The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued three-year permits to the PUD and Tacoma Power to investigate eight sites in the Sound for possible installation of tidal generators. Precise mapping of tidal movements using underwater sonar will begin this summer.
If approved and installed, the turbines would harness tidal flow the same way wind farms tap a steady breeze. The utilities estimate the Sound’s tides are strong enough to light up more than 70,000 homes. The largest installation calls for up to 1,000 turbines churning along the bottom of Admiralty Inlet.
There also are concerns that the installation of water turbines will close parts of the Sound to fishing and diving.
“You can’t really drift a gillnet into one of those, or drop a crab pot nearby,” said Daryl Williams, the Tulalip Tribes’ environmental liaison. “There is a lot to be learned, and most of the studies have been started in other countries — and most of those just started in the last few months.”