Jul 26 2012

U.S. Tidal Energy Firsts

On July 24, 2012, the first commercial, grid connected tidal energy project in the United States was deployed in Eastport, Maine on Cobscook Bay.  In Cobscook Bay, tides often vary by about 20 feet over a twelve hour period and water flows at about 6 knots when tides are strongest.  According to current estimates, Alaska is the only state with more sites than Maine where tide and wave energy is strong enough to provide significant power from ocean energy converters.

The project was developed by a company based in Portland, Maine called Ocean Renewable Power Company.  The total cost of the project was $21 million.  The U.S. Department of Energy provided $10 million to the project.  It is expected that energy will begin being delivered to the regional power grid in September and the initial turbine should deliver enough power for about 25 homes.  This project will soon include 20 turbines and is projected to provide enough power for about 1,200 homes.

Ocean Renewable Power Company has been granted a 20 year contract for the project and will sell the generated power to three utility companies in the area.  The starting price for this energy will be about 21.5 cents per kilowatt hour.  Currently, the average price for energy in Maine is 11.21 cents per kilowatt hour.

Although all of the potential environmental impacts of tidal energy turbines are not known, I think this project is a great step towards making renewable energy, especially ocean renewable energy, more available in the United States. Despite the current high expense of the power generated from this project, I believe it is opening the door for more efficient and inexpensive projects and technologies in Maine and hopefully nationally and worldwide.


Example of an Ocean Renewable Power Company Turbine unit:


Source: http://www.orpc.co/orpcpowersystem_turbinegeneratorunit.aspx



Ailworth, Erin. “In Maine, a US First in Tidal Energy.” Boston.com. The New York Times, 25 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012. <http://articles.boston.com/2012-07-25/business/32828695_1_tidal-energy-ocean-renewable-power-cobscook-bay>.



2 responses so far

2 Responses to “U.S. Tidal Energy Firsts”

  1.   mendozamon 26 Jul 2012 at 3:03 pm

    This news really made me happy because we are finally starting to realize the necessity of installing projects so that we can move forward into the clean energy sector. Without projects like this one, we will not ever see how beneficial renewable energy is or how we can improve on this technology. The United States is finally taking larger strides in making clean, renewable energy a source of energy for the country. Although it will not be running until September, this project represents a major advance in the ocean energy market. I read that the pilot project could provide clean electricity to up to 100 homes. I do not know which number is correct, but it is still amazing that we can power electricity for 25 homes with one turbine.

    I also think it is cool that this project is the first tidal energy project to receive a FERC license, obtain a power purchase agreement and install a tidal power generator.

    Not only is this project helping the environment by not releasing carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses as it generates electricity, but this project is also helping the local economy. The TidGen Cobscook Bay tidal energy project introduced $14 million into the local economy, by employing local workers from the community. 50 to 70 workers were employed to help plan out the project, such as local fishermen who were facing underemployment from declining fish stocks. Thus, in addition to giving money back to the community, the project involved the community, which I believe ultimately encourages people to support the project and do more to help keep the project going. I think it is especially important to involve the fishermen of the area, because the tidal project could potentially decrease their fishing catch for a while. However, they are the ones that know the waters well, so they could give the project developers information on the best location to install the turbines without greatly affecting the fisheries.
    In addition, the entire tidal generator was manufactured in the United States. The turbines were manufactured in Rhode Island by a former yacht manufacturing company, while the generator was made in Massachusetts by the company Comprehensive Power.

    For more information, visit these websites: http://www.equities.com/news/headline-story?dt=2012-07-26&val=310902&cat=energy and http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ngreene/first_us_tidal_power_project_l.html

  2.   Lauraon 15 Jul 2013 at 12:56 am

    I contributed to some of the pre-permitting research for this project in 2011, and I was so happy to see this post that I had to follow up on such a great endeavor. I really liked the way ORPC handled their development and Cobscook Bay is an amazing location for anyone interested in ecology or biodiversity conservation.

    Cobscook Bay is located near the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Cobscook’s position as a branch off of a body of water famous for drastic tidal changes makes it an ideal candidate for a tidal energy project. Before receiving their permits for construction, ORPC had to thoroughly research any environmental or biological impact as well as determine mitigation procedures. Cobscook Bay has a thriving commercial fishing and sea urchin industry in addition to providing the habitat for a number of threatened or endangered species, so any adverse effects from a tidal turbine would have significant impact to the environment.  

    In their summary of the 2012 environmental monitoring efforts, ORPC reports that there was no significant change to the behavior or population any of the species of particular interest including endangered or threatened species, marine mammals, and marine wildlife regularly caught by the local fishermen. In their report, ORPC simply claims that the wildlife just seems to “not notice the turbine.”  The development of tidal energy in this region has also positively contributed to the local economy. They say proudly on their website, “ORPC’s Maine Tidal Energy Project has already brought more than $21 million into the state economy, and has created or helped retain more than 100 jobs in 13 Maine counties.”

    ORPC is a model for progressive alternative energy development by involving itself in the local community and their concerns in addition to the regulations of the state and federal government. Not only has the company made a landmark achievement in installing the first grid-linked tidal turbine, they have done so in a way that complies with the regulatory bodies, has minimal environmental impact, and positively influenced the local economy. This is a huge step for the company and the ocean energy industry as a whole. The Cobscook Bay tidal energy project shows that not only is tidal energy feasible, it provides a myriad of benefits to the project locations with very little negative results.

    As a final note, ORPC’s work in developing a Gulf Stream current turbine in Florida is of particular interest to researchers at the Coastal Studies Institute, where we are also examining the Gulf Stream as an alternative energy source. The Gulf Stream’s location and behavior in Florida is vastly different than off the coast of NC, but ORPC’s progress in the area could be of future significance to any North Carolina programs.

    ORPC Website: http://www.orpc.co/aboutorpc_company_aboutus.aspx

    2012 Environmental Monitoring Summary: