Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Big wave, wind generators proposed for Penguin Bank, Kaiwi Channel

A Seattle company has proposed a series of wave and wind energy generators in and south of the Molokai -to-O'ahu Kaiwi Channel.

The wave generators would sit on the broad shallows called Penguin Bank, which extend into the Kaiwi Channel and to the southwest of western Molokai. It is an area with strong tidal flow. There are no images of what the units would look like in the application to date.

(Image: NOAA chart annotated by author, with very approximate locations of the various features. Canoe paddlers and others take widely different routes from Molokai to O'ahu, depending on conditions. Grays Harbor has not indicated where within Penguin Bank it would place its pilot generators.)

Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission an application for permits for its Hawaii Ocean Energy Project. It is one of several permit requests Grays Harbor has filed, for similar projects in New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, New York, and Rhode Island. All were filed on the same day, October 22, 2008.

Life of the Land has filed an application to intervene in the permitting, noting that “this is the first application for a large scale ocean energy system in Hawai'i and will establish policy and set the tone for this and future ocean energy proposals.”

Grays Harbor proposes 100 wave energy conversion structures at maximum capacity of one megawatt each, for a total maximum production of 100 megawatts. That's the goal, but for now, the firm wants a pilot project to install just two of the 1-megawatt generators for testing.

It also says that wind generators could be built atop the wave energy structures.

The firm says in its application that the project would create utility-scale renewable energy from offshore wave energy, would enable testing of new wave energy technologies, would create jobs and would improve fishing “because the supporting platforms become artificial reefs.”

Of Penguin Bank, the company says this:

“The Penguin Bank is the eroded summit of a sunken volcano, now a broad submarine shelf off Molokai Island with depths of 12-180 feet. It is capped with sand and fossil corals. The Bank is generally too deep for most live corals and is a relatively barren habitat compared to shallower waters nearby. The base rock is lava of the same kind that forms Molokai Island. Strong tidal currents are reported at the edges of the bank around the 100 fathom (600 feet) line and across the bank.”
The region is actively fished, is used for several kinds of sporting activities, including canoe, kayak and paddleboard races, and is part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

The developer says the “proposed technology of fixed structures cannot entangle whales in cables or lines.” The project's wave energy units could be, but would not necessarily be in the path of the sporting events. Much of Penguin Bank lies well south of the routes most paddlers take.
The project would use an undersea cable to carry power to O'ahu.

The Hawai'i application says “the site proposed has been chosen with highly detailed information regarding its actual power potential and suitability for existing technology. The specific vendors for the major technologies and systems have already been selected. The site proposed therefore is not speculative. It is the best place for the only technology package we believe will work in that region.”

Life of the Land's Henry Curtis, in the organization's request to intervene, did not take a position on the project, but said it would have impacts that need to be considered.

“Life of the Land's members are concerned about energy issues, ocean issues, environmental issues, cultural issues, endangered species and increasing transparency of complex governmental procedures...All energy projects have both positive and negative impacts, and each individual proposal needs to be evaluated on its particular unique facts....The Penguin Banks is an area noted for deep ocean fishing. Penguin Banks also has cultural significance to the native Hawaiian community,” Curtis wrote.

For more details on the application, see the FERC website at http://www.ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/indus-act/hydrokinetics/permits-pending.asp#2008.

© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate

1 comment:

Larry said...

The company's documents show a wave generator, but their website has pictures of a Chinese-made wind turbine that would be put atop the structure.

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