Snohomish County Public Utility District’s forward-looking tidal energy research was strengthened this week by $10 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The funds will support a pilot project in which two OpenHydro turbines will be deployed in Admiralty Inlet west of Whidbey Island, Wash. The PUD is actively researching the renewable energy source to meet the needs of one of the fastest growing areas in the Pacific Northwest.
“This funding bolsters our efforts to operate and evaluate tidal energy technology in the Puget Sound in order to assess its technical, economic, and environmental feasibility,” said PUD Board of Commissioners President Toni Olson. “We’re excited to be leading the way in the research of this innovative energy source – another tool to help us and the nation combat climate change and attain energy independence. We greatly appreciate the support of members of the Northwest Congressional delegation to help us secure this funding.”
The funding for the PUD was the largest in the country, along with a project in Maine, designated by DOE for accelerating the development of marine and hydrokinetic technologies. The agency awarded a total of $37 million to projects around the country for generating clean, cost-competitive renewable electricity from the nation's oceans and free-flowing rivers and streams.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) has been a strong advocate for tidal energy, as evidenced by his leadership in funding for marine hydrokinetic programs at DOE.
“Oceans hold the potential to become an unlimited supply of baseload renewable energy,” said Rep. Inslee. “Critical research and development is being done right now to harness this energy in the Puget Sound. Snohomish PUD is truly a pioneer in pursuing this innovative technology, and I congratulate them for winning this hard-earned award today, which is a significant victory for Washington state and the future of renewable clean energy across the country.”
“To create jobs in Washington state we have to invest in ingenuity in Washington state,” said Senator Murray. “Snohomish PUD is on the cutting edge of clean energy research and development, such as marine and hydrokinetic power. I will continue to fight to ensure our state is leading the charge toward a clean energy economy.”
Sen. Patty Murray has also strongly supported the research and development of renewable energy in Washington state.
The PUD plans to install the tidal energy turbines in Admiralty Inlet as soon as 2012. It will work with OpenHydro to design, build and install the turbines. OpenHydro has operated similar devices in other parts of the world since 2006, including Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Tidal energy is a cost-effective resource that can be integrated into the electrical grid without requiring hundreds of miles of new transmission lines.
The PUD has actively studied several sites in the Puget Sound, which, if developed, could produce enough energy for tens of thousands of homes. The utility launched its research effort in 2007, working with several technical partners, including the University of Washington, the Electric Power Research Institute, the National Renewable Energy Lab and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Marine Sciences Laboratory.
The PUD also is proactively researching and securing other clean, renewable resources – such as geothermal, wind and solar – as part of its effort to meet growing energy needs through conservation and renewable energy. Initiative 937, passed by voters in fall 2006, requires utilities to obtain a greater share of their energy supply from green renewable sources in the coming years (15% of their supply by 2020).
For information about the PUD’s tidal energy research and development, visit our website area on tidal power.