Topic:
CONNECTICUT INNOVATIONS, INC.; RENEWABLE RESOURCES; STATE AID; SOLAR ENERGY; ELECTRIC UTILITIES - RESTRUCTURING; LEGISLATION; WATER AND RELATED RESOURCES;
Location:
ENERGY - RENEWABLE RESOURCES;

OLR Research Report


September 25, 2006

 

2006-R-0566

WAVE POWER AND CONNECTICUT'S EFFORTS TO PROMOTE RENEWABLE ENERGY

By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for information on (1) Connecticut's initiatives to promote renewable energy and (2) wave energy and efforts in other states and countries to promote this technology.

SUMMARY

Connecticut has two major initiatives to promote renewable energy, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), both of which were established by the state's electric restructuring law (PA 98-28). The fund, which is administered by Connecticut Innovations, Inc. (CII), invests in various renewable and clean energy resources notably solar energy and fuel cells. The RPS requires that the state's electric companies and competitive suppliers obtain part of their supply from these resources, with the proportion increasing over time.

Other initiatives to promote renewable energy include (1) a “net-metering” requirement, under which electric companies must buy power produced by their residential customers from renewable resources; (2) a requirement that the companies offer their customers a “green option” in which the proportion of power coming from renewable resources exceeds the RPS; (3) Project 100, in which electric companies are required to enter into long-term contracts to buy the power produced from renewable resources; (4) Executive Order 32, which requires state agencies to use specified renewable resources to meet 20% of their electric demand by

2010 and increasing proportions in the future, and (5) a requirement that municipal electric utilities support conservation, renewable energy, or both.

There are three major types of technologies that convert the energy contained in waves to electric power, floating devices, oscillating water columns, and wave surge devices. The first two technologies are located off-shore, while wave surge devices are typically located on-shore. Although wave energy is a renewable and nonpolluting resource, it does raise environmental and safety issues.

While no wave energy projects have been proposed in Connecticut's waters, the state's Clean Energy Fund has invested in a project off of Point Judith, Rhode Island, which is in the development stage. Prototypes have been developed in Hawaii and New Jersey, and another project is ongoing in Washington state. Abroad, there is a prototype project in Australia. Larger projects are in operation in Great Britain and Portugal, and a project is under development in Denmark. All of these projects have generating capacity that is quite small relative to the capacity of conventional power plants.

CONNECTICUT'S EFFORTS TO PROMOTE RENEWABLE ENERGY

Clean Energy Fund

The Clean Energy Fund was established under PA 98-28. The fund receives 0. 3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh) sold in the state by electric companies and competitive suppliers. The fund supports a wide range of energy programs, encouraging growth in both renewable energy supply and demand. By law, Connecticut Innovations, Inc. (CII) must administer the fund with the assistance of an advisory committee consisting of state officials and private individuals knowledgeable about various aspects of renewable energy, environmental protection, and finance. CII can use the money in the fund to promote investment in renewable energy resources in accordance with a comprehensive plan it develops with the advisory committee's assistance. Renewable energy resources include solar energy, wind, ocean thermal energy, wave or tidal energy, fuel cells, landfill gas, certain biomass technologies, and new technologies that have significant potential for commercialization. The technologies cannot involve combustion of fossil fuels or garbage or the use of nuclear power.

The law gives CII broad discretion in allocating the fund, so long as the money is used to (1) foster the growth and commercialization of renewable energy resources and (2) stimulate the demand for renewable energy resources that serve customers in Connecticut. CII can provide grants, invest in businesses, and enter into contracts, or undertake other actions that support research, development, manufacturing, commercialization, deployment, and installation of renewable energy technologies.

Further information about the fund is available at http: //www. ctcleanenergy. com/. OLR Report 2006-R-0446 addresses several questions about the fund, including the types of projects it has funded and its history.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

Both the electric companies and competitive suppliers must obtain part of the power they procure for their customers from renewable resources under the RPS. They must get part of this power from class I resources such as solar or wind energy, some types of biomass, or fuel cells. They must obtain an additional proportion of their power from either class I or class II resources, which includes municipal solid waste and most types of biomass projects. Both proportions increase over time, totaling 10% by 2010. The law allows electric companies and suppliers to meet these requirements by participating in a renewable energy credit trading program. The credit is separate from the power itself and is traded on a separate market.

Other Initiatives

Net Metering. CGS 16-243h requires electric companies and competitive suppliers to provide a credit for the power produced by residential customers in one- to four-unit buildings who generate electricity from class I renewable resources. It requires electric companies to install metering equipment for such customers. The equipment must measure the amount of electricity the customer consumes, the amount he produces, and the difference between these amounts. The electric company or supplier must, in effect, pay the customer its retail rate for the power he produces.

Green Option. CGS 16-244c(d) requires electric companies to offer their customers a “green option” in which the proportion of power coming from renewable resources exceeds the RPS. As discussed in OLR Report 2006-R-0056, participating customers do not actually buy power directly from renewable generators. Instead, they indirectly buy RECs for half or all of their consumption, at a premium of approximately 0.6 cents/kwh and 1.1 cents per kwh, respectively.

Project 100. CGS 16-243c(j)(2) requires the electric companies to enter into long term contracts with renewable energy generators. The generators' projects (1) must have received funding from the Clean Energy Fund, (2) use class I renewable resources, and (3) be at least one megawatt in size (a megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts). The two electric companies must collectively enter into contracts for 100 megawatts of generating capacity. Further information about this program, which is administered by CII, is available at http://www.ctcleanenergy.com.

Executive Order 32. This order requires state agencies (including state universities) to purchase Class I renewable resources to meet 20% of their electric demand by 2010. The proportion goes up to 50% in 2020 and 100% in 2050. The Office of Policy and Management has hired a consultant to update state building load profiles to assist the state in carrying out this measure.

Municipal Electric Utilities. Legislation passed in 2005 requires municipal electric utilities to impose a one mill (one-tenth cent) per kwh charge to fund conservation or renewable energy programs. The charge will increase in five steps, rising to two and one half mills per kwh starting in 2011. The money raised by this charge goes into a fund administered by the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC), which uses it to pay for conservation programs operated by the individual utilities. CMEEC also purchases power and provides other services for these utilities, which are located in Groton, Jewett City, Norwalk, Norwich, and Wallingford.

WAVE ENERGY

Technologies

Wave energy is a form of solar energy, created when solar radiation creates differences in air pressure that in turn produces waves. Worldwide, the amount of energy released by waves breaking along coastlines is perhaps the equivalent to several thousand large power plants. In favorable locations, the energy density of waves can average 65 megawatts per mile of coastline (a typical conventional power plant provides 500 to 1,000 megawatts). The best sites for wave energy facilities are western coastlines of North America and Northern Europe.

A 2001 study found that the amount of energy contained in the waves off of southern New England is about one-half to one-third of the waves to the west of the British Isles. As a result, many wave energy devices that are being developed in Europe might not be economical off southern New England. On the other hand, wave energy is more concentrated in

southern New England than is solar energy. The study is available at http://www.nesea.org/buildings/images/S%20New%20Engl%20Wave%20Energy%20paper.pdf.

There are three major types of wave energy technologies. Floats or pitching devices generate electricity from the bobbing or pitching action of a floating object. The object can be mounted to a floating raft or to a device fixed on the ocean floor. The October 2005 volume of Popular Mechanics, has an illustrated article describing this technology, http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/1766936.html?page=4&c=y Oscillating water columns generate electricity from the wave-driven rise and fall of water in a cylindrical shaft. The rising and falling water column drives air into and out of the top of the shaft, powering an air-driven turbine. Wave surge or focusing devices, also called "tapered channel" systems, rely on a shore-mounted structure to channel and concentrate the waves, driving them into an elevated reservoir. Water flow out of this reservoir is used to generate electricity, using standard hydropower technologies.

While wave energy is renewable and nonpolluting, it does raise environmental and safety issues. These include:

1. disturbance or destruction of marine life, including changes in the distribution and types of marine life near the shore;

2. possible threat to navigation from collisions due to the low profile of the wave energy devices above the water, making them undetectable either by direct sighting or by radar;

3. interference with mooring and anchorage lines with commercial and sport-fishing; and

4. degradation of ocean front views by wave energy devices located near or on the shore, and from onshore overhead electric transmission lines.

Projects in Other States and Countries

The Clean Energy Fund is not aware of any proposals to develop wave energy projects in Connecticut waters. Staff at the Fund note that Long Island dissipates much of the wave energy coming from the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the amount of energy contained in the waves in Long Island Sound is substantially less than the energy contained in waves in the Atlantic.

Rhode Island. However, the Clean Energy Fund, together with its counterpart funds in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has invested in a project called GreenWave Rhode Island. This project, which was announced in the fall of 2004, will use an oscillating water column facility approximately one mile south of Point Judith, Rhode Island to generate up to 500 kilowatts, the amount of power used by about 300 households. In contrast, a 500 megawatt conventional power plant can serve 300,000 households.

The developer plans to transmit the facility produces to the mainland via a cable under the seabed. The developer has stated that the facility is planned as a not-for-profit operation intended to demonstrate the commercial viability of its wave energy technology. Research for the project is being conducted by the University of Rhode Island. Progress on the project was slowed as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reviewed whether it has jurisdiction. It determined that it does have jurisdiction, which will complicate the permitting process. Further information about this project is available at http://www.energetech.com.au/index.htm. The project is being built by Energetech, a firm that has built a similar facility in Australia that is discussed below.

Hawaii and New Jersey. In 2005, Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. deployed its 40-kilowatt PowerBuoy wave energy converters off the coasts of both Hawaii and New Jersey. The converters use pitching devices to generate power. The Hawaii project is located approximately 0.6 miles off the coast of Oahu, where the ocean depth is about 100 feet. The device was installed under contract with the U.S. Navy, and will be monitored in support of a proposed wave energy station. The New Jersey project was installed under a contract with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, in support of a proposed megawatt-scale wave energy plant. Further information about these projects is available at http://www.eere.energy.gov/states/state_news_detail.cfm/news_id=9551/state=NJ.

Washington. The Washington State University Energy Program is assisting AquaEnergy Group, a Washington state company, and its partners in a one-megawatt ocean wave demonstration project off the Pacific Coast. The project would be located in about 150 feet of water approximately three miles from the village of Neah Bay. The partners include the Makah Tribal Council, Clallam County Economic Development Center, Clallam County Public Utility District, and the state Public Utility Districts Association. The objectives of this project are to:

1. validate the adequacy of the design for anchoring buoys;

2. research the performance of mechanical principles of wave energy conversion in the ocean, including optimum materials, buoy hull structure, weight characteristics, and electrical components; and

3. simulate and validate numerical models describing the relationship between waves and power output

Further information about this project is available at http://www.energy.wsu.edu/projects/renewables/ocean.cfm. More detailed information can be found on FERC's website, www.ferc.gov, by searching under docket number DI 02-3-002.

Australia

Energetech has developed an oscillating water column wave energy conversion facility off of Port Kembla, New South Wales, which went into operation in August 2006. The facility will produce up to 500 kilowatts of power. The plant will also include a small desalination unit, which will produce nearly 2,000 liters of fresh drinkable water per day using just sea water and wave energy. This is first wave energy project in the world to incorporate this feature. Further information about the project is available at http://www.energetech.com.au/index.htm.

Denmark

The European Union is funding a wave energy project off of Denmark called Ocean Dragon. It has provided 2.4 million euros (approximately $3.1 million) for the period 2006 through 2009. A 20 kilowatt prototype is currently being developed, using a variation on the wave surge technology. Ultimately the developer will build a 4 to 7 megawatt facility. The project is being developed by a team from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and Great Britain. Information about this project is available at http://www.wavedragon.net.

Great Britain

There is currently a 0.75 megawatt wave energy facility at the European Marine Energy Centre off of Orkney Island (Scotland). The centre was established to provide developers of wave and tidal energy devices with a purpose-built performance testing facility. The four wave berths were completed in 2003 and the tidal berths in 2005. Further information about the centre is available at http://www.emec.org.uk/.

The wave energy facility at the centre uses an ocean power delivery Pelamis device, a variation of the pitching device. The facility consists of four cylindrical steel sections that are connected by three joints. The total length of the device is about 100 feet, and the cylinders are about 15 in diameter. The waves cause the joints to move. This motion is resisted by hydraulic rams that pump oil through hydraulic motors, which in turn drive generators to produce power.

Portugal

In early 2006, three Pelamis devices with a total installed capacity of 2.25 megawatts were delivered to Portugal under a $10 million contract. The devices will be the first phase of the world's first commercial wave energy farm. The wave farm will be located 5 kilometers (three miles) off the coast at Povoa de Varim. If the devices work as anticipated, the capacity of the wave farm will eventually be increased to 20 megawatts by the addition of 27 more devices. Further information about this project is available at http://www.engineerlive.com/european-process-engineer/renewables/14286/portugal-to-house-worlds-first-commercial-wave-farm.thtml.

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