Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Offshore Energy Controversy?

While pro and con forces dig in over the offshore drilling debate, new talk of alternative energy generation offshore could spark an entirely new public debate.

The prospect of wind and wave energy technology projects are being tossed around with greater frequency and that has the potential to generate concern and opposition from interests ranging from coastal residents to environmentalists to fishermen.

Already PG&E is moving ahead with a 40 MW wave energy project off of Fort Bragg, but a company project manager admits that wave energy technology is about as far along the development curve as wind power was 25 years ago. Still, the Electric Power Research Institute estimates that wave power could ultimately provide up to 15% of California's energy needs.

Floating wind turbines have been a source of controversy in other parts of the country and now an idea to park them off of Cape Mendecino promises a lively debate.

Regardless of the technology, any offshore project is going to require a transmission line to hook into the grid onshore and that will involve the full cadre of regulatory agencies that slugged it out over one of our favorite topics, the proposed offshore LNG terminals that were ultimately killed.

Just as with LNG, the parochial interests of local residents concerned over the aesthetics of any offshore project will find a voice through a host of legitimate protest channels so, from a process standpoint, these projects should be something of a donnybrook.