Company to seek pilot license extension for Maine tidal energy project

Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) officially notified the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Feb. 9 that it won’t file a full license application for a pilot tidal energy project in Maine, instead preferring to extend by two years its FERC-issued pilot license for the project.

FERC in August 2014 told the company that the pilot license for the Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project is scheduled to expire on Jan. 31, 2020, and outlined steps that must be taken prior to expiration of the license. The letter stated that between five years and five and one half years before the existing license expires, ORPC would need to notify the commission whether or not it intends to file an application for a new license.

“Because of the experimental nature of hydrokinetic technology development and the need to continue to use the pilot license to address technology testing, ORPC concluded that filing for a new license, including a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Pre-Application Document (PAD), would not be our company’s course of action at this time,” the Feb. 9 letter said. “We therefore sought guidance from the Commission regarding the viability of a two-year pilot license extension versus pursuing a new license.”

ORPC said its pursuit of a pilot license extension versus a new license is due to factors that include:

  • ORPC is currently advancing through a tidal energy technology optimization phase, mostly funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. This has resulted in a hiatus from in-water operations, which FERC has recognized by granting a temporary variance from environmental monitoring. ORPC plans to re-install a fully optimized device in 2016.
  • Precedence exists for longer term pilot licenses for tidal energy projects (10 years).
  • The extension would provide an opportunity to further test alternative turbine component designs resulting from the federally funded technology optimization effort.
  • Further testing of new designs will help ORPC determine the ultimate suitability of the project site for commercial development or whether the company would inform the commission about other site alternatives, such as project removal or the potential as an on-going marine and hydrokinetic test site that meets national needs.

“The intent of this notice is to formally notify the Commission that ORPC will not be submitting a NOI or PAD for a new license at this time and to seek a waiver of the missed January 31, 2015 deadline. ORPC intends to submit a license amendment to extend our pilot license by two years (10 year total) by June 1, 2015. If the license amendment is granted ORPC anticipates filing a notice to the Commission regarding our intent to apply for new license by January 16, 2017.”

The letter is from: Christopher R. Sauer, President & CEO, 207-772-7707.

In a Jan. 30 filing at the commission, the company noted: “ORPC has focused our technical strategy on leveraging lessons learned from multiple projects towards cross-platform designs and advanced design tools. Turbine, fairing structure and control system design improvements will improve performance of the power systems. To this end, the design of the tensioned mooring system deployed this past summer (2014) matured the OCGen prototype system as expected. These advances, combined with the integration of new generator and driveline technologies scalable to 600kW rated power in high flow environments, will provide the basis for the optimized power system to be installed in Cobscook Bay. We anticipate improving the TidGen demonstrated efficiency to an onboard power output efficiency approaching 45%.”

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.