PG&E backs $1.5M Golden Gate tidal power study

The powerful tidal force of the waters under the Golden Gate Bridge has the potential to generate electricity, and The City, with the financial backing of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., will conduct the largest study to date on the possible power source.

As the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to create a municipal alternative energy program, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that The City’s energy provider, Pacific Gas and Electric, will make a $1.5 million investment to determine how much energy can be generated, what kind of technology can be utilized and the costs associated with the project.

Dubbed tidal power, the environmentally friendly energy can be generated several ways. San Francisco officials are looking at the use of turbines that would rotate with the surging tides to create the power.

A study last year found that the passage under the bridge was home to some of the most powerful currents in the country. Last September, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission announced it was investing $150,000 to study the specifics of the project, including available technologies and potential environmental impacts on the Bay and aquatic life.

San Francisco Environmental Department Director Jared Blumenfeld said preliminary research quickly revealed that more money is needed to jumpstart the project.

Also joining The City’s efforts is a Florida-based company called Golden Gate Energy, which, in 2005, filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to create tidal energy on the Bay. Last year, Newsom dismissed Golden Gate as speculators trying to cash in on the future of tidal energy, without the resources to make a project happen.

If all goes according to plan, The City would create a demonstration project by the end of next year and at least three to five years before a fully operational project began.

Absent from Tuesday’s news conference were any members of the Board of Supervisors who approved last week a plan called Community Choice Aggregation, which would create an alternative energy program focused on renewable sources and backed by The City instead of PG&E.

Tidal power potential

» Nearly 400 billion gallons of water rush through the Golden Gate every day

» The water under the Golden Gate has the potential to produce more than 35 megawatts of power — enough for 35,000 homes*

» The cost of electricity generated is estimated at six to nine cents per kilowatt hour, a cost competitive with current wind and natural gas generation*

* According to a 2005 study conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute

– Source: San Francisco Department of the Environment

beslinger@examiner.com

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?


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