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Licence issued for US’s first tidal power project

Tidal electricity comes to US as New York project receives pilot licence

The project is happening in the East River off Roosevelt Island, New York City
The tidal project is taking place in the East River off Roosevelt Island, New York City

The US’s first tidal project is underway after a pilot project licence has been issued. It gives the country its first commercial licence for tidal power. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued its first pilot project licence for the tidal energy project in New York City’s East River.

The project, owned by US marine technology firm Verdant Power, and known as the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project, is 1,050KW and uses the East River’s natural tidal currents to generate electricity. Turbine generator units are mounted on the riverbed and capture energy from the tidal flow.

The pilot licence issued to Verdant Power is for ten years. The company plans to develop a 1MW pilot project in the east channel of the East River comprised of up to 30 commercial class Generation 5 free flow system turbines, which would be installed in a staged approach.

Jon Wellinghoff, FERC chairman, said: “Issuing a pilot licence for an innovative technology is a major step in the effort to help our country meet our renewable energy goals. FERC’s pilot process is doing what it should: allow for exploration of new renewable technologies while protecting the environment.”

FERC developed the pilot licence process in 2008 to allow developers to test new hydrokinetic technologies, to determine appropriate sites for these technologies and to confirm the technologies’ environmental effects without compromising FERC’s oversight.

Projects eligible for a pilot licence must follow six rules. These are that they must be small, short term, located in an environmentally non-sensitive area, removable and able to be shut down on short notice. They must also be removed, with the site restored, before the end of the licence term unless the licensee obtains a new licence, and is initiated by a draft application with appropriate environmental analysis.

FERC has seen rising interest in the possibility of developing hydrokinetic projects. The commission has issued 100 preliminary permits to study the feasibility of developing a specific project. Another nine entities are in the pre-filing stages of developing licence applications, and three entities have filed license applications.