Already a top state for renewable energy in terms of biomass, last month Maine deployed the first commercial, grid-connected tidal energy project in the country. Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) delivered the tidal project with help from a $10 million investment from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Serving as an example of locally produced, regionally appropriate renewable energy, the DOE press release mentioned that the project leveraged the investment and “injected $14 million into the local economy and has supported more than 100 local and supply chain jobs.” Located in Cobscook Bay, the project is a pilot of sorts, with nearby Bay of Fundy offering an ideal location for another tidal energy installation. “Each day, 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of the bay with the force of 8,000 locomotives and tidal ranges of up to 50 feet. Tides can also be forecast accurately, making tidal energy one of the most reliable and predictable renewable resources available.” While the total amount of electricity generated pales in comparison to nuclear, environmental drawbacks to the technology appear to be minimal.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is quoted in the press release as saying,
“Maine is well positioned to lead the nation in tidal energy development. The Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project is one example of the type of actions we need on a national scale to stabilize energy, prevent energy shortages, and achieve national energy independence. Continued investment and innovation in clean energy technologies are integral to advancing these goals.”
The project will only provide enough energy for 75-100 homes, but ORPC hopes to build on the installation and add enough capacity to generate electricity through tidal energy for 1,000 Maine homes and businesses.
The hope is that tidal energy could play a major role in energy production. A nationwide tidal energy resource assessment highlighted roughly 250 terawatt hours of possible energy generation from tidal currents, mostly along the East Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii.