Tapping into Tidal Energy The Country’s First Tidal Power Project Comes to Maine

This past July, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) announced the launch of the first commercial tidal power project in the U.S., to be located in the nation’s northeastern-most city of Eastport, Maine. It’s called the TidGen Cobscook Bay project for its location on Cobscook Bay, known throughout the world for its massive tidal shifts. Each day, 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of Cobscook Bay; when tides are at their strongest, the water can move as fast as six knots, or about seven miles an hour.

tidal energy, credit: ORPC“Tidal energy has arrived in America and it just landed right here,” ORPC’s president and CEO Chris Sauer said at the dedication ceremony. Maine is second only to Alaska in the number of places with strong enough tides and waves to support ocean power installations, energy officials said.

The groundbreaking TidGen initiative has received $10 million in federal support as part of the DOE’s Wind and Water Power Program. The first tidal generator is expected to begin delivering electricity to the regional power grid in September, initially providing enough electricity to power approximately 100 homes. Eventually, a network of 20 underwater turbines will be installed to expand that to more than 1,000 homes and businesses. And because tide cycles can be forecasted accurately, TidGen’s power system will be one of the most reliable and predictable renewable energies available.

“The Eastport tidal energy project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry, helping to create new manufacturing, construction and operation jobs across the country, while diversifying our energy portfolio and reducing pollution,” DOE Secretary Steven Chu said in a press release.

According to DOE estimates, water power can potentially provide 15% of our nation’s electricity by 2030. That could spell opportunity for coastal communities across the country.