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BANGOR, Maine — A company seeking to develop a dam-like structure across the Pennamaquan River in Pembroke and utilize tidal currents to produce electricity began two days of meetings with state and federal officials on Wednesday.
Halcyon Tidal Power is seeking approval for a $125 million project to build a 1,616-foot tidal “barrage” or low dam across the Pennamaquan River between Leighton Neck and Hersey Neck in order to harness the powerful tides of the Cobscook Bay.
In its 2010 filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the company estimated the facility would generate 80,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually. That is enough to provide power to about 13,000 homes, according to Ramez Atiya, a Utah physicist who is chairman and chief technology officer of the company.
Company officials and consultants met with state and FERC officials at offices of the state Department of Environmental Protection and were scheduled to have a second meeting on Thursday. Company officials also planned to meet with residents of Pembroke at the town office from noon to 2 p.m. Friday.
The company was granted an extension of its initial preliminary FERC permit a few months ago, Ted Verrill, president the CEO, said by phone while taking a break from Wednesday’s meeting.
The company and its consultants have proposed over 45 studies associated with the project to assess potential environmental impacts, according to Verrill. He said he hopes the studies would be completed, the data analyzed, and the findings made available to FERC so that it can make a decision about permitting the project in mid-2016.
The studies should begin late this year or in early 2015, said Verrill. Construction, which will take about 15 months, could begin as early as 2016, and the facility could be operating by late 2017 or early 2018.
The Friday meeting in Pembroke is required by FERC. Company officials will brief residents on its plans to conduct various studies related to the project.
“Basically, it’s an update for them,” said Verrill, who noted that some Pembroke residents attended the meeting on Wednesday.
Halcyon is essentially a holding company; the shareholders are Verrill and the company’s two other officers, Atiya and Vice President Keith Towse.
The company is seeking $5 million in startup capital, roughly half to fund initial development of the Pembroke project and the remainder for another project in Nova Scotia.
In company documents about the project, it is referred to as tapping tidal range power. A tidal range power plant features a basin separated from the ocean by an enclosure — the barrage. The rise and fall of the tides creates a differential head across the enclosure, and gravity drives water through turbines in caissons at the center of the barrage.
“We think we will be adding substantial numbers of jobs to Washington County,” said Verrill, and the finished project also is expected to draw “tens of thousands” of tourists.
When pressed about the number of people the power generating facility would employ once it is operating, Verrill said it was “hard to determine exactly.”
It would have a lock to allow passage of boats, and it would have to be staffed around the clock, he noted, suggesting it would require three shifts of about five to seven employees each.