Ocean Renewable asks extension of FERC pilot license for 300-kW Cobscook Bay Tidal project


Ocean Renewable Power Co. has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a two-year extension of its hydrokinetic pilot project license for the 300-kW Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy project in Maine.

FERC issued a hydrokinetic pilot project license to Cobscook Bay (No. 12711) in February 2012. It became the first commercial marine tidal project to go on line in North America in September 2012. ORPC submitted its first annual environmental monitoring report to FERC in 2013 showing no adverse effects from installation and operation of the project off Eastport, Maine.

FERC developed the pilot license process in 2008 to allow developers to test new hydrokinetic technologies, to determine appropriate sites for such technologies, and to confirm the technologies' environmental effects without compromising FERC oversight. 

Pilot licenses must be small, short-term, in an environmentally non-sensitive area, removable and able to shut down on short notice, and removed, with the site restored, before the license expires, unless a new license is issued.

In a June 5 letter to FERC, ORPC Environmental Affairs Director Nathan Johnson said the tidal project operator seeks a two-year extension of the Cobscook Bay pilot license.

"This request results from the status of the project and experimental nature of the hydrokinetic technology development," Johnson said. "ORPC, through consultations with the commission and the project's Adaptive Management Team, has concluded that filing for a new license, including a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Pre-Application Document (PAD), would not be appropriate at this time."

Johnson said pursuit of a pilot license extension rather than a new license was due to several factors including the fact that ORPC is in a "technology optimization phase" partially funded by the Department of Energy that was not anticipated. The letter also said the extension would provide an opportunity to test alternative turbine designs and that the tidal energy resource at the project site is not currently suited for commercial development.

The letter added that precedence exists for longer-term pilot project licenses for tidal energy projects of 10 years.

If the extension is granted, ORPC said it anticipates filing a notice to FERC of its intent to apply for a new license by January 2017.

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