WatchSonoma Watch

Sonoma County’s electricity-from-ocean-waves project canceled


An alternative energy project off the Sonoma County coast that local officials just two years ago hailed as a way to increase renewable energy sources has come to a quiet end.

Federal regulators have canceled permits issued to the Sonoma County Water Agency to explore generation of electricity from wave power at three coastal sites.

Now just one, so-called hydro-kinetic project remains under exploration on the state’s coast, according to commission documents, in San Diego County. That leaves the East Coast and Midwest in the apparent forefront of such efforts.

PG&E has suspended projects it began in Humboldt Bay and near Santa Barbara, citing high costs and permit problems.

Water Agency officials said they couldn’t get the $2 million to $3 million needed to study the sites off Fort Ross and near Sea Ranch, leading the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to rescind the permits it issued in 2009.

“It wasn’t a surprise. We fully expected it,” Cordel Stillman, the agency’s deputy chief engineer, said of the Thursday decision. “We were not able to secure the funds to even begin that preliminary work.”

Observers who had monitored the project, excited by its potential and also cautious about possible damage to marine life, said they were disappointed.

The commission’s decision was “somewhat shortsighted,” said Richard Charter, a prominent Bodega Bay environmentalist. “Wave energy off the Northern California coast appears to be an idea whose time has not yet come.”

The county’s acknowledgment that it had not found any funding convinced regulators that the project was not going anywhere, a commission spokeswoman said.

“You must progress to our satisfaction when you have a preliminary permit; otherwise, we have the option of canceling,” said Celeste Miller.

Nascent technologies to harness the ocean’s power need more “time for gestation but FERC is unable or unwilling to provide that time,” said Charter, co-chairman of the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition, which works on coastal ocean ecosystems issues.

The Water Agency earlier this year failed to win a federal Energy Department grant that would have allowed it to proceed, Stillman said.

The ability to investigate wave power’s promise under the aegis of a public agency was an advantage of the now-shelved project, environmentalists said.

“We would rather have a governmental agency, a county agency, involved rather than a corporation that might not be as responsive,” said Mike Frey of the Sonoma Coast Surfrider Foundation, which works on coastal and beach access issues.

Charter said, “Losing local control really brings the potential for some larger player who may not have the best interests of the Sonoma County coast at heart, to step in.”

County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, a Water Agency director, said that was unlikely because of the investment that would be required.

“One of the primary reasons for applying for these permits in the first place was to have some local control,” he said.

“But as time has passed, the risk has really become minimal because wave energy technology has not really gone to the next phase like we expected,” he said.

The Water Agency has 30 days to appeal the federal decision but is unlikely to do so, Carrillo said.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

17 Responses to “Sonoma County’s electricity-from-ocean-waves project canceled”

  1. Scott says:

    Thank you for canceling this ridiculous scheme. The US has an enormous supply of cheap clean fuel and our whacko leaders are trying develop wave power for 10x the cost. God they are brilliant. With our current proven reserves of Natural Gas….every car, truck and tractor in the US could be filling up for 200 years! Let’s tell our leaders to stop bankrupting us with ridiculous alternative power and start developing the cheap, clean gas right under our feet!

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  2. Fiscal Conservative says:

    You have a point.

    I guess we need to start somewhere. Yea shut them down.

    I’ll start making a list of departments and agencies to be shut down for the new leader of the free Republic. Actually it would be much easier to make a short list of the ones to be saved.

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  3. Skippy says:

    When they were the AEC(Atomic Energy Commission)they blew up lotsa stuff.
    I was referring to it since Carter created the DOE in response to his helplessness re: the Arab oil embargoes of the 1970′s.
    They regulate and restrict the production of energy, and recommend higher taxes.
    They produce zero energy, only inhibit its production.
    Shut ‘em down today.
    Our aging, shrinking inventory of jihad-busting H-bombs are now under the NRC and DOD umbrellas.

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  4. Fiscal Conservative says:

    Skippy, You and I usually agree and I enjoy your posts. I’m not 100% with you on this one.

    “they have been sucking down $billions since the 70′s (?) and have yet to produce on iota of energy?

    Actually, I’m thinking they have created the largest mass on energy since God himself created the earth.


    In my personal opinion, there needs to be less concern now about economics and more information needs to be acted upon. Otherwise we will have morons at flood control sticking windmills in the ocean floor creating more fubar.

    Certainly government is not the answer to a non-existing problem.

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  5. Skippy says:

    The Federal Department of Energy?
    That DOE?
    They have been sucking down billion$ since the ’70s, and have yet to produce an iota of energy.
    Let’s eliminate that Cabinet level Dept. first!
    Freeloading energy-production inhibitors all.

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  6. Fiscal Conservative says:

    This Ocean alternative energy project was key in keeping us alive!!!!!

    When Al gore heard he got so freaken upset he had a stroke. http://michellemalkin.com/2011/08/08/al-gores-bullst-rant-audio/

    Funny how the mainstream media did not publish NASA’a most recent study with the Advanced Microwave Scaning Radiometer on NASA’s Aqua Satilite.


    Climategate…if it’s not over, it will be soon. Good riddence!

    Now what will our local church of climatology do? I have an Idea! Muck out the plugged flood channels. That’s what we pay SCWA to do.

    Leave the alternative energy to the DOE that is what THEY are paid to do.

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  7. BigDogatPlay says:

    The sad part of the whole harness the power of the ocean idea is that putting things made out of metal, with bearings that have to be maintained, into sea water is somewhat of an exercise in futility. No one has as yet, to my understanding, solved for that little problem.

    Assuming that the NIMBYs along the coast would even stand for wind generators off shore, that is about the only option out there for “sustainable” power. The only option that is modestly efficient and can be done, anyway.

    Clean, sustainable and capable of large scale generation is hydro-electricity… but the greens won’t allow that either. For all the fighting that would be involved, we might as well go the full monty and open up the off shore to oil and gas exploration and production. That would at least bring thousands of jobs into the county that we all could use.

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  8. Christophersons says:

    OWN THE OCEAN, more graft and corruption at the water agency…

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  9. Steve Klausner says:

    The Water Agency has always been in the Federal grant writing business and they are good at. Who else could have talked the Army Corp of Engineers into putting Santa Rosa Creek underground so that the Federal Building and city headquarters could be built on top of it. Bet they even owned the land.

    Local flood control taxes have never paid for much more then brush cutting and ditch cleaning. Nearly all the flood control projects were paid for by the Army Corp of Engineers. Return on investment was never a consideration. The Petaluma River flood control project is a prime example. At the time it was conceived it would have been more cost effective to return the lands protected to wetland.

    The gravy train ended with the presidency of Ronald Regan. He put in new funding rules. The local beneficiaries of a project should pay 2/3rds of the cost. The Corp of Engineers went out of business. There were no projects that cold be justified.

    The Petaluma River project is the exception. Woolsey has be very adept at slipping in special appropriations to keep that project alive.

    But the Water Agency is a quick study. Having been largely responsible for the destruction of fish habitat they now seek out millions in federal grants to protect salmon. They were a lot better at the former, fish runs continue to decline but it still pays good. And they’re into lots of other “green” projects to that have nothing to do with flood control or water delivery.

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  10. Keeping Costs Under Control says:


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  11. Steve Klausner says:

    @Pearl Alquileres
    Increased drilling will not effect prices of gasoline unless it includes Nixon styled oil price controls on domestic oil. What you do think, the Oil Ayatollahs Texas and Alaska will sell a barrel of crude for one dime less then their brethren in the Middle East?

    Poor Obama, tried to relieve prices by releasing oil from the strategic reserve. An empty threat. There was no place to put it. Prices where spiking and an oil contango was in effect. Every oil tank and tanker was filled to the brim, hording for the futures market to catch match the spot market.

    That’s not to say that our Sonoma County Water Agency are not whores. They’re are not the salt water agency, nor the energy agency. I’ll post on them tomorrow.

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  12. Reality Check says:

    The above reads like Sonoma County was more interested in grant money than the project itself. That wave energy has so far proven to be uneconomic was beside the point, apparently.

    The perspective of county officials should be frightening to anyone respectful of taxpayer dollars.

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  13. NOTUTOO says:

    Wait, what? You mean sea powered generators aren’t going to do it for us? Well, at least we still have algae generators to produce eco fuel…Right?

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  14. Steveguy says:

    Salt water projects make zero sense. If it’s not corrosion it is build-up of sea growth. Both actually.

    Oh well,that was only MILLIONS down the green drain.

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  15. What We Need is More Regulation says:

    Hung on their own petard by federal regulations. What a surprise! Another fly by night scheme gone wrong.

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  16. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Just start drilling already! We have plenty of oil & gas right here in the United States if we would just put a muzzle on all the enviro-nazi do-gooders and start pumping AMERICAN fuel.

    SOMEDAY……. we’ll have a viable alternative. Until then we need to stop dreaming and face the reality of our current technological and financial limitations.

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  17. Bernardo Castro says:

    This is another one of those pipe dreams that will not be funded because the federal treasure chest is empty.

    Like the SMART train dream, the feds can’t fund these dreams or nightmares, depending on how you look at it as they have spent all of our tax money on Obama care, social programs and paying the wages and benefits of public sector employees for a year.

    It is back to the old windmill and solar panels for California energy. Hopefully the sun stays out for at least 20 a day and the wind blows constantly at 20 knots or we are going to be cold, dark and hungry here in California when our politicans go truly green.

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