Maine’s Ocean Renewable Power Company wins $5.3 million research grant


By Ramona du Houx

Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has won a $5.3m grant from the US Department of Energy to finalize the commercial design of its TidGen 2.0 power system. (photo above)

This project is the next step in the eventual deployment of the company's proposed 5MW Maine Tidal Energy Project.

“We’ve been working on this for three years, it’s a big deal for us,” said Chris Sauer, chief executive officer of ORPC.

ORPC was one of three demonstration projects selected for funding. It will use the money to enhance the performance of its tidal turbine system to capture higher flow velocities and reduce the cost of operations, and lower the cost of energy.

The new design will be tested, operated and monitored in the Western Passage, an inlet off the Bay of Fundy, off the coast of Maine.

The company has identified remote where energy generation and transmission costs can be exorbitant.

“Our projections show in our target market, this will be a profitable power system,” said Sauer.

ORPC has been testing hydrokinetic energy systems since 2009, and has received help from the University of Maine’s Composite Laboratories (AWEC). At AWEC blade designs were refined and tested.

Initially funding for the project came from Baldacci administration, through voter approved bonds from the Maine Technology Asset Fund. To date ORPC has received nearly $1 million from the state. (photo of prototype in Portland, Maine by Ramona du Houx)

In 2012, the company’s tidal power project in Cobscook Bay near Eastport hit a milestone when they became the tidal power system to connect to a utility grid.

Last year, ORPC opened an office in Ireland to test smaller hydrokinetic projects in County Donegal. It intends to use that as a foothold into the European energy market.

ORPC is one of 10 organizations selected to receive more than $20 million in US DOE funding for new research, development, and demonstration projects that advance and monitor marine and hydrokinetic energy—electricity from ocean waves and tidal currents.

America’s technically recoverable wave energy resource ranges between approximately 900 and 1,230 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year, according to industry studies.

With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population living within 50 miles of coastlines, there is vast potential to provide clean, renewable electricity to communities and cities in U.S. coastal areas.