Marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) power generation is an energy source with great potential to provide a portion of the nation’s ongoing energy needs. However, this technology is currently in its infancy from a deployment standpoint and introduces new challenges to regulators, from early-stage prototype testing through initial commercial deployments. Given the early stage of MHK development, many federal, state, and local regulators responsible for permitting these projects (as well as other stakeholders such as industry/developers, the fishing community, and environmental groups) are not as familiar with the technologies and their potential environmental impacts as they are with existing offshore structures or onshore energy. To allow appropriate technical development, in-water testing is currently being conducted for single devices and small arrays at test centers or early development sites. Eventually the technology will evolve into larger, commercial-scale arrays of MHK devices. The applicability of the science and technical information gathered at small-scale installations to larger commercial installations is uncertain, but technologies will evolve and environmental impacts will be better understood through single device and test centers/small-scale arrays experience before fully commercial, cost-competitive devices are available.
To help address the knowledge and experience gap and increase the number of early MHK device deployments, beginning in FY14, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funded efforts to develop and implement technology- and application-focused workshops on MHK systems. The workshops engaged resource managers and other decision makers at key regulatory organizations, providing a review of current research and facilitating discussions with leading national and international experts on environmental topics such as possible and observed physical interactions with MHK devices, environmental effects on marine ecosystems, ongoing and needed research, and identifying ways to apply lessons learned from other renewable energy industries into the regulation of MHK systems. The workshops also allowed participants to discuss evolving “best practice” approaches to measurement and monitoring, as well as the application of risk-based approaches for baseline characterization and monitoring. Workshops in the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C., were hosted in late FY14 and mid-FY15, and efforts to summarize the discussions and knowledge gained were finalized in FY16. This document summarizes the workshop held in Washington, D.C.