The PUD has been a national leader in the research and development of tidal energy. Its tidal energy project was the first deep-water tidal energy array licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC). The seven-year licensing process engaged local, state and federal regulatory agencies, environmental groups, the marine industry and others.
The PUD obtained its FERC license for the project in early 2014, along with all permits and bids from contractors and suppliers. However, after assessing detailed cost estimates and facing funding challenges, the PUD made the difficult decision to discontinue the project in late 2014.
The research has greatly enhanced the understanding of operating tidal energy turbines in a marine environment. Moreover, it has increased the collective knowledge of Puget Sound’s underwater environment and the species that inhabit it.
The success of the licensing effort was largely due to partnerships with the U.S. Department of Energy, University of Washington, Northwest National Marine Renewable energy Center and the Pacific Northwest National and Sandia Laboratories. All played critical roles in addressing the uncertainties around a technology that the regulatory community hasn’t considered.
While the tidal installation will not go forward, the work completed to date has provided considerable value and will continue to inform tidal energy researchers developing projects worldwide.
The PUD’s tidal energy research will continue to benefit the industry in a number of ways:
- Future tidal energy developers will benefit from the experience of regulators in local, state and federal agencies who now have firsthand knowledge of tidal technology.
- The work associated with the introduction of a brand new technology to agencies and stakeholders has increased the level of confidence in the Marine Hydrokinetic (MHK) Technology sector.
- Mitigation and Monitoring plans, designed to address agency and stakeholder concerns have been developed and shared with the industry for future use.
- Local marine industry consultants, contractors and operators in the Puget Sound have been introduced to the industry in meaningful ways, preparing them for future tidal energy projects.
- Several engineering and environmental studies were published, setting precedent for future tidal energy proposals.
- Using the PUD’s project as a platform, several research organizations will continue to develop systems that can be applied to MHK proposal around the world.