Wave and tidal energy popular on both sides of political fence

You don’t have to go far to find at least one argument for the proposal by U.S. senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to streamline the wave and tidal energy approval process.

Ocean Power Technologies has faced technology and financing challenges, but its stalled project off the Oregon coast – expected to have a power-generating device in the water last year, if not earlier, but now potentially delayed for several more years – has certainly been slowed by a hard regulatory row to hoe.

photo by Jan Smith

In introducing the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Act of 2013 (S. 1419), the senators said their intention was to encourage  private investment in wave and new tidal technologies by, in part, designating by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency to coordinate environmental reviews, while setting a goal of licensing pilot programs in one year or less.

Wyden is the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and Murkowski the ranking minority member, making this a rare show of bipartisan cooperation in Washington. Oregon is angling to be the leader in wave energy in the United States, seeing it as an avenue for jobs growth in addition to energy production. Alaska, with its extensive coastline, has its own designs.

“Seventy percent of the planet is covered with water, so the potential to generate clean, carbon-free electricity using marine and hydrokinetic energy is endless,”Murkowski said in a statement.

“Despite that potential, though, there are currently no commercial MHK projects operating in the United States. The legislation Sen. Wyden and I are introducing today aims to change that by helping commercialize MHK projects through robust research, development, and demonstration. There is already great interest in these technologies in Alaska, but it’s clear that advancing marine and hydrokinetic energy could be of immense benefit to the entire nation.”

In Oregon, the bill got an immediate warm reception.

“This legislation is exactly the type of forward thinking policy that will help move the ocean renewable energy industry forward in the United States,” Oregon Wave Energy Trust Executive Director Jason Busch said in a statement. “This legislation will facilitate and expedite the research and development of new forms of reliable ocean energy generation and the family wage jobs that come with this growing industry.”

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling