I got a chance to sit down with Federal Energy Regulatory Chairman Jon Wellinghoff (again) this week. He was in town to attend a conference on coordinating natural gas and electricity markets as more and more utilities switch from coal to natural gas.
But I wanted to ask him about FERC’s first approval of the first commercial wave project in the U.S. – just off the coast of Reedsport.
Wellinghoff said FERC is working to simplify the permitting process for new tidal and wave power projects so that developers can test out new technology. But the agency is reserving the right to remove the buoys and turbines if they cause too many environmental impacts.
What we’ve done is set up an accelerated process that pares down some of the normal process for a normal hydroelectric system. But on the other hand we are doing all the environmental review and investigation to ensure these projects will not harm the environment.
Here’s a radio story I did on the conversation:
Wellinghoff also noted that the big advantages of wave energy compared with other renewables are also disadvantages. For example, he said wave energy devices need more testing and demonstration to make sure they can perform long-term in water:
“Water is 800 times more dense than wind,” he said, “So you can get a lot more energy out of water movement than you can out of air movement in a much smaller frame and therefore need much less materials to get much larger amounts of energy out. But because it’s located in the water it can be corrosive – especially when it’s in saltwater.”