EASTPORT, Maine — Four lighted buoys are being installed in Washington County’s Cobscook Bay to mark the perimeters of a 61-acre area between Goose Island and Grove Point that will serve as an underwater test bed for five experimental tide-powered electrical turbines.
The lighted buoys will help define the rectangular test bed area for mariners who are unaware of the submerged turbines. U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Bob Albert, the region’s aids to navigation officer, said Thursday that nautical charts also are being updated to include symbology that defines the test bed area.
Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. will cover the costs of installing and maintaining the buoys. The company has been engineering and field testing its turbine designs in waters off Eastport since 2004 and now plans to submerge five turbines in 82 feet of water.
The turbines will be linked by underwater cable to an existing onshore Bangor Hydro-Electric substation at Kendall Head, north of Eastport, for on-shore distribution onto the power grid. The project anticipates eventual generation of 4 megawatts of output, enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.
Each of the units is 98 feet wide and will extend 31 feet above the ocean floor. The U.S. Coast Guard has determined that the submerged turbines will not pose a hazard to vessels at the surface, but would pose a “significant” hazard to underwater activities such as dredging, dragging, anchoring and diving.
Those hazards include entanglement of fishing gear and possible electrocution through contact with underwater cables carrying the electricity generated by the turbines to the shoreline.
The lighted buoys will help define the rectangular test bed area for mariners who are unaware of the submerged turbines. Albert, the region’s aids to navigation officer, said Thursday that nautical charts will be updated to include symbology that defines the test bed area.
Ocean Renewable Power Co. estimates that the various tasks associated with building and installing the turbines will create 200 jobs, while day-to-day operations will create 20 jobs.
In April the Maine Public Utilities Commission directed Maine’s three investor-owned utilities to negotiate long-term contracts for purchasing the electricity to be produced by the tidal turbines.
“This will be the first long-term power purchase agreements for tidal energy in the United States,” the Portland-based company said in a statement released after the utility commission’s action. “The PPAs will greatly enhance ORPC’s ability to attract the additional investment needed to complete the project’s build-out over the next four years. They also mean that the significant economic development benefits ORPC has already created in Washington County will expand dramatically, going forward.”
Phase one of the installation of the Maine Tidal Energy Project began in March with hard hat divers installing the bottom-anchored support frame for the first grid-connected, commercial TidGen Power System at Ocean Renewable Power’s Cobscook Bay site near Seward Neck, Lubec. The company expects to have the TidGed Power System installed by late summer, and to begin delivering electricity under the PPAs by October.
The Maine Tidal Energy Project is being funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy and by the Maine Technology Institute.
More information can be found at www.orpc.co.