Archon wants to build wave energy plant off Morro Bay, Calif.

Archon Energy 1 Inc. applied Nov. 5 at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit for the Morro Bay Wave Park, an offshore hydro project that would help replace the to-be-retired Morro Bay power plant on the nearby shore.

“This application is made in order that the applicant may secure and maintain priority of application for a license for a 200-500 MW project under Part I of the Federal Power Act while obtaining the data and performing the acts required to determine the feasibility of the project and to support an application for a license,” said the application. “Priority for this area is sought to allow the Company to conduct feasibility studies and evaluate the appropriate project scale based on environmental impacts, wave power density, commercially available utility scale wave converter technology and demand for new offshore electrical generation capacity in California.”

The project would be located in the Pacific Ocean near San Luis Obispo County, Calif., west of the town of Morro Bay. The proposed site is situated outside the three mile state boundary (and is thus solely in FERC’s jurisdiction) in the open ocean about 10 miles from shore in water depths that range from 300 to 700 feet or more at the outer continental shelf. The approximate dimensions of the proposed site are three miles wide (predominantly in an east-west direction) by 10 miles long (predominantly in the north-south direction).

The final power cable route will be determined based on site-specific information after further study. The transmission cable could possibly come to shore via an underground pipe to the Morro Bay, Cayucos or Baywood substation interconnection points, the company noted. Other potential interconnection sites will also be investigated.

The Morro Bay Wave Park will utilize the kinetic energy of the ocean swells and convert it into electricity. The project is envisioned to utilize the power transmission corridor left behind after the future decommissioning of the 1,002 MW Morro Bay Power Plant, the company said. The wave park could generate up to the capacity of the transmission corridor in several expansion phases once a successful pilot demonstration is completed or Phase 1 of a commercial license is granted, the company said. The full capacity will not be fully determined until an interconnection study is completed and wave converter technology is selected.

The company didn’t identify the owner of the Morro Bay plant. But a map in its filing indicates that it is the gas-fired Morro Bay plant of Dynegy (NYSE: DYN). Dynegy said Nov. 7 that it intends to initiate the retirement process for the Morro Bay facility with California regulators and is currently evaluating alternatives for the site including developing renewable energy shaping technologies as well as preferred renewable resources with Starwood Energy Group Global Inc.

The Dynegy website said that Morro Bay is a 650-MW, gas-fired peaker. That 650 MW represents Units 3 and 4 capacity only. Units 1 and 2, with a combined net generating capacity of 352 MW, have been in mothball status and out of operation.

Archon still considering whether a pilot project is needed

Archon Energy has yet to determine if a pilot project will be required until a converter technology is selected. If a pilot project is required it is anticipated to be on a very small scale compared to the overall project which would be comprised of several wave energy conversion units.

Initial estimates indicate that the pilot phase capacity would be 5 MW-10 MW depending on the scale of the converters being tested. The company said it may make a formal pilot project application once additional consultations and studies are completed and the project is determined to be feasible. The company noted that it will select a proven wave energy conversion technology that has been thoroughly tested and has the least environmental impact possible.

The proposed site has the potential of producing 500 MW or more, which would require several development phases. It is anticipated that the proposed project under a 200 MW scenario would consist of up to sixty seven 3-MW converters. Utility scale wave energy converters are anticipated to be commercially available in the near future.

Wave energy converters are moored to the ocean floor and can be installed and removed for scheduled maintenance. Arrays are generally arranged in rows, which are nominally parallel to the shore, the company said. The application includes website links for several technology suppliers under consideration, including Voith, Ocean Energy and Resolute Marine.

The total cost for the completion of the FERC licensing process will be funded by Archon Energy. Archon Energy said it is a privately held company with experience in the FERC licensing process. Financing for the completion of a commercial scale project will be provided through a combination of equity financing (provided by Archon Energy and others), and traditional debt financing. Archon said it may seek development partners to assist in the technical and or financial aspects of the project.

The applicant is currently researching various Power Purchase Agreement options available to it. The project could be eligible for the Investment Tax Credit (provided it gets extended beyond 2013) or other incentives.

The company contact information is: Archon Energy 1 Inc.,
 Suite 2800, 101 East Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33602,
 415-377-2460, President Paul Grist, Paul@archonenergy.com.

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.