Thursday, October 12, 2006

Harnessing Long Island Sound's Tides to Create Electricity

A company called Natural Currents Energy Services wants to use a 136-square-mile area of Long Island Sound, near Orient Point, for a tidal energy project, and another firm, Verdant Power, is hoping to put in similar projects near Fishers Island and Plum Gut. Verdant also has a proposal for the East River.

Both companies are seeking permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to Newsday (although I couldn’t turn anything up in a quick online check this morning).

Underwater turbines supposedly turn slowly enough so that they’re not a danger to fish, which distinguishes them from wind turbines, which whip around at speeds that can chop up birds. Newsday quotes an executive of one of the companies as saying the turbines would be 30-feet underwater and thus not a hazard to navigation. My recollection is that the currents in the area of the Race and Plum Gut are about six knots.

11:35 a.m. update ... Bryan Brown did the research for me and found the FERC docket numbers: FERC Docket # P-12738 for Verdant, Docket # P-12738 for Natural Currents. See his comment to this post for more.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom,
Thanks for the heads-up on these other projects. To help you out, I queried the FERC website and found that Verdant has an application under Orient Point Tidal Energy (FERC Docket # P-12738). The docket for Natural Currents is P-12738. I also found a filing from the Oceans Public Trust Initiative putting FERC on notice that the Oceana Energy Company has applications for 12 of the 14 projects under review by FERC (I think they submitted their letter before Natural Currents filed). Verdant is not one of the 12. OPTI is concerned that these 12 projects, which are scattered around the country, are an attempt by Oceana Energy to "corner the tidal energy market...." OPTI is also concerned that these projects are being considered in the absence of a "national tidal energy program...."

OPTI makes a good argument that speculators may be on the loose.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Emmett Pepper said...

"Underwater turbines supposedly turn slowly enough so that they’re not a danger to fish, which distinguishes them from wind turbines, which whip around at speeds that can chop up birds."

I am hoping that this is an attempt at being sarcastic. Modern wind turbines are set up rotate at a measured pace. That said, since the blades are long, the tip can move at speeds up to 150 mph. It certainly could hurt a bird, but the statistics show that turbines do not kill any more birds than other large structures and nowhere near as many as are killed by cats. In any case, modern wind turbines definitely do not move so fast as to be able to "chop up" anything, which conjures up a cartoonish image of a carrot being sliced up by throwing it through an airplane propeller.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I have to agree, Emmett. Most bird strikes are during high winds when the birds are migrating or flocking - they sometimes run into buildings, high tension power towers, bridges, etc. A wind turbine should be no different from that concept. But still, the "salad shooter" motif was hilarious!

AS to submerged water turbines, I think that they should be studied a little more before granting wholesale projects of large scales of magnitude. Not being an expert in aquatic biology or oceanography, here are a few possibilities:

* The turbines could generate frequencies (bearings, mechanical noise, blade tip vibrations, etc.) that could disorient whales, porpoises, seals, and other animals

* The turbines will create a restricted area where no anchoring is allowed - indeed, they may have to actually lease the submerged lands from the government

* the areas to be developed are located in prime feeding areas for the Striper and Bluefish; not known is the effect of these turbines on baitfish and predatory feeding habits

* the turbines may generate magnetic fields and "leak" some elecricity - I have no idea if this is a legitimate comment or not

Sorry, I have more questions and concerns than answers. /Sam

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blue Energy is doing this off the coast of British Columbia, it will be interesting to see how the Department of Fisheries reacts to the project. Spinning blades in the ocean cannot be good for the fish, I sure hope whomever does the reports obtains real data for the sake of the fish, this may become a big issue in British Columbia or a "Big Fissue."

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is wrong what about the sea creatures that are not fish and cannot avoid this for instance jellyfish.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I think this could be an interesting idea. I spent half of my life on Long Island (Near Orient Point actually) and I'm doing a report for class on tidal turbines. If what they say about the speeds of the turbines are true, I don't think they're too dangerous towards the fish population. The problem though may be, if a species of fish is dieing out because of the turbines- will we be able to remove them without a lasting effect on the ecosystem there? Can they remove them at all without a huge amount of money and waste accumulated at the end? Probably not. But, interesting idea nontheless (I wonder if that's the correct spelling...) And Anonymous, the jellyfish will survive my friend.

10:14 PM  

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