Current to Current
Equity investment in a company that will develop and deploy a series of Submersible Power Generators (SPGs) to generate electricity utilizing the flow of ocean and/or tidal currents. The electricity generated is transmitted to shore via cable.
Environmental Classification and Issues: This is a category III project according to the IIC’s environmental review procedure because specific impacts may result which can be avoided or mitigated by adhering to generally recognized performance standards, guidelines and design criteria. The main environmental and labor issues associated with this project are related to ocean currents, water quality, marine mammals, seafloor habitats, fisheries, and recreational use of offshore locations.
Background: The submersible power generator (SPG) is considered an innovative renewable energy source designed for low impact from an environmental perspective. Given that the project will likely result in carbon emission reductions related to the use of fossil fuels in a variety of countries, Current to Current plans to file for the Clean Development Mechanism project (CDM) status to be able to generate carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol.
The US Department of Interior, Minerals Management Service (MMS) Division in March 2007 released a draft of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for off shore renewable energy solutions, which includes information on projected environmental impacts and mitigation measures related to ocean current technology. However, as specific sites are selected for the SPGs, Current to Current will develop Environmental Impact Assessments and Environmental Management Plans that are site specific for each proposed location.
Air Quality: Given that this is a renewable energy project that does not rely on fossil fuels, but rather on ocean currents to produce energy, the project is likely to result in an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as it is anticipated to displace other energy sources that have significantly higher air emissions. Potential air quality impacts during technical testing, site characterization, and operation phases would be minor. The greatest potential impacts among the project activities will be from fugitive dust emissions from earth moving activities and vehicle traffic during construction and decommissioning phases related to onshore site preparation activities, which would be of a short duration and relatively easy to minimize.
Ocean Currents: Reductions in wave height and current energy derived from interception with associated structures are expected to be small and localized, with the impacts rapidly dissipating within a few miles of the facility. Nevertheless, the potential impacts and associated uncertainties related to the extraction of ocean current energy and how it could affect water temperature and other near shore waters, as well as weather patterns, will be quantified in the site-specific Environmental Impact Assessments to be developed, such that appropriate mitigation measures can be implemented.
Water Quality: The nature of water quality impacts during the site characterization and construction phase are anticipated to be negligible or minor, and may be related to temporary disturbance of the seafloor with movement of sediment into the water column and/or the potential release of leaking hydraulic oils from a vessel. Potential leaks or chemical spills will be minimized by following good maintenance and housekeeping procedures and by developing oil spill response plans. Once the SPGs are in place, they will have little direct water quality impact, as no wastewater discharges are anticipated.
Visual Pollution: As the SPGs will be located 75 to 200 meters below sea surface during operation, there will be no visual pollution.
Noise: The SPG is planned to be acoustically quiet and is not expected to create decibel levels that would pose a risk to whales or other marine mammals. The impeller system rotates at low RPMs.
Hazardous Materials and Waste Management: No hazardous materials will be stored at the offshore facility. The turbines are designed to operate with the use of seawater, rather than with materials such as hydraulic fluids. Construction of the SPGs will require the use of vessels to transport personnel, supplies, and materials to and from its offshore site. These vessels will be required to manage their waste appropriately, including their bilge and ballast waters, garbage (trash and debris), domestic wastes, and sanitary wastes.
Marine Life and Marine Mammals: The SPGs will be located in deepwater (75 meters – 200 meters), below the first plankton layer where 80% -90% of marine life exists. Horizontal axis turbine blade rotors have diameters that will be of sufficient size to allow many marine mammal species, including young of the larger whale species, to pass through. In addition, the slow blade velocities should allow water and fish to flow freely and safely through the structure. Mitigation measures that will be implemented to reduce the likelihood of adverse effects on marine mammals include: conducting surveys and consulting with appropriate resource management agencies to carefully select the location of the SPGs, avoiding locating the turbines near areas known for congregation, mating or feeding areas, as well as the potential use of protective fences and sonar-activated brakes that could prevent larger marine mammals from harm.
Marine and Coastal Birds/Terrestrial Biota: The factors that could affect marine and coastal birds are related to noise by cable trenching and construction and noise from vessel traffic. Surveys will be conducted of coastal and offshore areas to locate facilities in areas where there is not an abundance of birds. Noise generating activities (such as cable trenching) will also be avoided during periods of time when marine and coastal birds are nesting in the area. The potential impacts on terrestrial biota are negligible to minor, as most of the project related activities would occur in offshore waters. Mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts on sea turtles will be implemented, such as avoiding locating onshore facilities in known nesting beaches or coastal foraging and developmental habitats, among others.
Seafloor Habitats: More detailed analyses of potential impacts to seafloor habitats will be conducted as part of site-specific evaluations for proposed projects. Mitigation measures will be developed and implemented to avoid locating facilities near known sensitive seafloor habitats, such as coral reefs. Seafloor disturbance will also be minimized during anchoring of units and during installation of underwater cables. The company will work with each country to utilize existing substations for cabling interconnection on shore.
Fisheries and Recreational Use: The SPGs and cables will be located in areas that are not near sensitive fish habitats or high-use fishing areas. As the SPGs will operate in deepwater (75 meters - 200 meters), they are likely to be too deep for recreational scuba divers to make contact. However, consideration of shipping routes and present recreational uses, such as fishing and diving, will be required when considering siting of the turbines.
Occupational Health and Safety, and Emergency Response: The Company will develop company-wide health and safety policies, including an emergency plan. Employees will be provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment and training in its use for their job. Periodic monitoring will be performed to establish that working conditions are satisfactory, particularly as related to construction activities.
Labor: The Company will comply with IIC’s labor requirements, regarding freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, non-discrimination in employment and occupation, and the minimum work age requirements in accordance with local laws.
Monitoring and Annual Reporting: The Company will develop an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), which will include a monitoring and reporting program to ensure that the project complies with local environmental laws and IIC’s environmental guidelines. The EMP will also include an Environmental Management System that describes who will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the sponsor’s environmental and safety activities and provide the IIC with current information on the status of the relevant environmental and safety issues at each project location. The sponsor will submit to the IIC an annual report summarizing the relevant environmental monitoring data.