Maine firm gets federal approval for tidal energy project in Cobscook Bay

Posted Feb. 27, 2012, at 9:31 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday approved a 300-kilowatt tidal energy project in Cobscook Bay near Lubec and Eastport, according to members of Maine’s congressional delegation.

The FERC permit allows Ocean Renewable Power Co. to install turbine generator units on the ocean floor and operate the project for eight years, according to a joint press release from the delegation.

Ocean Renewable Power has been engineering and field-testing its turbine designs in waters off Eastport since 2004. It now wants to submerge five turbines in 82 feet of water with a 61-acre footprint between Goose Island and Grove Point. Each of the units is 98 feet wide and would extend 31 feet above the ocean floor.

According to Ocean Renewable Power, construction of the tidal facility will commence as early as March.

The announcement positions the Portland-based firm to be the first in the country to operate under the pilot program.

The permit requires close environmental monitoring by state and federal officials.

“Something as momentous as this does not happen without the incredible dedication of all of those in the state of Maine who have been so supportive over the years leading up to this,” said Christopher Sauer, Ocean Renewable Power’s president and CEO.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe praised the company in the joint release for continuing “to set the standard for a growing industry … Ocean Energy represents a tremendous opportunity for our state and this critical permit for tidal energy development will ensure Maine remains on the vanguard of producing these advanced technologies. This truly is a tremendous development for the economy of the Eastport region and for Maine’s renewable energy future.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said in the release, “Ocean Renewable Power Company’s tidal power project in the Eastport area is one example of the type of actions we need on a national scale to stabilize energy, prevent energy shortages, and achieve national energy independence.

U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree also lauded the announcement, with Michaud stating that the permit “represents another significant step forward in expanding this form of clean energy.” Pingree commented on how Ocean Renewable Power had “already been creating good paying jobs right here in Maine” and how the firm “is a true national leader in helping build the clean energy systems that will be part of the solution to our energy needs.”

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