Murkowski Welcomes Support for Hydro Energy Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, welcomed a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to provide aid for two marine hydrokinetic energy projects in Alaska, part of an effort to increase funding for ocean renewable energy developments nationwide.

DOE awarded Whitestone Power and Communications Co. of Delta Junction $142,000 to test an energy conversion device to permit “waterwheels” to survive in areas of high debris, sediment loads and extreme weather, including heavy ice conditions, that have proven problematic for marine hydrokinetic devices in the past.

DOE also awarded a $240,000 grant to Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC), based in Anchorage, to undertake a testing program to combat abrasive effects on marine renewable devices in high sediment areas. The testing is designed to help ORPC design hydrokinetic devices with components that will work better in areas of high levels of suspended sediments, like glacial-fed streams. ORPC will be doing the work in partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“Given the high cost of diesel used to generate electricity in so many of our smaller communities, there is no state that has more to gain from the development of marine and hydrokinetic power devices than Alaska,” Murkowski said. “We lead the nation in hydro power potential, but we also have some of the toughest conditions in the world. Grants like the ones DOE awarded this week are key to developing turbines that can overcome the heavy debris and ice conditions found in most of Alaska’s rivers.”

Murkowski, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in 2007 sponsored the Energy Independence and Security Act that authorized the funding of marine hydrokinetic power projects that DOE awarded today. Murkowski authored the research and development section of that act.

DOE awarded $37 million in funding nationwide for 27 projects, ranging from concept studies and component design research to prototype development and testing of ocean and marine hydrokinetic energy devices. All of the devices are designed to generate electricity from turbines powered by river and ocean currents, tides or wave movements.

Alaska is forecast by DOE to be able to one day produce up to 1,250 terrawatts of electricity a year from harnessing the power of Alaska’s wave resources – more than 300 times the amount of electricity Alaskans currently use daily.

“These tests truly offer a lot of promise for helping industry be able to develop devices that can generate power at lower costs for our rural communities,” said Murkowski, who has focused on promoting ocean, geothermal and hydroelectric renewable energy development during her time in the Senate.