Joshua Myers has been busy putting electrodes on the heads of juvenile salmon, trying to determine how the fish will react to the simulated sound of giant steel and fiberglass turbines, which soon could be submerged in Washington state's Puget Sound.
Myers, a research engineer, is conducting his acoustical experiments in a laboratory on Sequim Bay, where scientists want to learn how to create electricity from an unusual source: the force of powerful ocean tides and waves.
If all goes as planned, two large hydro turbines will be installed 200 feet deep in the harsh waters of Admiralty Inlet by late summer 2013, marking the first project of its kind in the state. But before then, scientists want to figure out how rockfish, diving birds, whales and other marine life will respond to the intruding turbines, which will weigh 350 tons each.
In the latest quest for clean power, Washington state has emerged as a hotbed of high-tech research into what's known as hydrokinetics.
The project is driven in part by Washington state residents' demand for a change from traditional carbon-based fuels for generating electricity. They passed an initiative in 2006 that requires large utility companies to increase the amount of electricity they generate from renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar, to 15 percent of their supply.
"We're very enthusiastic about this. ... We're trying to use ocean space in a way we've never used it before," said Andrea Copping, a senior program manager who's in charge of the project at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's marine science lab in Sequim.
Utilities are gearing up for the change.
Later this month, the Snohomish County Public Utility District will formally apply for a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the $25 million pilot project.
"This is all very new," said Craig Collar, the senior manager of energy ...