Successful Test of Tidal Power System

Chris Sauer, CEO of Ocean Renewable Power is excited. "We have now done the performance testings of what we call our Beta tidal energy system here in Cobscook Bay, and the results came out exactly on the design curve."

In plain language, Ocean Renewable Poer is learning to generate electricity from ocean tides, one of the largest and most inexhaustible sources of energy on the planet. While winds and sun tend to vary a great deal, tidal power is far more constant, and its variations (due to storms, cycles of the moon, and other influences) can be predicted well in advance. This relative predictability, and the density of water that allows it to contain considerable energy per unit of volume, makes tidal power extremely attractive not only to engineers who develop the equipment for generating electricity from the tides, but to the industrialists who finance that equipment.

The test generator that Ocean Renewable Power placed in the water is capable of generating only 60-kilowatts, but it is reportedly the largest tidal power plant ever installed in U.S. waters. So far, the company claims that the huge turbine generator has met or exceeded every benchmark for performance and power generation that was expected of it.

As part of its testing program, Ocean Renewable Power has plans to generate electricity for use by the U.S. Coast Guard. For any further commercial development of tidal power, the company will have to apply for and be granted a federal permit.

But most of the largest hurdles have successfully been crossed. The test turbine, submerged in the ocean and turned by the power of the ebbing and flooding tides, has been generating useful quantities of electricity, and that electricity has been converted into a form that is completely compatible with the nation's existing energy grid.

The company hopes to begin installing its first commercial tidal-power generating system during 2011 in Maine's fabled Cobscook Bay -- located in the state's southeast corner, about 100 miles east of Bangor. Because of the geography of the coast in that region, Cobscook Bay contains tidal currents that rise and fall about 20 feet, twice a day, making them among the most energy-filled tides in the world. The new facility is expected to generate about a 150-kilowatts, enough electricity to power more than 50 typical U.S. homes, and will feed this power into the grid just like any other electrical generating plant. With other underwater generating sites already on the drawing board, Ocean Renewable Power plans to become the area's largest electrical producer by the end of the next decade.

While the ocean tides keep working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without a break, the task of taming that power and converting it into electricity has already led to the creation of nearly 100 new jobs throughout the state of Maine. As Ocean Renewable Power expands its ability to tap the ocean for electricity, its payroll, and the economies of the communities in which it operates, will grow along with it.

More later ...

Photo credit: Ocean Renewable Power