Turbines Ready to Turn at First US Commercial Tidal Energy Plant

The first commercial tidal energy project in the US was dedicated this week in Maine, and turbines will begin turning in mid-September.  

It’s the first grid-tied tidal project in the US and the first to sell the electricity through long term power purchase agreements. 

Portland, Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. will soon lower a generator to the sea floor as part of a network of 20 underwater turbines.

"Tidal energy has arrived in America and it just landed right here," says Chris Sauer, Ocean Renewable’s CEO to about 200 people gathered at the ceremony. 

The small project in Eastport, Maine will provide electricity for 1,200 homes.

The cost is about $21 million foor the Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project, which includes research and development, design, manufacture and installation of the turbines and environmental monitoring.

Cobscook Bay is one of the world’s top tidal sites, where the tide rises and falls 20 feet twice each day.

Earlier this year, Maine regulators directed three utilities to buy 4 megawatts (MW) of tidal electricity in a 20-year contract. The utilities will pay almost double the average electricity price in Maine to support the project.

Regulators looked at what the cost of fossil fuels would be over 20 years and decided they would likely be even higher. In fact, they see tidal energy being cost-competitive in as little as five years. 

The International Energy Agency’s International Vision for Ocean Energy sets a goal for the technology to be cost-competitive by 2020.

The Department of Energy (DOE) invested $10 million in the this pilot phase of the project, which will supply electricity to 100 homes. It’s already injected $14 million in the local economy and supported over 100 jobs.  DOE invested as part of its investment in ocean energy research.

The fully completed project will power about 1200 homes and businesses.

"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," says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

DOE’s early investment was critical in bringing Ocean Energy’s tidal energy device from the lab to commercial deployment. The devices and many of its components are being manufactured in the US.

Earlier this year, DOE released a nationwide tidal energy resource assessment, identifying large areas along the East Coast, Hawaii and Alaska that have potential.

The other tidal project moving forward is Verdant Power’s in  New York City’s East River. Siemens invested in a tidal company and the world’s largest tidal project is moving ahead in Scotland, a 10 MW plant.

Learn more about the project and Ocean Renewables:

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