Maine deploys grid-connected tidal energy project

Washington, D.C., July 24, 2012 — Leveraging a $10 million investment from the Energy Department, Ocean Renewable Power Company will deploy its first commercial tidal energy device into Cobscook Bay this summer.

The project, which injected $14 million into the local economy and has supported more than 100 local and supply chain jobs, represents the first tidal energy project in the U.S. with long-term contracts to sell electricity, according to the DOE.

Tidal energy is a renewable resource that can be harnessed wherever changing tides move a significant volume of water — including off the coasts of many U.S. cities where there is high electricity demand. Near Maine, the Bay of Fundy is one of the most robust tidal energy resources in the world.

Each day, 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the bay with the force of 8,000 locomotives and tidal ranges of up to 50 feet. Tides can also be forecast accurately, making tidal energy one of the most reliable and predictable renewable resources available.

Initially, ORPC’s Cobscook Bay pilot project will provide enough clean, renewable electricity to power between 75 and 100 homes. In addition to this DOE-supported pilot, ORPC plans expand its Maine project and install additional tidal energy devices to power more than 1,000 Maine homes and businesses.

In April, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved primary contract terms for 20-year power purchase agreements for the project, marking the first long-term tidal energy PPAs in the U.S. The Commission’s order directs the three Maine investor-owned utilities — Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro Electric and Maine Public Service Co. — to negotiate these agreements with ORPC, helping to attract additional private investment as the project matures.

Through the Energy Department’s early investment, ORPC has brought its tidal energy device from the laboratory to commercial deployment. The tidal energy devices, as well as many of the components, are being manufactured in the United States, strengthening American manufacturing competitiveness in this emerging global industry.

Additionally, technical experts from the Department’s Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado collaborated with ORPC to conduct open water testing, refine designs and improve device performance.

Earlier this year, the Energy Department released a nationwide tidal energy resource assessment, identifying about 250 terawatt hours of annual electric generation potential from tidal currents. Tidal power represents a major opportunity for new water power development in the U.S., especially along the East Coast as well as in Alaska and Hawaii.

This energy potential could contribute to the U.S.’ total annual electricity production, further diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio and providing clean, renewable energy to coastal cities and communities.

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