain, here’s a link to FERC’s filings on the project:

FERC online

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