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Maine Harnesses Green Tidal Energy in Cobscook Bay
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July 26, 2012

Maine Harnesses Green Tidal Energy in Cobscook Bay

By Jacqueline Lee
Contributing Writer

Ocean Renewable Power Co. plans to deploy its first commercial tidal energy device into Maine’s Cobscook Bay this summer. The device deployment is made possible by a $10-million investment from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“The Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project 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,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Continued investment and innovation in clean energy technologies are integral to advancing these goals.”

The initial 4-megawatt pilot project will produce sufficient energy to power 75 to 100 Maine homes. ORPC plans to install additional tidal energy devices that will eventually power more than 100 Maine homes and businesses.

To harness tidal power, companies usually build a dam across the opening to a tidal basin. When the sluice is open and the tide is up, water flows into the basin. Then, when the tide lowers and sea levels drop, the sluice is closed, and traditional hydropower technology produces power from the elevated water in the basin.

The largest tidal power station is currently the The La Rance station in France, which generates 240 megawatts of power. No other country besides France successfully uses tidal power as a resource.

Tidal energy is not without its problems though. Reduced tidal flow and silt buildup can have a negative impact of natural tidal habitats. The facilities would affect mud flats, which tend to house a lot of birds. Fish can also be caught and killed in the turbines.

Additionally, French engineers have calculated that if countries across the globe begin to harness tidal energy, then Earth’s rotation would slow by 24 hours every 2,000 years.

A similar project is underway in Wales. Average power output of tidal energy facilities in Wales has been estimated at 3 gigawatts, which would provide enough power for the entire country.

Tidal energy facilities would also compensate for heightening sea levels in Wales, which are threatening the coastline as a result of climate change.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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