There’s gold in them there waves. Five months after California utility giant PG&E filed plans to develop two 40-megawatt wave farms off the Northern California coast, oil behemoth Chevron is hitting the water with its own wave energy project in the same patch of ocean, according to an application filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (Thanks to environmental reporter Frank Hartzell of the Mendocino Beacon for the tip.) Chevron (CVX) intends to initially deploy Scottish firm Ocean Power Delivery’s Pelamis wave generators off the small Mendocino County town of Fort Bragg. The wave farm will produce between two and 60 megawatts of green energy that Chevron plans to sell to PG&E (PCG) or other electricity providers. "The proposed project will be a new source of clean, renewable ocean energy to generate power for commercial and industrial purposes that currently consume natural gas or other combustible fuels," states the application filed by Chevron Renewable Energy, which is based in Houston of all places. "The proposed project is designed to displace electricity generated from a typical coal-fired generation resource, thereby avoiding the [greenhouse gas] emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere."
Chevron estimates its project would eliminate 308,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced by coal-fired power plants. California, of course, has virtually no such plants but it does import about 20 percent of its electricity from out-of-state coal-fired power stations. Under California’s global warming law, regulators have banned utilities from signing long-term contracts for such dirty electricity and that’s creating opportunities for renewable energy producers to fill the void.
Chevron’s move is a boon to Ocean Power Delivery, which has become one of the leading wave energy producers with projects in Portugal and the U.K. (Green Wombat happened to just finish editing a story on the company that will appear in the August issue of Business 2.0.) OPD’s Pelamis "sea snakes" float semi-submerged on the ocean. As waves move the long articulated cylinders, oil is pumped through motors that drive generators that produce electricity. Chevron expects each 600-foot, 13-foot diameter sea snake to generate about 1.4 megawatts of electricity. The company will also consider other wave energy technologies. It will spend up to $2 million over the next two years conducting field studies and an environmental impact assessment of the project, according to the application.