By John Vlahakis

The state of Maine has given the go ahead to install the first tidal energy project in the U.S. on Cobscook Bay.  State regulators put three utilities on the path to distribute electricity harnessed from tides at the nation’s eastern tip, a key milestone in a bid to turn the natural rise and fall of ocean levels into power.  The Maine Public Utilities Commission set terms for a contract that would be in place for 20 years.  The regulators also directed the three utilities to negotiate with Ocean Renewable Power Co. to put electricity onto the grid this summer, the first long-term power purchase agreements for tidal energy in the United States.  Ocean Renewable, the company authorized by the state, intends to install its first underwater turbine unit this summer on Cobscook Bay under a demonstration project.  Power production will begin modestly, with the first unit producing enough electricity for 20 to 25 homes; the pilot program calls for additional units at sites off both Lubec and Eastport to bring production to 4 megawatts, enough to power up more than 1,000 homes by 2016.  All told, the company sees up to 50 megawatts of tidal power potential off Lubec and Eastport, home to one of the world’s best tidal sites, where the tide rises and falls 20 feet twice a day.

Rendering Courtesy: ORPC Power Systems

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