By Ramona du Houx

March 10, 2021

The Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has secured a $3.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office to build, test, and operate a modular current energy converter. According to ORPC’s website they, “bring marine renewable energy technology and project development solutions to its community and industrial partners, specializing in microgrid to utility-scale river and tidal energy applications, and underwater mobile power supplies for offshore energy applications.”

The granted project will support the development of current energy converters, which convert kinetic energy from river water into other usable forms of clean energy. Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) is a marine renewable energy company headquartered in Portland, Maine. Underwater energy turbines is their speciality. ORPC is currently pioneering a modular system where each turbine generator unit is installed as a standalone unit with the option for attaching adjacent modules to form either horizontal or vertical arrays. The modules can be used to fit specific river geometries and other river constraints.

“Climate change isn’t slowing down for us to develop new energy sources – we must adapt, research, and learn quickly in order to meet this moment and offer real solutions to Mainers, said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) announcing the funding.

“Current energy conversion systems offer immense potential in Maine, where our rivers are great in number and great in strength. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and a longtime advocate for funding for this program, I’m proud this large grant is coming to Ocean Renewable Power Company at a critical moment. I’m appreciative that the Department of Energy is supporting local leaders here in Maine as we tailor climate solutions to our needs and natural resources.”

ORPC was originally awarded $350,000 for the project through a competitive funding opportunity announced in 2019 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office to develop and test modular CEC systems that can be efficiently deployed and retrieved without significant infrastructure or specialized tools.

“Supporting research on innovative clean energy technologies will unlock the vast potential of renewables, helping to protect our environment and decrease energy costs,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “We welcome the Department of Energy’s investment in this promising project that aims to improve our ability to harness the power of rivers to supply homes and businesses with electricity.”

When the company first started in Maine, during the Baldacci administration, the state gave them a research and development grant through Maine Technology Institute, which was funding by a bond proposal. Different components were tested and developed in an ongoing relationship with the University of Maine’s composite laboratory.

“ORPC is thrilled with the announcement from Department of Energy. Advancing this technology platform is aligned with our company’s aggressive goals to develop cost effective solutions that will enable broad market adoption. In addition to bolstering our strong partnerships within the state of Maine, we look forward to identifying opportunities to deploy this technology across the U.S. and abroad,” said Stuart Davies, CEO of ORPC.

ORPC is currently finalizing the assembly of the second RivGen device ahead of deployment in Kvichak River planned for summer 2021 in Alaska. The newly-built converter will be deployed alongside the first RivGen device which has been operating in Alaska for the last 17 months. The Igiugig RivGen multi-year project is supported in part by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technology Office and Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, as well as private investment.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has been a vocal advocate and supporter of the Water Power Technologies Office.