Developer reports delays with innovative Alaska tidal energy project

ORPC Alaska 2 LLC plans to request a successive preliminary permit immediately following the current preliminary permit’s expiration on March 1, 2014, and won’t file a draft license application on Aug. 30 as previously scheduled.

ORPC said in a Sept. 9 report to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that progress in developing the cutting-edge East Foreland Tidal Energy Project Alaska has been substantive.

“Nevertheless, we will request an additional three-year term because of the following obstacles: limited field season window in Alaska, the time and effort necessary to gather and analyze all applicable site and environmental information, and the time and effort required to maintain funding levels secured from a variety of public sector research and development programs and private sources,” the company added. “Based on our successful experience in Maine, where we have installed and operated the first grid-connected, federally licensed Pilot Project in the country, the emerging nature of the tidal energy industry requires deliberateness even as milestones are being achieved. ORPC has adjusted project schedule of activities accordingly.”

In March 2011, ORPC was issued a preliminary permit for the East Foreland project. Since then, the company said it has moved forward in a number of areas, including reaching an agreement with Cook Inlet Energy to share bathymetric data collected in the Forelands area. This data will further ground truth ORPC’s own bathymetry data and provide the ability to assess the morphology of the seabed forms in the project area over time.

On June 13, NOAA gave a presentation to the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) on the results of its Cook Inlet modeling effort with a focus on tidal hydrokinetic energy. AEA held the meeting to get input from stakeholders, including ORPC, as to what NOAA’s final deliverables should be.

ORPC said it continues to reach out to stakeholders, potential funders, and potential customers through presentations to the Homer Electric Association Board of Directors on July 9, Chugach Electric Association Board of Directors on July 17 and at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Summit in Anchorage on July 16 and July 17.

This hydrokinetic tidal energy project would be located in Cook Inlet in the vicinity of Nikiski, Alaska, in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and would use no dam or impoundment. The project consists of:

  • a series of 150-kW TideGen and/or 150-kW OCGen turbine-generator modules with a combined capacity between 5 MW and 100 MW;
  • a 1- to 8-mile-long, 13.5-kV direct current underwater transmission cable from the module site to a shore station on the west coast of the Kenai Peninsula; and
  • an approximately 0.25-mile-long, 4.16- to 34.5-kV alternating current transmission line connecting the shore station to a substation site located on the Kenai Peninsula.

The project is estimated to have an average annual generation between 13 and 340 gigawatt-hours, which would be sold to a local utility.

Another tidal project also being looked at in Alaska

ORPC isn’t the only tidal energy developer in Alaska. FERC said in a July 18 notice that Turnagain Arm Tidal Energy Corp. has applied for a preliminary permit on a 240-MW tidal project.

On Feb. 1, the Turnagain Arm Tidal Energy filed the preliminary permit application, proposing to study the feasibility of the Turnagain Arm Tidal Electric Generation Project, to be located on the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet and adjacent lands of the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska.

That proposed project would include:

  • an 8-mile-long tidal fence situated between Fire Island near Anchorage and Point Possession in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and consisting of 24, 10-MW Davis turbines with tidal-to-electrical energy generating units for a total installed capacity of 240 MW;
  • one control building/substation onshore near Anchorage and one near Point Possession;
  • an 18-mile-long, 230-kV submerged transmission line connecting the tidal fence to the existing Chugach Electric Association substation at Point Woronzof in Anchorage and a new substation at Point Possession; and
  • a 28-mile-long, 230-kV aboveground transmission line running parallel to an existing Homer Electric Association (HEA) transmission line corridor and extending from Point Possession to the existing HEA Nikiski substation.

The proposed project would have an estimated average annual generation of 1,271,950 megawatt-hours.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.