Tidal power is coming to NJ. On Dec. 17, 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a preliminary permit to Natural Currents Energy Services (NCES). The company proposes to install two in stream tidal turbines, in the Manasquan River, to generate approximately 150,000 to 300,000 KW hours of electricity per year. The electricity would be used to power the Kingsbridge Marina and Kingsbridge Financial Groups buildings in Point Pleasant, NJ. NCES notes that any excess would be sold back to the grid per NJ’s net metering laws.
The preliminary permit is the first step in a multistep process before permission is granted to install and operate the turbines. The issuance of a preliminary permit only allows NCES to the study the environmental impacts of the proposed project and will provide priority for NCES’ application for permits to install and operate the project. The preliminary permit does not allow NCES to actual install the turbines and operate them. Once the studies are complete than an applicant to apply for a FERC license.
NCES is proposing to study the site’s geology, navigation and local marine ecology during the preliminary permit period. The study will look at the proposed project’s impact on fish and marine animals between January to December 2009. For example, NCES is proposing to study the impact of fish passing through the turbines between May and August 2009. As part of the permit application process various Federal and State agency filed comments to the application. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the proposed project location is habitat for eighteen federally managed species. Some of these species are: winter flounder, windowpane, Atlantic butterfish, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, alewife and blueback herring. NMFS is concerned that the proposed studies are not designed to give adequate data on the impacts of the turbines on the fish populations as it is scheduled for times where some fish are not present. Therefore, NMFS is suggesting the studies continue for a full year.
Now that the permit has been issued, NCES has 45 days to submit a schedule. They must also submit reports every six months on the project. Hopefully, FERC and the other interested agencies insure that the applicant crafts the studies to be meaningful and not merely to minimize any possible negative results. Once all the data is collected then during the licensing process it can be determined whether tidal turbines make sense for this location.
If the site is appropriate it will help NJ meet its class 1 renewable goals of 22.5%. Wave and tidal generators are classified as Class 1 renewable energy. It is interesting that while this permit had been filed during NJ’s energy master plan process, there is barely any mention of wave or tidal energy as part of the recently issued EMP. What role should tidal power have or can have in NJ? Also, should NJ encourage these kind of projects in the State and if so how?