The U.S. Department of Energy has announced it will fund $600,000 for a study of aquatic species in Admiralty Inlet, Wash., to help determine potential effects of tidal energy turbines on aquatic life in the Puget Sound. The study, part of a multi-year tidal energy research effort by Snohomish County Public Utility District, will be supported by the University of Washington, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Sea Mammal Research Unit. The PUD is one of the country’s leaders in tidal energy research and development.
“The marine renewable award to Snohomish County PUD that was announced today is further proof of our nation’s commitment to clean, renewable energy, to clean jobs, and to protection of the environment,” said U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee. "The grant will allow Snohomish County PUD and the Pacific Northwest to become world leaders in state-of-the-art marine renewable technology.”
“Washington state is well positioned to lead the way in hydropower technology and these awards will help our state remain on the cutting edge of this growing industry,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray. “This funding will create good jobs in Washington state, provide a boost to the economy, and will help our environment by reducing harmful greenhouse emissions.”
“This is great news for the Snohomish County PUD, as well as the entire state of Washington,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said. “Our state has been a leader in the emerging clean-energy economy, and this funding ensures we maintain that leading edge. I am delighted that Washington state is taking yet another step to reduce our need for foreign oil, while creating good jobs in our communities.”
The study will help determine the types of aquatic species present in the tidal project area and how they’re using the habitat, just west of Whidbey Island, Wash. It will measure baseline levels of background noise, the acoustic footprint of tidal turbines and the potential effects acoustic signals have on aquatic organisms. Acoustic simulations will be conducted in the Puget Sound, followed by a series of laboratory studies.
“We applaud the Department of Energy for funding this critical study in Puget Sound, and acknowledge the continued support from the Northwest Congressional delegation and Governor Gregoire to advance renewable energy sources,” said PUD General Manager Steve Klein. “Tidal energy and other new technologies help reduce our country’s dependence on fossil fuels, create green jobs for the Northwest and keep us competitive in the world race to research and develop renewable energy.”
“The study data will be useful not just for tidal energy, but also for better understanding how fish and marine mammals use Admiralty Inlet," said Brian Polagye, research assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Washington. "We will be investigating the acoustic footprint of the tidal energy pilot project, which is an important environmental consideration for this site.”
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. It plans to install a pilot project in the sound as early as 2011.
With the announcement of the DOE grant, the PUD has now received $2.5 million in federal funding to support its tidal energy research in Puget Sound.
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.