First commercial grid-connected tidal project dedicated

Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC) will deploy its first commercial tidal energy device into Cobscook Bay this summer.

A single, maximum design-capacity device rated at 180-kW developed by ORPC is being readied for installation at the project site in far eastern Maine.

“The Eastport tidal energy project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry, helping to create new manufacturing, construction, and operation jobs across the country while diversifying our energy portfolio and reducing pollution,” U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

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

The project received a license to operate for eight years and connect to the grid from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late February and assembly began immediately. The project has received a $10m grant from the Department of Energy.

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

The tidal energy components were manufactured in the U.S. and 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.

Testing of the first TidGen unit will occur during the next year. If its viability is proved, four turbines will be phased in over the next few years.

Near Maine, the Bay of Fundy is one of the most robust tidal energy resources in the world. Each day, 100 bn 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, according to DOE.

Earlier this year, DOE released a nationwide tidal energy resource assessment, identifying about 250 TWh of annual electric generation potential from tidal currents.