Hydrokinetic energy projects generate electricity from moving water, capturing the power embodied in tides, waves, and currents without the use of dams. Hydrokinetic energy resources are estimated to have a tremendous power potential -- according to one U.S. Department of Energy study, approximately 1,420 terawatt-hours per year, or approximately one-third of the nation's total annual electricity usage. The technologies required are relatively new, do not have decades of operational experience, and remain relatively expensive. Nevertheless, federal records show growth in hydrokinetic project development.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates most hydrokinetic energy projects under its hydropower jurisdiction pursuant to the Federal Power Act. Project developers may seek preliminary permits granting the right to study a particular site and priority to apply for a project license.
Relatively few projects have received licenses to date. In 2012, the Commission issued a pilot project license for the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy project in the East River near New York City. Last month, the Commission issued a pilot project license to the Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County for a 600 kilowatt tidal project in Puget Sound, Washington.
As of last month, six projects have been issued preliminary permits that remain in effect:
Ecosponsible, Inc.'s Niagara Community project, a 1.25 megawatt inland project proposed for the Niagara River in New York
Ecosponsible, Inc.'s Niagara Community #2 project, a similar 1.25 megawatt inland project proposed for the Niagara River in New York
Iguigig Village Council's Iguigig RISEC project, a 40 kilowatt inland project proposed for the Kvichak River in Alaska
The Town of Edgartown, Massachusetts's Muskeget Channel Tidal Energy project, a 4.94 megawatt project proposed for the Muskeget Channel off the island of Martha's Vineyard
Turnagain Arm Tidal Energy's Turnagain Arm Tidal project, a 240 megawatt tidal project proposed for Cook Inlet, Alaska
Resolute Marine Energy, Inc.'s Yakutat project, a 750 kilowatt wave project proposed in the Gulf of Alaska
As of March, another 15 applications for preliminary permits were pending before the Commission.