Tidal power projects in the Unites States are far less common than wind and solar energy production. One of the major reasons for this is the lack of tidal currents, comparatively speaking, with the rest of the world.
For the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission though, the next tidal power project may exist on the shores off of Maine. Tucked away in the northeast corner of our country, Maine has the largest tidal swing in the contingent United States.
While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has reached similar agreements with the states of Oregon and Washington, the agreement with Maine represents the first on the East Coast of it’s kind.
The Associated Press, via CNBC has more:
Maine Gov. John Baldacci, who was on hand for the agreement’s signing in Washington, D.C., said the state is committed to developing renewable resources.
“Our state has been aggressive in its pursuit of clean energy to help end our country’s dependence on fossil fuels, and this agreement will help establish a coordinated and responsible partnership between Maine and FERC,” Baldacci said in a statement.
Tidal power appeals in several ways.
Unlike the wind, tides are predictable. As an added bonus, water’s greater density means fewer turbines are needed to produce the same amount of electricity as wind turbines. Finally, there’s no interference with boats or aesthetic issues associated with wind farms because the turbines are deep underwater.
“If you ask me as a regulator, what are the environmental impacts, I say I have no idea,” said Dana Murch of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s of vital importance that we get some units in the water and see what the impacts are, because the energy potential is enormous.”
In Maine, there was a rush by the private sector to file preliminary permits with FERC for potentially lucrative underwater sites around the same time a 2006 study by nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute concluded that it made economic sense to look underwater for affordable electricity.
At one point, there were 17 different active permits in Maine; the number has since dropped to eight today, said Murch, the DEP’s dams and hydro director.
Ocean Renewable Power holds a permit for what may be Maine’s best site: the Western Passage in Passamaquoddy Bay, where twice a day the tide rises and falls 20 feet, generating swift currents.
The company hopes to install four turbines with a total of four megawatts of capacity in the Western Passage, as well as another turbine with one megawatt of power in Cobscook Bay. All told, the company believes there’s 100 megawatts of potential between the two sites.