Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) approved a pilot license for Snohomish County PUD to install two OpenHydro tidal turbines in Admiralty Inlet, WA. This project is the first grid-connected two-turbine project in the US; installation is planned for the summer of 2015. The OpenHydro tidal turbines that Snohomish County PUD will use are designed to be placed directly into the seafloor at a depth of roughly 200 feet, so that there will be no effect on commercial navigation overhead. The license granted by the FERC also includes plans to protect fish, wildlife, as well as cultural and aesthetic resources, in addition to navigation. Each turbine measures 6 meters in diameter, and will generate up to 300kW of electricity.
The project began in 2007, when FERC gave Snohomish PUD a preliminary permit to study multiple locations around Puget Sound for feasibility of tidal energy production. By 2010, the potential project sites had been narrowed down to a site in Admiralty Inlet and in Deception Pass, and in 2012, Snohomish PUD filed an application for a pilot license for the Admiralty Inlet site.
The implementation of this project will provide researchers and regulators with valuable information on how these devices interact with the surrounding marine environment, insight into the operation and generation potential of the turbines and associated equipment, and will help elucidate the underlying permitting process required to install tidal energy projects in US waters. The Admiralty Inlet tidal project will also support Washington State’s Initiative-937 goal, which requires 15% of electricity in the state to come from renewable resources such as solar, wind, and marine energy, by 2020. Washington is one of 29 states that have passed mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standards such as these.