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Hydrokinetic Energy Facility Construction: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Potential impacts from facility construction for most types of hydrokinetic energy facilities disturb relatively small portions of the site but would occupy varying amounts of water surface. Many construction impacts would be temporary in nature.

Construction of a wave energy farm or tidal farm consists of the following steps:

  • Assembly of individual devices on land;
  • Transporting each device to its designated location offshore;
  • Anchoring it to the seabed;
  • Connecting each electrically to a central junction box; and
  • Laying or burying sub-sea cable.

The steps in construction of a river in-stream facility are the same except they would occur in a riverine environment.

Onshore activities include construction of the following components:

It might be necessary to construct or upgrade a dock and dredge a harbor to support large vessels, barges, and heavy cranes needed for construction of the hydrokinetic facility.

For a barrage project area, the area of the construction of the dam would be most impacted by site preparation activities such as clearing and grading; construction of the dam; construction of the intake system; construction of access roads, canals, tunnels, and pipelines; construction of the powerhouse and installation of the turbines and generators; construction of an electrical substation and transmission line; and preparation and use of material and equipment laydown areas. Areas where materials for concrete production are mined and processed would also be affected. A refueling station (with diesel and gas storage tanks) would likely be used during construction, creating potential for site contamination.

The following factors could affect whether an environmental impact could occur and whether it would be considered an adverse effect:

  • Acreage — Because there are no large hydrokinetic systems in operation, the ultimate size of these facilities is unknown, but estimates used in the OCS Alternative Energy and Alternate Use PEIS indicate that commercial-scale wave energy facilities likely would occupy less than 2 km2 (1.9 mi2). For the purpose of this Web site, assumptions regarding the size of potential facilities have been made that a wave energy farm in the ocean could encompass up to 250 acres, a tidal farm 17 acres, and a river facility about 5 acres. Only a small fraction of the total surface area of a facility would be occupied by hydrokinetic devices and associated components, but the whole area would be unavailable for at least some surface activities (e.g., ship traffic).

    The acreage that could be required for a barrage facility is highly variable and depends largely on the size of the impoundment area. Acreage for access roads and laydown areas would depend upon project location and the length of the transmission line connection to the grid.
  • Emissions — Emissions generated would include engine emissions from ship power plants; emissions from on-board equipment, such as cranes; and emissions from heavy equipment and vehicles on the dock, in laydown areas, staging areas, and preassembly areas near the shore or river and along the transmission line right-of-way. Fugitive dust would result from vehicular traffic on unpaved roads.
  • Waste Generation — Only a very small quantity of wastes would be generated by support vessels servicing offshore construction, including bilge and ballast waters, garbage (trash and debris), domestic wastes, and sanitary wastes. Hazardous materials would include lubricants and hydraulic fluids contained in the components of each hydrokinetic energy device.
  • Water Needs — Water would be required for fugitive dust control during land-based construction (depending on local conditions), for making concrete, and for potable water for construction crews.
  • Workforce — Size varies, but the typical workforce for any land-based construction to support a wave energy farm, tidal energy farm, or river in-stream facility could require as many as 15 individuals. The crew size on-ship and at the dock would be about 20 workers. The workforce for a barrage facility would be somewhat larger.
  • Time and Materials — Construction of a hydrokinetic energy facility would occur over an extended period of time as each individual device is installed. Construction of a barrage facility would occur over a period of 12-24 months.
  • Utility Requirements — Utility requirements would vary depending on location; use of on-shore generators is probable.