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$28 billion in wave energy projects proposed

A Seattle company has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permits to harness energy from waves off the coastline of six states.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Seattle company is hoping to convert the motion of the ocean into electricity.

Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for permits to harness energy from waves off the coastline of six states.

In all, the company would build seven harnessing sites — in federal waters off California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — each covering about 100 square miles.

Taken together, Grays Harbor said the $28 billion project would be the largest renewable energy project in the nation. The firm expects to pay for the project largely with private investment, but is also seeking federal help.

In a Dec. 3 letter to FERC officials, Grays Harbor president Burton Hamner said the company's plan would "help federal agencies develop effective agreements regarding management of ocean renewable energy projects."

However, the permits can expect to face a long, complex government approval process. FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller said Friday there is a 60-day public comment period on the proposals that began Nov. 28.

Though the Grays Harbor applications are for wave power only, the sites could also support wind turbines that would require additional government approval.

Already, wind turbines have been a topic of controversy in Massachusetts.

For several years, Cape Wind Associates has been trying to build a wind farm in Nantucket Sound, north of Nantucket. Critics say the proposed 130-turbine wind farm is an environmental hazard and will mar pristine views of Nantucket Sound. Supporters say it is one of the nation's most promising renewable energy projects.

Hamner said the Grays Harbor wind turbines, with tips reaching about 500 feet above the water, would be needed to make the projects economically viable.

The Massachusetts site would be 12 to 17 miles southeast of Nantucket Island, and the Rhode Island site is south of Block Island, a popular vacation destination.

The New York site would be east of Jones Island, about 12 to 25 miles offshore.

The Hawaii proposal calls for 100 wave-energy conversion platforms to be built 15 to 25 miles off Honolulu.

There are two California sites, one in the waters west of Ventura and the other 20-25 miles west of San Francisco.