Offshore wind farms aren’t the only way to produce renewable energy in the middle of the ocean. Tidal power capitalizes on the planetary forces that drives millions of waves across the ocean before inevitably crashing on shore. Humans have been harnessing the energy of ocean waves for centuries, only back then, the power was used to grind grain by turning millstones.
Now, Maine will join the handful of states now re-imagining tidal power as a way to produce electricity without pollution. With plenty of viable coastline, Maine’s Public Utilities Commission recently approved 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) between tidal energy developer ORPC. The agreement means that customers of three utilities will soon enjoy electricity generated from ORPC Cobscook Bay site in the Gulf of Maine.
ReCharge reports that deployment of the first phase of ORPC’s Maine Tidal Energy Project began in March with the installation of the bottom support frame for the first grid-connected, commercial TidGen power system at the site, near Seward Neck, Lubec. ORPC expects to have the 150kW device in place by late summer, with first electricity flowing under the PPAs by October.
There are several different ways to use wave power to produce electricity, but the ORPC development doesn’t use dams or impoundments. Instead, the site will use giant turbines that resemble the vertical axis wind turbines you might see on land. The turbines power a central permanent-magnet generator as they turn.
Because the power systems are fully submerged underwater, they are completely invisible from the surface, and have no effect on natural water landscapes, boating or shipping.
The company’s wider development plans encompass expansion into nearby tidal energy sites in Western Passage and Kendall Head, which when completed will generate up to 4MW, and represent the first long-term deals for tidal power in the US.
Top image via Thinkstock, bottom image via ORPC