Generation of tidal power in Maine, a success

By Ramona du Houx

August 27th, 2010 

ORPC's tidal energy turbine
Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has successfully generated grid-compatible power from tidal currents at its Cobscook Bay site in Eastport, Maine. Tests of a turbine off Eastport’s coast have met or exceeded forecasts.

“It’s a critical step to our first commercial unit that will be connected to the grid in little more than a year now,” said Chris Sauer, president of ORPC. “It’s a huge milestone for America’s ocean energy industry.”

In August celebrations were held in Eastport to mark the historic occasion.

ORPC CEO Chris Sauer talks to UMaine President Kennedy at an event where his company received a state MTI grant for research and development of tidal power. photo by Ramona du Houx
“Maine is on an aggressive track toward energy independence,” said Governor Baldacci. “The ocean energy industry in Maine is already showing tangible results through Ocean Renewable Power Company’s work here in Eastport and private investment is occurring, leading the way for other ocean energy projects to follow. It’s very exciting.”

Sauer said the 60-kilowatt turbine generator is the largest ocean energy power plant ever installed in U.S. waters. The system, after slight altercations, will provide enough electricity for 50 to 75 homes. ORPC plans, over a period of years, to deploy arrays of underwater turbine generators, producing more than 100 megawatts.

ORPC holds a license for three sites off Eastport, where twice a day the tide rises and falls 22 feet. It is one of the world’s best tidal sights. Sauer said his technology, developed with the help of UMaine’s laboratories, could lead the world in tidal power.

Maine is already provides 95 percent of New England’s wind energy. ORPC sees tidal power over the next ten years as becoming a big part of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio.

Tidal movements are consistent and constant. The turbines resemble combines used on farms, or paddle wheels used on a turn of the century riverboats. Underwater they don’t disrupt the view.

The Governor and Congressman Mike Michaud also joined Coast Guard Commander Captain James McPherson for a demonstration of how tidal energy can be delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“This represents a significant step forward for the development of clean energy here in Maine,” said Michaud. “This demonstration, combined with additional research and development funding, will help to further advance Maine’s position as a leader in ocean energy production.”

ORPC officials said they have created eighty jobs in eight Maine counties, since 2007.


Michaud helped secure $700,000 in the U.S. House energy and water appropriations bill for further research and development of tidal energy in Maine. This funding follows a $1 million FY 2010 investment allocated last year for tidal energy research and development conducted by the UMaine and its partners, including ORPC. The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) awarded ORPC two technology grants for research and development. MTI is supported by voter-backed bonds.

A 60-kilowatt unit will be tested in the next few months at the Coast Guard station, in Eastport. The unit will be used to charge a battery system that will provide supplemental power. The project will be used to evaluate tidal power technology that could be employ at isolated stations in Alaska.

The Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force helped to establish the laws needed for various ocean energy projects to officially be harnessed to the grid abiding by environmental protections.