Maurice Hill, who works on the leasing program at MMS, said the agency is developing "a comprehensive approach" to offshore energy development. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar himself has been holding regional meetings and will visit San Francisco this week to talk shop as part of that process.
Hill said MMS and the U.S. Geological Survey will issue a report within 45 days on potential development and then go public with its leasing program.
"These next couple of months are really exciting times, especially on the OCS," he said.
Still, Hill acknowledged that the industry is in an early stage and said federal officials are approaching environmental effects especially with caution.
"We don't know how they'll work," he said. "We're testing at this stage."
'Highly energetic' West Coast waves
But if projects do lurch forward, the Electric Power Research Institute's Bedard said, the resource potential is off the charts. He believes it is possible to have 10 gigawatts of ocean wave energy online by 2025, and 3 gigawatts of river and ocean energy up in the same time frame.
The potential is greatest on the West Coast, Bedard said, where "highly energetic" waves pound the long coastline over thousands of miles. Alaska and California have the most to gain, he said, with Oregon, Washington and Hawaii not far behind.
To Feo, a key concern is the length of time MMS chooses to issue leases to developers. He said the typical MMS conditional lease time of two, three or five years won't work for ocean wave technology because entrepreneurs need longer-term commitments to build projects and show investors the industry is here to say.
"It just won't work" at two, three or five years, Feo said. "Sooner or later, you have to get beyond pilot projects."
Hill refused to answer questions about the length of the leases being considered by MMS.
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500