Wave energy projects in California

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), one of the major US electrical utilities, applied for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit to study the feasibility of a wave energy facility to be constructed north of the Santa Barbara Bay in California.

As part of the WaveConnect™ program, PG&E is pursuing an ocean wave energy project to be located off the coast of California’s Santa Barbara County.

PG&E applied for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) preliminary permit on December 11, 2009, to study the feasibility of a wave energy project located within state waters near Point Arguello. If granted, the permit would give us up to three years to study the offshore environment to determine whether the location is appropriate for a wave energy facility.

PG&E has an agreement with Vandenberg Air Force Base to explore the feasibility of developing renewable energy for the area and is proposing to connect the wave energy project to the electric grid using existing facilities located at the base. This working partnership will help reduce potential impacts to nearby areas by eliminating the need for onshore infrastructure development on Santa Barbara County land and beaches.

Wave energy projects have been successfully developed and demonstrated around the world, including several in the U.S. The Central Coast WaveConnect™ will be PG&E’s second proposed wave energy facility in California.

PG&E has applied to the FERC for permission to conduct baseline environmental studies within an area approximately 16 miles long and up to three nautical miles wide off the coast of Santa Barbara County. A FERC preliminary permit allows studies leading to a license and does not authorize construction or disturbance of any land or property, or exclude other uses. If the FERC grants the permit and the studies indicate that it will be feasible to construct a project in this location, we will subsequently apply for a license from the FERC to construct the wave energy facility.

The plant should be built 3 miles off the coast of Point Arguello, a 16-mile long area that is parallel to the coast and that is fitting both because it suits the characteristics of wave energy and because it is not particularly attractive for tourists and is distant from natural areas.

Also, PG&E has recently signed an agreement with the local Vandenberg US Air Force base, which will allow it to freely conduct the study in the relevant area and to use the electrical infrastructure already existing in the base for possible future power grid connections.

After having obtained the permit, PG&E will be granted three years to conduct feasibility studies and to propose a detailed project on the technology to be adopted and the capacity, expected to reach 100 MW.

The Point Arguello project is included in the PG&E WaveConnect Program, launched by the Californian utility at the beginning of 2009. The latter foresees a second plant for the deployment of wave energy (40 MW), also in California, off the County of Humboldt.