Obama Seeks Funding Cuts for Wave, Tidal Energy Research

May 31 - McClatchy Washington Bureau

The Obama administration has proposed a 25 percent cut in the
research and development budget for one of the most promising
> renewable energy sources in the Northwest - wave and tidal power.
> At the same time the White House sought an 82 percent increase in
> solar power research funding, a 36 percent increase in wind power
> funding and a 14 percent increase in geothermal funding, it sought to
> cut wave and tidal research funding from $40 million to $30 million.
> The decision to cut funding for tidal and wave power came only
> weeks after the Interior Department suggested that wave power could
> emerge as the leading offshore energy source in the Northwest and at a
> time when efforts to develop tidal power in Puget Sound are attracting
> national and international attention.
> By some estimates, wave and tidal power could eventually meet 10
> percent of the nation's electricity demand, about the same as
> hydropower currently delivers. Some experts have estimated that if
> only 0.2 percent of energy in ocean waves could be harnessed, the
> power produced would be enough to supply the entire world.
> In addition to Puget Sound and the Northwest coast, tidal and
> wave generators have been installed, planned or talked about in New
> York's East River, in Maine, Alaska, Hawaii and off Atlantic City,
> N.J. However, they would generate only small amounts of power.
> The Europeans are leaders when it comes to tidal and wave energy,
> with projects considered, planned or installed in Spain, Portugal,
> Scotland, Ireland and Norway. There have also been discussions about
> projects in South Korea, the Philippines, India and Canada's Maritime
> provinces.
> The proposed cut, parts of the president's budget submitted to
> Congress, has disappointed Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
> "Wave and tidal power holds great promise in helping to meet
> America's long-term energy needs," Murray said, adding that Washington
> state is a leader in its development. "It's time for the Department of
> Energy to focus on this potential. But playing budget games won't get
> the work done."
> In addition to cutting funds in its budget proposal, Murray's
> staff said that while $16.8 billion in the recently passed stimulus
> bill is reserved for renewable energy and energy efficiency, none of
> it is earmarked for wave and tidal power.
> Energy Department spokesman Tom Welch, however, said the Obama
> administration is asking for 10 times more for tidal and wave power
> than the Bush administration did.
> "The trend line is up," Welch said. "The department is
> collaborating with industry, regulators and other stakeholders to
> develop water resources, including conventional hydro."
> Murray sees it differently. Congress appropriated $40 million for
> the current year, so the Obama administration proposal actually would
> cut funding by a fourth.
> Utility officials involved in developing tidal energy sources
> said the administration's approach was shortsighted.
> "We need all the tools in the tool belt," said Steve Klein,
> general manager of the Snohomish County, Wash., Public Utility
> District. "It's dangerous to anoint certain sources and ignore
> others."
> The Snohomish PUD could have a pilot plant using three tidal
> generators installed on a seabed in Puget Sound in 2011. The tidal
> generators, built by an Irish company, are 50 feet tall and can spin
> either way depending on the direction of the tides. The units will be
> submerged, with 80 feet of clearance from their tops to the water's
> surface.
> They'll be
> placed outside of shipping channels and ferry routes.
> The pilot plant is expected to produce one megawatt of
> electricity, or enough to power about 700 homes. If the pilot plant
> proves successful, the utility would consider installing a project
> that powered 10,000 homes.
> "A lot of people are watching us," Klein said.
> The Navy, under pressure from Congress to generate 25 percent of
> its power from renewable sources by 2025, will install a pilot tidal
> generating project in Puget Sound near Port Townsend, Wash., next
> year.
> In Washington state, law requires that the larger utilities
> obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
> The law sets up interim targets of 3 percent by 2012 and 9 percent by
> 2016.
> Most of the attention so far has focused on developing large wind
> farms east of the Cascade Mountains. Because wind blows
> intermittently, however, the region also needs a more reliable source
> of alternative energy.
> Tidal and wave fit that need. Also, at least with tidal, the
> generators would be closer to population centers than the wind
> turbines in eastern Washington.
> "The potential is significant and (tidal and wave) could
> accomplish a large fraction of the renewable energy portfolio for the
> state," said Charles Brandt, director of the Pacific Northwest
> National Laboratory's marine sciences lab in Sequim, Wash.
> ___
> The Snohomish County Public Utility District's tidal power Web
> page: