PORTLAND, Maine — Ocean Renewable Power Co. has won a $2.25 million federal grant to build a deployment, anchor and retrieval system for its tidal and river power generation turbines.
The U.S. Department of Energy funding will allow the company to develop ways to lower the costs of deploying, retrieving and anchoring its tidal and river power turbines, making them more commercially competitive, according to a news release issued Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.
Ocean Renewable President and CEO Chris Sauer called the grant award a “big deal,” saying the work to be done with the grant will represent an important advancement in alternative power technology.
“These types of advances are what will make us competitive with natural gas,” he said Tuesday.
Founded in 2004, the Portland-based company harnessed the ocean tides to create energy with a submersible turbine first connected to the power grid in 2012 near Eastport. The connection remained in place for about a year.
“It was not as reliable as it needed to be and it was costly,” Sauer said.
But the work to be done on the deployment, anchoring and retrieval system for the turbines has the potential to seriously reduce the costs of producing electricity, he said Tuesday.
This work should be done by next summer with turbines back in the water for testing in Cobscook Bay by the end of 2017, Sauer said.
If all goes well, the company will be a viable permanent power source in 2018, he said.
The company also has been working on a smaller, river-based turbine project in Alaska and Sauer said he hopes that project will be ready to deliver power by 2018.
Sauer said the federal grant announced Tuesday would generate six to 10 jobs all around Maine. None of the new jobs would be in Washington County until the firm tests the new system in 2017.
“It’s been very exciting to watch ORPC develop innovative technology to generate sustainable, clean power from tides and rivers — all while creating and saving over 100 jobs in 14 Maine counties,” Pingree said in announcing the award Tuesday. “As ORPC takes its technology to new markets, this federal investment will help them fine-tune their products so they are better able to compete with other power sources. … I am glad that [Ocean Renewable] was chosen for this significant award.”
The Department of Energy grant for ORPC was one of 41 Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy awards totaling $125 million given to technology firms to pursue novel approaches to energy innovation while combating climate change and moving toward a low-carbon economy, according to Pingree.