Nation's first true tidal power is about to arrive in Maine
Posted by David Brooks | Sunday, July 22, 2012
On Tuesday, Ocean Renewable Power Co. of Maine will cut the aquatic ribbon, so to speak, on its first small-utility-scale tidal tubine (180 kw), which should be selling electricity to the grid soon. The Portland Press-Herald has the story here, with a good synopsis of the company's history and the history of the technology.
The company will unveil its first full-scale commercial unit at a ceremony (in Eastport): a cylindrical module as big as a Grand Banks fishing schooner with long curved turbine foils. Sometime next month, it will carefully attach the module to a mount already awaiting it on the Cobscook sea floor a mile farther up the bay from here. The company will attach cables linking it to new transmission lines on the Lubec shore and, with the push of a button, the 180-kilowatt turbine will begin selling power to the grid, the first of a new class of damless tidal energy devices to do so anywhere in North America.
The Eastport area has Maine's highest tides -- 20 feet -- because it is perched at the mouth of the vast Bay of Fundy, home to the greatest tides on the planet. It's the ultimate tidal resource, and ORPC and its foreign rivals are competing to harness its energy.
OPRC turbines are to be deployed next year across the bay in Digby County, Nova Scotia, while Canadian and European competitors are running tests in Minas Passage near the head of the bay, where swift, 50-foot tides have already torn one turbine apart.
Tidal power is an obvious alternate-energy source that has proved very difficult to tap, partly because of the complexity of making equipment that operates in the tough conditions and partly for environmental reasons (coastal areas are sensitive). These turbines require no dams or water-channeling system, which reduces their environmental impact.
It is unlikely to ever be more than a small part of the energy mix, but our power production needs all the variety that we can get.