Hydropower firm may start Eastport business

Posted April 13, 2010, at 8:39 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co., which is conducting groundbreaking studies of hydropower in Cobscook Bay, is hoping to create a business in Eastport that would manufacture parts for hydroturbines.

A company official told the Eastport City Council on Monday night that the new company initially could generate up to 75 jobs.

Ocean Renewable is preparing to launch its proprietary Turbine Generator Unit, which it says is the world’s largest ocean energy device, in the waters off Eastport. The unit’s frame is 46 feet wide by 14 feet high, with the 10,000-pound generator mounted at its center.

Once launched, the unit will operate until November, studying and harnessing clean, reliable, renewable energy from the Maine waters.

The company, with development offices in Eastport, Alaska and Florida, has created a plan to form a separate business that would start up with funding grants to be administered through Washington County agencies.

Ocean Renewable, along with other hydropower firms internationally, would purchase turbines and parts from the manufacturer.

Company officials said the facility could become a major supplier of hydroturbines for projects around the world.

“We would be the new company’s anchor customer,” Jon Ferland, vice president of project development, told the Eastport council Monday night.

Ferland’s plan gained the support of the council, and together with support and assistance from the Washington County commissioners, Eastern Maine Development Corp. and the Sunrise Economic Development Council, Ocean Renewable will submit an application next week for trade assistance funding through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency.

Ocean Renewable hopes to create the company in the Eastport Business Center, leasing the building from the city in cooperation with the county. Part of the grant funding would be used for site improvements and the purchase of equipment for the company startup.

“We would then recruit an entity to operate the company. We are not manufacturers,” Ferland said. “We’re looking to be a customer. If all goes as expected, we’ll have a need for hundreds of turbines.”

Ferland expected that the company, including subcontractors, would provide 75 new jobs initially.

Ferland said Tuesday that he could not predict how much would be sought in funding since those details are still being gathered for submission of the grant application next week.

“This is part of our commitment to grow the local economy,” Ferland said. “Part of our company’s strategy is to keep local businesses and contractors working. We hope to establish a national partnership here. We are very challenged to move from a single turbine to bulk sales. This project could entice other developers and customers.”

Ferland said the grant information just became available and the company has pulled together the support and information in less than two weeks.

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