Tidewalker files for tidal power facility

Posted April 14, 2009, at 8:54 p.m.

TRESCOTT, Maine — Tidewalker Associates has filed a notification of intent and pre-application document with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the construction and operation of an $80 million tidal power facility at Half Moon Cove, company officials announced last week.

The notice of intent was filed March 26.

“This is the first step in licensing for us,” Tidewalker spokesman Normand Laberge said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

He said the company could have filed a license application but decided to go with the notification and pre-application in order to get comments from regulators and stakeholders. A license application is expected to be filed in 2010.

“The notification of intent explains how we expect to operate and also provides our intent to go through with licensing,” Laberge said

FERC officials are expected to visit Half Moon Cove in June to inspect the site, Laberge added.

If the project remains on track, the company could begin construction in 2012.

The project, with an estimated capacity of 16,000 kilowatts, would generate renewable energy by harnessing the tides of Cobscook Bay and would produce nearly 60 million kilowatt hours of electricity in a typical year, enough to power 10,000 homes, according to a company press release.

On Friday, FERC notified American Indian tribes in the state of the Half Moon Cove project. Letters were sent to Indian Township Tribal Chief William Nicholas and Pleasant Point Tribal Chief Rick Phillips-Doyle. Letters also were sent to the Penobscot Tribe at Indian Island, the Aroostook Band of Micmac and the Houlton Band of Maliseet. The letters invited the tribes to participate in the licensing process for the project.

The intent of the letter was to help determine the extent of the tribes’ interest in the resources the project might affect and whether the tribe wants to participate in the licensing effort, FERC officials said.

In June 2008, the Passamaquoddy Tribe was awarded $1.2 million in federal funds to place a turbine to test tidal power in waters off the reservation.

Two other Down East tidal power projects are in the early stages.

Steve Crawford, the tribe’s environmental director at Pleasant Point said Tuesday in a telephone interview that the Passamaquoddy Tribe has two FERC-approved sites to conduct a pilot study. The pilot studies are expected to be done within the year. The tribe is working with Underwater Electric Kite of Annapolis, Md.

“The plan is to put an 8-foot turbine just off the sewage treatment plant at Pleasant Point and power the treatment plant,” Crawford said. “Before we would do any of that we would conduct environmental studies on impacts on marine mammals, fish and birds.”

Last year, Ocean Renewal Power Co. based in Portland completed a test of a prototype turbine-generator unit in Western Passage near Eastport with favorable results. John Ferland, director of project development, said Tuesday in a telephone interview that the company plans to test a commercial design of its technology later this year on its project site.

The company plans to begin its federal permitting process this summer. “We are going after a pilot project license through FERC,” he said.

ORPC plans to submit the application by July 1 “with the idea we would have the beginnings of our commercial installation in late 2010,” he said.

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