Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) today served as one of the key witnesses speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, which is exploring the huge potential for harnessing energy from waves, tidal flows, and ocean and river currents. The PUD plans to deploy a tidal energy pilot plant in the Puget Sound as early as 2011.
Craig Collar, the PUD’s Senior Manager for Energy Resource Development, shared information about the utility’s tidal energy research efforts at five sites in the Puget Sound. The PUD has emerged as one of the nation’s leaders in the research and development of this green energy resource. It has secured more than $2.5 million for its research efforts from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Bonneville Power Administration and other federal appropriations.
“We believe that tidal energy has the potential to contribute significantly as part of a richly diversified clean energy portfolio,” said Collar. “As we assess the technical, economic and environmental viability of ocean energy generation, the most effective means to gather data is through the responsible deployment, testing and monitoring of utility-scale ocean energy devices. Successful tidal energy demonstration projects in the Puget Sound may enable significant commercial development, resulting in important benefits for the Pacific Northwest and the country as we look to increase our use of clean, renewable energy resources.”
During today’s hearing, Collar was joined by witnesses from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute, and two energy companies, Ecomerit Technologies, LLC and Natel Energy, Inc.
“The Department of Energy (DOE) believes that marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies have significant potential to contribute to the nation’s future supply of clean, cost-effective, renewable energy,” said Jacques Beaudry-Losique, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy for DOE. “As one of the most promising areas in the country for the development of tidal energy, the Puget Sound in Washington State is currently home to a number of projects being funded by the Department.”
Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) opened the subcommittee hearing, recognizing the PUD’s contributions to tidal energy research in Washington state.
“Studies have estimated that approximately 10 percent of U.S. national electricity demand may be met through energy generation from river in-stream sites, tidal in-stream sites and wave generation,” said Rep. Baird. “I am glad we have a representative of Snohomish here with us today so we can hear about this project (in Puget Sound) which is expected to begin operation as early as 2011.”
The PUD is studying five tidal energy sites in the Puget Sound, which, if developed, could produce enough energy for up to 70,000 homes. The utility launched a comprehensive study in 2007 to assess the technical, economic and environmental viability of the underwater sites.
The utility’s tidal studies have been bolstered through several technical partnerships, including with the University of Washington, the Electric Power Research Institute, the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Marine Sciences Laboratory. The utility also is partnering with several organizations on a DOE-funded study of killer whales, sea lions, harbor porpoises and other aquatic life in the Puget Sound. The research is being supported by work from the Sea Mammal Research Unit, Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School, the Whale Museum and the Orca Network.
The PUD has made a commitment to meeting future customer growth through conservation and a diverse mix of renewable energy sources. Tidal energy and other “backyard” resources help lower construction costs, create jobs in Snohomish County and reduce environmental impacts of long transmission lines. In addition to its tidal energy research, the PUD is actively researching the potential for geothermal energy in Western Washington. Its green energy portfolio also includes wind, solar, biomass, landfill gas and low-impact hydropower.