Puget Sound Tidal Energy Project Challenged

Aug 14, 2012

The Washington coast is home to some of the strongest tidal currents in the country. Some want to harness those tides for power. Ashley Ahearn reports a proposed tidal power facility in Puget Sound is running into some trouble.

The Snohomish Public Utility District has been working on putting turbines on the bottom of Puget Sound for more than 6 years now.

They’ve chosen Admiralty Inlet, near Whidbey Island, as the best spot to install two turbines. This is a pilot project that will generate enough power for about 250 homes. But one company could stand in the way.

Pacific Crossing is a Japanese company that owns an underwater fiberoptic cable that connects the US to Asia. At a meeting last week with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission the company said installing the turbines on the seafloor could damage their cable. Pacific Crossing did not respond to interview requests.

Craig Collar handles Energy Resource Development for the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

He says OpenHydro - the company that will install the turbines for the Utility - is good at what they do, and they’ve done it all over the world.

Collar: “The fact is that OpenHydro has deployed three of these turbines now – in tidal regimes more challenging than Admiralty Inlet even, including the Bay of Fundy and the Orkney islands, and in every case they’ve deployed the turbines within plus or minus 3 meters of their target.”

The turbines would be installed more than 100 meters away from Pacific Crossing’s cable. A final permitting decision on the tidal project is expected this fall.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio