Maine ocean tidal company, ORPC, wins small-business clean-energy grant

Ocean Renewable Power Company receives $150,000 to test tidal-power methods at the University of Maine

Portland-based Ocean Renewable Energy Power Company (ORPC) is receiving a $150,000 Department of Energy grant to develop tidal power in Maine. The grant is aimed at small firms developing innovative clean-energy technologies.

“This competitive grant is yet another sign that Maine is becoming a national leader in clean energy,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “Not only are efforts like ORPC’s creating good-paying jobs for the state, but they are also finding sustainable, Maine-made solutions to our energy problems. We are lucky in Maine to have the renewable natural resources and the innovative people needed to develop these new energy sources.”

“This grant will give our testing a real shot in the arm,” said Chris Sauer, ORPC President and CEO. “We’ll be able to accelerate our program at the University of Maine’s tow tank lab, where we test and compare design elements before trying them in the waters of Cobscook Bay. For example, we are about the launch the largest ocean power device ever deployed, which has a turbine foil developed and tested at the lab.”

Funding from the grant will allow ORPC and the University of Maine to improve the tank facility and increase the number of graduate students working on the program. “When these students enrolled in the university, tidal energy wasn’t even a field they could study,” Sauer said. “It’s very exciting that they’re now on the cutting edge of a technology being pioneered right here in Maine.”

In all, the Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $18 million to 107 small clean-energy firms across the country, picked from a pool of 950 applicants. Recipients that demonstrate successful results and show potential to meet market needs will be eligible for a second round of grants next summer totaling $60 million.

“Small businesses are drivers of innovation and are crucial to the development of a competitive clean-energy U.S. economy,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu. “These investments will help ensure small businesses are able to compete in the clean energy economy, creating jobs and developing new technologies to help decrease carbon pollution and increase energy efficiency.”

The grants are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this year.