Looking to Cook Inlet tidal energy
Click here to go to the full PDF version of this issue, with any maps, photos or other artwork that appears in
some of the articles.
ORPC applies for FERC permit to start building out a tidal energy system offshore the East Foreland of the Kenai Peninsula
for Petroleum News
Ocean Renewable Power Co. has filed a preliminary permit application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the development of a tidal energy power generation system in the waters of Cook Inlet, offshore the East Foreland area of the Kenai Peninsula. The concept is to sell electricity generated by the tidal currents of the inlet to Homer Electric Association, the local electric utility.
“Cook Inlet is the premiere tidal resource in the U.S. and harnessing clean, renewable, reliable energy from it will help the U.S. achieve its ambitious goals of a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions,” said Stuart Davies, ORPC chief executive officer, when announcing the new initiative.
ORPC has developed hydrokinetic technology involving helical shaped water turbines that gather energy from flowing water, either from river flow or from the flow of tidal currents.
Project continuationThe proposed project picks up from an earlier East Foreland project in which ORPC made tidal velocity measurements at two potential tidal turbine sites, conducted a detailed bathymetric survey of the project area, and carried out an environmental assessment. The project was suspended in 2015 because of adverse economic factors at the time.
The project concept now involves the construction of an initial 5-megawatt pilot project near East Foreland to verify the environmental compatibility and technical performance of ORPC’s turbine devices in the Cook Inlet situation. Depending on the results of this evaluation, the project would be built out to a 100-megawatt commercial-scale operation.
The proposed Cook Inlet project would initially involve the testing of a single turbine device. Success with this device would be followed by the addition of two further devices, to conduct further testing. Expansion to the 5-megawatt capacity of the test system would then involve the replacement of these initial turbines by larger commercial scale turbines. In its permit application, ORPC says that within five years of the pilot project the company will determine whether the Cook Inlet site is suitable for expansion to the full 100-megawatt commercial operation.
Success elsewhereORPC has previously developed a hydrokinetic tidal power system in Maine. And the company has seen success in the development of an in-river hydrokinetic power generation system in the Kvichak River, for the supply of electrical power to the village of Igiugig, near Lake Iliamna in southwest Alaska. The company says that it plans to install a second turbine unit at Igiugig this summer - the river generated power is reducing the need for diesel fueled power generation for the village. ORPC is also investigating the possibility of constructing a tidal energy system at the city of False Pass in the Aleutian Islands, to offset the use of diesel power there.
In the context of the potential for tidal power generation for the Kenai Peninsula, ORPC cites a 93-megawatt-hour battery storage project that HEA initiated in 2019. The battery storage, scheduled for completion in the fall of this year, will support intermittent renewable power generation, without the need to place stress on gas-fired power generation facilities, ORPC said. Tidal power is intermittent, but predictable, varying as the tidal current ebbs and flow during the regular tidal cycle.
“Homer Electric Association supports ORPC’s FERC application and wishes it well as it develops these technologies,” said Brad Janorschke, HEA general manager. “HEA has developed a robust net metering program that is available to individuals and businesses seeking to create renewable projects. In the coming years, we anticipate additional opportunities to work with renewable energy companies such as ORPC to diversify and integrate renewable power into the HEA power grid.”