Ocean Renewable Power Company of Portland, Maine is set to start construction of it first Tidal Energy System in Cobscook Bay later this month. Securing a federal permit to install Maine’s first go at tidal energy, the project is scheduled to begin mid-month and be online by summer. This first for Maine is a broad leap forward in proving concept with tidal energy, something that is plentiful in the Pine Tree State.
The grid tied systems first unit is expected to produce enough energy to power 20 to 25 homes year round. Four more units are slated to be installed next year. Eventually, Ocean Renewable Power Company plans to install more units and bring its total power output to 4 megawatts at sites of both Lubec and Eastport. Ocean Renewable holds permits for three sites in the area, one of the world’s best tidal sites, where twice a day the tide rises and falls 20 feet. All told, the company sees up to 50 megawatts of tidal power potential in the Eastport and Lubec areas, enough to power thousands of homes, Sauer said. “It’s never going to be the dominant power-generating resource in the state of the Maine, but it’s going to be a significant contributor,” he said.
The Ocean Renewable turbine generator unit self-starts when the tidal current reaches about 2 knots, and is designed to produce up to 180 kilowatts under ideal circumstances. On average, however, it’ll produce 60 kilowatts at the installation site in Cobscook Bay near Seward Neck in Lubec, Sauer said. Once it’s completed, the full array of five of those turbine generator units will produce about 300 kilowatts under the pilot project license issued last week by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The completed pilot project will produce enough electricity for about 100 homes.
Ocean Renewable starts work later this month with underwater installation of a heavy steel base, which will be about 100 feet down on the ocean floor. A turbine generator unit will be attached to the base, with at least 60 feet of clearance between the device and the ocean surface at the low tide. Officials in Canada are watching the Maine project with interest. By 2014, Ocean Renewable and Nova Scotia-based Fundy Tidal Inc. hope to install the same units in waters off Nova Scotia, where Bay of Fundy offers even greater tidal power potential, officials have said.