Developing Clean Energy Resources Offshore
The latest innovations in clean energy resources have turned their attention offshore – from wind turbines miles off the coast of Hawaii to energy powered by an ocean’s wave – find out how the world is focusing their efforts on valuable sources of clean energy innovations seaward.
Cape Wind Project: Massachusetts
Massachusetts has long been recognized as the “Whaling” State for its efficient use of whale oil as a source of fuel. But it is the 21st century after all, and their attention has turned toward green technologies, and most explicitly, the offshore wind installation at Cape Wind. The New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal will house the nation’s first facility to support offshore wind turbine delivery, assembly and installation, and will feature technologies similar to those found in European offshore wind sites.
The Cape Wind project was partially approved in November when the Department of Public Utilities moved forward with the 15 year power purchase agreement plan with National Grid. That approval will continue to push the construction of Cape Wind’s project, eventually installing 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound via the experience from more than 800 offshore wind turbines already in place in Europe.
“Approval of this contract between Cape Wind and National Grid is a major milestone toward ensuring that the nation’s first offshore wind project will rise off the Massachusetts coast, and that the Commonwealth will gain the benefits in jobs and economic development that come with being the hub of offshore wind in the United States. By determining, through an extensive adjudicatory review, that the contract is cost-effective and in the public interest, this approval also paves the way for the state’s other utilities and power suppliers to purchase the rest of Cape Wind’s power,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.
Once fully approved, at least 18 months of development will include project phases for the construction of turbine manufacturing, upland cable, offshore electric cabling and park construction. NSTAR is the proposed location for the land based facility where the electric grid will be connected. This stage in the process uses a traditional electrical cable production route, but will continue for the offshore production of “hydro-plowing,” a process where engineers plant cables six feet below the ocean’s surface. Each specific turbine is constructed on a monopole foundation following extensive research, and will use the experienced offshore equipment and construction techniques from previous offshore wind farms abroad.
Ocean Power Technologies: Marine Corps Base Hawaii
An ocean’s wave is a powerful thing – not only does it propel surfers and body boarders sideways, backwards and upside down – but it can also create electricity. At least, that’s what Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) is trying to prove. In 1997 the team at OPT began implementing ocean trials off the coast of New Jersey using a floating buoy to capture a wave’s energy. The mechanical stroking caused by each wave movement drives an electrical generator, with the electricity that is generated being transmitted on shore through an underwater power cable. When assembled into a wave farm of multiple PowerBuoys, a 10-megawatt power station would occupy only approximately 30 acres of ocean space.
In 2003 following listing on the London Stock Exchange, the company turned its attention toward Spanish waters and future work in the UK. Yet 2010 marked its biggest year, when OPT completed the first ever grid connection of a wave energy device in the United States. The development, which was completed at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, indicated that OPT’s PowerBuoy system can comply with national and international standards for renewable energy sources.
The utility PowerBuoy technology converts ocean wave energy into electrical power for grid-connected applications; used specifically in the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii, it has a 40kW output. Currently the location of the PowerBuoy, which was deployed in December 2009, is three quarters of a mile off the coast in Oahu and in water 100 feet deep.
Through independent research, OPT’s technologies were approved under national and international standards including UL1741 and IEEE1547, in addition to the National Environmental Policy Act, which gave an FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) result.
“OPT has been ocean-testing its technology in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for several years,” said Charles F. Dunleavy, Chief Executive Officer. “Our engineers and marine operations personnel have worked hard to bring about this success. Grid connection is another significant milestone in demonstrating the potential for commercial status of our PowerBuoy technology. We thank the Navy and the Naval Facilities group for supporting this project as we move nearer to achieving their goals for the program. We are pleased to be a part of the renewable energy initiatives undertaken by the commander of Marine Corps Base Hawaii.”
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.