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Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

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Hydrokinetic Projects

Definition: Projects that generate electricity from waves or directly from the flow of water in ocean currents, tides, or inland waterways.



  • Anyone seeking to study development of a hydrokinetic project at an identified site should first seek a preliminary permit.
    • Preliminary permits are issued for up to four years.
    • These permits do not authorize construction. Rather, they give the developer priority to study a project at the specified site for the duration of the permit. This is otherwise known as "guaranteed first-to-file status."
    • Once the preliminary permit has been granted, the permittee must submit reports containing specific information (example of preliminary permit PDF):
      • A schedule of activities and target dates, and
      • Periodic reports on the status of its studies.

  • To apply for a license to construct and operate a hydrokinetic electric generation facility for up to 30 - 50 years, use one of three licensing processes.

  • Eligible developers interested in a short-term license to test new technologies may use the Hydrokinetic Pilot Project Licensing Process.

Timeline of Commission Actions Related to Hydrokinetics                                  
2012 2010   2009         2008           2007           2006   2005 2003 2002
January 23, 2012
FERC Issues First Pilot License for Tidal Power Project in New York
May 18, 2010
FERC, California sign agreement to coordinate hydrokinetic project development MOU PDF
March 23, 2010
FERC issued a declaratory order PDF that determined that Maine Maritime Academy's proposal to deploy and test hydrokinetic devices as part of its Tidal Demonstration and Energy Center did not require a license. A license is not required based on the experimental nature of the technology; the operation of the facilities for short periods of time for the purpose of providing educational experience for students to develop skills in deploying, retrieving, maintaining, and repairing hydrokinetic devices; and Maine Maritime Academy not delivering power into, or displacing power from, the interstate electric power grid.
August 18, 2009
FERC, Maine sign Memorandum of Understanding for Tidal Energy Projects MOU PDF
August 4, 2009
FERC, Department of the Interior issue guidance document on Outer Continental Shelf hydrokinetics development PDF
June 4, 2009
FERC, Washington sign MOU for Hydrokinetic Energy Projects MOU PDF
April 9, 2009
Secretary Salazar, FERC Chairman Wellinghoff sign agreement to spur renewable energy on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf MOU PDF
March 17, 2009
Interior and FERC Announce Agreement on Offshore Renewable Energy Development
December 15, 2008
FERC approves first hydrokinetic device for existing hydroelectric project Decision PDF
October 16, 2008
FERC asserts jurisdiction over Outer Continental Shelf hydroelectric projects Decision PDF
August 28, 2008
FERC staff provides comments on the Minerals Management Service's Proposed Rule for Alternative Energy and Alternate Uses of Existing Facilities on the Outer Continental Shelf PDF
April 14, 2008
FERC Staff provides answers to frequently asked questions concerning hydrokinetic pilot project licensing and the conditioned license program FAQs: Hydrokinetic Projects - Conditioned License - General | White Paper on hydrokinetic pilot project licensing PDF
March 26, 2008
FERC, Oregon sign Memorandum of Understanding for Wave Energy Projects MOU PDF
March 20, 2008
FERC allows the Makah Bay wave project to move forward Decision PDF
December 20, 2007
FERC issued its first license for a hydrokinetic energy project, for a small wave energy proposal in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington State. The license, for the Makah Bay Offshore Wave Pilot Project PDF, included mitigation measures to protect the environment. The five-year FERC license was conditioned upon Finavera obtaining all necessary authorizations required by federal law before beginning construction. Finavera obtained those authorizations, but subsequently chose not to construct the project and surrendered the license (Docket No. P-12751-000).

November 30, 2007
FERC issued a policy statement PDF that allows the Commission to issue conditioned licenses for hydrokinetic energy projects under appropriate circumstances. This process is for hydrokinetic projects only. The Commission may issue a project license where it has completed processing an application while other authorizations under federal law remain outstanding. Licenses issued under these circumstances would preclude the developer from starting construction until the licensee has obtained all necessary authorizations required by federal law and filed those with the Commission (Docket No. PL08-1-000).
October 2, 2007
Commissioner Moeller, accompanied by Commissioner Wellinghoff and staff, hosted a workshop on the proposed process for hydrokinetic pilot projects. Staff described the proposal and panelist and audience members provided comment. The workshop was followed by a 30-day period for filing written comments (Docket No. AD07-14-000).
July 19, 2007
FERC announced that it is developing a licensing process for hydrokinetic pilot projects within existing statutes that can be completed in as few as six months, which provides for FERC oversight and agency input and may lead to a short-term license that allows developers to generate while testing. FERC also announced it will convene a workshop on licensing pilot projects for hydrokinetic technologies to discuss a staff proposal for a process that could complete licensing in as few as six months.
February 16, 2007
FERC issued its first preliminary permit using the "strict scrutiny" approach to Reedsport OPT Wave Park PDF for the proposed 50-megawatt Reedsport OPT Wave Project (Docket No. P-12713-000).
February 15, 2007
FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry and Interim Statement of Policy PDF seeking comments on three approaches to reviewing and issuing preliminary permits for hydrokinetic energy devices (wave, current, tidal, and instream). The three approaches were: (1) to maintain standard preliminary permit approach; (2) a strict scrutiny approach; or (3) decline to issue preliminary permits. Comments supported using the "strict scrutiny" approach (Docket No. RM07-8-000).
December 6, 2006
FERC hosted its first hydrokinetic technical conference to: discuss the status of new hydrokinetic technologies (waves, tidal, current, and instream); explore the environmental, financial, and regulatory issues pertaining to the development of the new technologies; and included participation in the form of panels and open forum with an opportunity for written comments (Docket No. AD07-13-000).
February 28, 2006
FERC staff provides comments on the Minerals Management Service's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Alternate Energy-Related Uses on the Outer Continental Shelf PDF
April 14, 2005
FERC determined that Verdant Power's PDF proposal to test the underwater turbines to determine potential impacts on the environment as well as learn more about the performance of the technology underpinning the company's proposed Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Hydropower Project did not require a license. A license is not required if: (1) the technology is experimental; (2) the proposed facilities are to be utilized for a short period for the purpose of conducting studies necessary to prepare a license application; and (3) power generated from the test project will not be transmitted into, or displace power from, the national energy grid (Docket No. P-12178-001)
February 28, 2003
FERC upheld jurisdictional findings concerning the Makah Bay Ocean Wave Energy Pilot Project PDF concluding that; the Federal Power Act External definition of navigable waters is not confined to streams and rivers; since 1988 the United States has asserted jurisdiction over waters up to 12 nautical miles offshore; and structures that contain equipment for the generation of electric power are powerhouses for the purposes of Section 23(b)(1) of the Federal Power Act External (Docket No. DI02-3-001).
October 3, 2002
FERC determined that the Makah Bay Ocean Wave Energy Pilot Power Plant PDF would be required to obtain a license because it would: and be located on a navigable waterway as defined by Section 3(8) of the Federal Power Act External; and be located on a Commerce Clause waterway, entail post-1935 construction, and be connected to the interstate electric grid (Docket No. DI02-3-000).
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