Company wants hydropower facility in Cobscook Bay

Posted June 09, 2010, at 10:41 p.m.

EASTPORT, Maine — A tidal power company has proposed building a $62 million hydropower research and demonstration facility at Half Moon Cove in Cobscook Bay.

Halcyon Marine Hydroelectric, with offices in Utah and Washington, D.C., is willing to fund the project, but ownership and 85 percent of the revenues would be retained by the city of Eastport, according to a company official.

Halcyon founder Ramez Atiya said Wednesday that his company is a finalist in bidding on construction of a massive tidal power system in the United Kingdom. He said he also has wanted to build a demonstration and research facility to help promote his new technology worldwide.

That’s where Cobscook Bay and its astronomical tides came in. Atiya said in a telephone interview from his office in Utah that the bay became the perfect location to build the demonstration project.

Atiya said the company has invented a new construction method that reduces building costs for tidal hydropower systems to one tenth of conventional construction expenses and that allows for much longer lasting facilities.

He explained that his innovative “tidal wing” is a new type of hydropower system that generates power through the ebb and flow of the tides. It uses “parallel cycle,” a power generating sequence developed by Halcyon, which holds patents for such projects in the U.S., Australia, China, Mexico and the Russian Federation.

“By combining power generation on the flood and ebb tides with pumping, the tides within the cove rise and fall to their natural levels, just as they would if the tidal wing were not there,” Atiya said.

Atiya said the company plans to construct a tidal wing at Half Moon Cove as a demonstration project.

He said the wing has no significant environmental impact and would preserve Half Moon Cove’s intertidal zones.

“This tidal wing would be the first of its kind,” Atiya said Wednesday. “Maine would be at the forefront.”

Such a facility would provide jobs, attract tourists, provide low-cost power to Eastport and, Atiya said Wednesday, could bring in up to $4.8 million in annual revenue to Eastport.

Atiya said his company’s interest in the project is solely as a demonstration site for its construction technology and as a research facility.

Atiya said the project would be financed through a U.S. Department of Agriculture or Energy loan.

Atiya recently proposed the project to the Eastport City Council, which has not yet taken a stance or held a workshop on the idea.

Chairman of the council Robert Peacock said the issue will likely be discussed at the next council meeting 7 p.m. Monday, June 14.

Atiya said a tidal wing should have an economic life of 120 years. During its first 30 years, Halcyon would take 15 percent of net revenues, leaving the greatest share of revenues for the city. He said that when the debt on the tidal wing is retired, the city should be collecting revenues for the next 90 years.

“It not only becomes a major, long-term source of revenue, but will provide low-cost power for the community,” he said.

Atiya said a tidal wing has a low-visual impact, rising 15 feet at mean water level. It will be constructed of concrete and can be colored to look like natural rock. It would be 400 meters long and contain four generators.

A full packet of information describing the project in more detail is available at the Eastport City Hall.

Atiya said he would provide a copy of the company’s plans to anyone who contacts him at atiya@xplornet.com.

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