The state of Oregon may have big ambitions for wave energy generation, but at present, it’s the state with “the other Portland” on the other coast that’s on-track to take the cake. Maine’s Beta Power System, said to be the largest ocean energy generating facility ever installed in U.S. waters, reportedly has successfully generated grid-compatible power from tidal currents at its Cobscook Bay site in Eastport.
The Beta Power System, owned by Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC), makes use of a proprietary core component known as a Turbine Generator Unit, which tests have now validated in the ocean as producing an electrical output at or in excess of the company’s projections. ORPC will use the data obtained from the Beta Power System to fine tune the design of its commercial TidGen Power System, planned for installation in Eastport in late 2011. This system will be connected to the New England grid through the Bangor Hydro Electric Company system, and will generate enough electricity each year to power 50 to 75 homes.
The technology involved in the Cobscook Bay project has been refined in conjunction with the University of Maine over the past three years, which will conduct environmental monitoring of ocean energy systems with a program to observe the marine environment around the Beta Power System. UMaine researchers, led by Gayle Zydlewsk Ph.D., are supervising the program, which incorporates both visual and acoustic monitoring technology. Data collected will allow UMaine and ORPC to help minimize any potential interaction between ORPC’s technology and marine life.
“Proving the efficacy of the Beta Power System and its ability to generate grid compatible power day in and day out is a huge milestone for America’s ocean energy industry,” said Chris Sauer, president and CEO of ORPC, in a statement. “It reaffirms the limitless opportunities to advance the nation’s renewable energy agenda and ensure a more sustainable future.” According to ORPC, tidal energy has the potential to be a billion dollar industry in Maine within the next seven to ten years.