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Page added on July 25, 2012

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First U.S. Tidal Power Project Launches in Maine

First U.S. Tidal Power Project Launches in Maine thumbnail

The ocean is a tremendous bank of energy. Covering more than two-thirds of our planet, the amount of energy embodied in the ocean’s tides, currents, and waves, not to mention temperature and salinity gradients, could power the world—if we were able to commercialize the technology to harness its renewable power.

While technologies harnessing energy from tides and currents have been domestically discussed for decades, no project has ever reached commercial development, and been connected to the grid in the United States. In Eastport, Maine, however, that changed today with the launch of the Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) TidGen Cobscook Bay tidal energy project. Harnessing the power of the massive tidal shifts in Cobscook Bay, an inlet connected to the much larger Bay of Fundy, the project is the first in the U.S. to receive a FERC license, negotiate a power purchase agreement, and install and operate a power-producing tidal generator.

As clean energy advocates, we are excited to highlight new, innovative projects that inject clean power and jobs into communities, deploy American ingenuity and know-how and utilize smart clean energy policies. The DOE invested $10 million in the project as part of its larger water power program that aims to better understand the environmental impacts that come with harnessing ocean energy, as well as refine, and make more cost-effective, the technologies that do so.

In addition to harnessing local sources of energy, the project apparently:

  • Harnessed local knowledge and workers to plan the project. Understanding of Maine’s tidal flows and currents, and marine geology was critical in project planning and implementation, and 50 and 70 local workers, including local fisherman facing underemployment from declining fish stocks, as well as others with a Maine maritime background were hired to help complete the project.
  • Sourced components from local manufacturers.  Beyond the locals working to plan and construct the project, the turbines and generators were also New England-sourced. Bristol, Rhode Island-based Hall Spars, a former yacht mast manufacturing company, supplied the turbines, while Massachusetts-based Comprehensive Power made the generator.

At the same time, as environmental advocates, NRDC wants to make sure the right approach is taken to harness the clean renewable energy of ocean tides, while protecting sensitive marine life and minimizing conflict with other uses of the ocean.

In any ocean energy initiative, there are several elements that we expect to see in a properly developed project:

  • Stakeholder outreach:  any new industrial ocean renewable energy projects must take into account the interest and expertise of stakeholders and citizens.
  • Finding the right location:  the project location needs to be sufficient for power generation, while minimizing environmental impacts and avoiding conflicts with other ocean uses.
  • Safe technology:   the technology should be designed to protect birds, fish, ocean wildlife and the seafloor.
  • Phased project development with robust monitoring and adaptation:  given the innovative nature of ocean energy technology, scaling up a project gradually, with monitoring of environmental impacts from the start, can help gather the knowledge needed to reduce such impacts and inform adaptation of the project design.  Based on available information, steps taken by OPRC to date–such as its use of slow moving, blunt blade turbines, its phased implementation plan and its commitment to ongoing monitoring–are encouraging.

Ultimately, if the OPRC project is successful, it could pave the way for ocean tidal power to play a more prominent role in the nation’s renewable energy industry. Tidal power could theoretically generate 250 TWh of energy per year in the U.S., enough to provide power to tens of millions of homes.

With careful planning to protect the marine environment, test projects like these can pave the way for clean, renewable energy resources to meet this potential, while creating jobs, investment opportunities, and a multitude of environmental benefits.

13 Comments on "First U.S. Tidal Power Project Launches in Maine"

  1. on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 1:35 am 


  2. BillT on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 2:03 am 

    Imagine what we could have done last century if we had spent the money, technology, and human effort to develop energy sources other than oil.

    If all the trillions wasted on trying to make unwilling counties into capitalist ‘democracies’ for profit, had been spent in making energy clean,cheap and plentiful.

    That oil products had been kept in the chemical/physical use realm instead of blowing it into the air in the form of heat and pollution.

    Imagine the George Jetson way of life for the world, not just a few.


  3. DMyers on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 3:08 am 

    Good comment, Bill. We have squandered our birthright again and again. We are the Prodigal Son of entropy.

    I await the data on this tidal project.

  4. Norm on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 7:10 am 

    Wait til a submarine crashes into that underwater windmill. that ought to make some bent metal. Alternative energy what a scam.

  5. Arthur on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 8:08 am 

    Alternative energy is a scam because it might scratch one of those precious global killer submarines. You can’t make this stuff up!

    Currently Britain is the most advanced on this terrain:

    But as Bill (and Dennis Meadows) say: we are too late now for a smooth energy transition. We should have listened when Meadows came along in 1972, but we did not, including me. Meadows determined my choice of engineering study at the time (1975). I produced solar cells my self in a Dutch university lab, I calculated designs for wind turbines, but by 1980 Ronald Reagan came along (‘morning in America’), and gradually all the funds (US and Europe) for alternative energy dried up. No career prospects in this field. Became a yuppie instead focussed on money making. In 2005 I read the peak-oil book of Defeyesses, and now I know there is no escape from what is coming: the crash of industrial civilization as we know it. And Norm worries about scratching the paint on machines designed to blow up the world 3 times over.

  6. Kenz300 on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 1:46 pm 

    Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels in new power-plant investments. Alternative energy sources from solar, wind, wave energy, geothermal and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to Bloomberg. The price of oil, coal and nuclear are rising while the cost for wind and solar are dropping making them more competitive every day.

  7. DC on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 7:23 pm 

    Damn, I was hoping one of those videos was of a one of amerikas billion dollar subs smashing into a turbine and causing an underwater fukishima. They could have even had a CG news conference were animated brits and US officals told everyone it was minor accident and nothing to worry about(and to keep shopping).

    Alas, it was only fake turbines generating fake power from a fake sea…

  8. Norm on Wed, 25th Jul 2012 10:12 pm 

    It didnt have to be a military submarine. Maybe it was a peaceful cargo submarine, carrying a shipment of yogurt, John Lennon records, and daisies. Its still gonna wind up in pieces, all over the bottom of the waterway.

    For alternative energy that works, may I recommend:
    * solar towers with heat storage (uses standard steam turbines, and the heat storage allows it to run thru the night)

    * extensive home modifications. A home can be retrofitted with a ‘geothermal heat pump’. This can save 80% of the heating energy used, compared to resistive electric heat. There are many other tricks like that available which can allow any house to use far less power.

    Unfortunately when the rich people stole all of the money for themselves (Mitt Romney etc) they didn’t leave any money for us ex-middle-class, to update homes with superior heating systems.

    Ronald Reagan certainly made a mess of things, kick-starting the wealth transfer to the super rich. But gee whiz it sure looked good at the time. The cars… ooo laaa laaa, the cars of Ronald Reagan era:

    Why can’t I get that exact car, but in electric? Why it gotta look like a stupid icky useless toyota prius? Why nobody got any taste anymore?

  9. BillT on Thu, 26th Jul 2012 1:24 am 

    Norm, you will soon be happy to have ANY personal vehicle that does not use muscle power to move. Who give a F— what it looks like if it works and is cheap enough to own and operate? You are still in the mindset that a car represents what you are … lol.

  10. Norm on Thu, 26th Jul 2012 6:44 am 

    OK. I will drive the 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, and when the oil runs out, I will pay somebody to push it.

    Seriously I dont see any reason why an electric car cannot be properly designed to look like a cool car. They always make electric cars look ‘wimpy’, actually dont you see that the corporations do this on purpose, to make sure that electric cars wont be popular.
    By now we could have small electric pickup trucks. THAT would be extremely cool & popular. Instead, the corporations (i call them craparations) make stupid useless looking toyota prius that wont haul a load.

    I think that this has been referenced at times, perhaps the movie ‘who killed the electric car’ etc.

    Yes there are plenty of people who want the car to have a certain type of image. This is why there are Corvettes. This is why there are Lincoln Continentals

    Its my opinion that electric cars should be comparable to the most popular, most elegant automobile designs.

    Society will cling tenaciously to the concepts like stratification, and how high you are on the food chain, is evidenced by the car. Even peak oil probably wont get rid of the car-identity link. (guarantee it wont, cause the rich will stay rich, i.e. greedy Mitt Romney becomes president, and the rich will be able to afford gas guzzling cars even while the formerly middle class all starves & dies).

  11. Arthur on Thu, 26th Jul 2012 8:25 am 

    “Seriously I dont see any reason why an electric car cannot be properly designed to look like a cool car.”

    Norm, you seem to think that electricity grows on trees. Or that you can drive your chevvy volt, simply via your radio antenna, catching the lightning from the sky. Behind every kwh of electric power driving your car, are 2-3 kwh of fossil fuel power.

    “OK. I will drive the 1982 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, and when the oil runs out, I will pay somebody to push it.”

    I know you are joking, but do you realize that it will take your imaginary Friday many years of pushing your clunker until he has matched the number of miles stored in a single barrel of oil? This should give you an impression of the magnitude of the desaster we are facing.

  12. Arthur on Thu, 26th Jul 2012 8:40 am 

    For Norm, an electrical bike:

    They are a big succes here in Holland; old people can pedal 20 mph. You can get anywhere within a midsize 200k city with little effort.

  13. Arthur on Thu, 26th Jul 2012 8:51 am 

    Holland: 17 million people, 18 million bikes, 10% bikes electric.

    Range: 15-20 miles (without peddling).
    Electricity cost per mile 50 times lower than that of a car.

    In a shtf scenario these bikes can provide for an excellent practical transportation alternative for distances up to 30-40 miles.

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