The Green Coast

Tidal Power Demonstration Project

News Release

(This News Release originated from Maine Senator Kevin Raye.)

2005 October 11

EASTPORT and LUBEC — Sen. Kevin Raye (R-Perry) is hailing the announcement that the Eastport-Lubec area has been selected as Maine’s best potential location for a tidal power demonstration project that would employ an underwater turbine technology that depends on the free flow of the tides rather than dams. The selection signals that the area will be further evaluated as part of a feasibility study. It is the first of numerous steps to be completed before a project can be approved. “I am very pleased that the potential Maine sites have been narrowed to the Lubec-Eastport area,“ said Raye. “Though this is only a first step, it is a hopeful signal. I believe this project holds great promise, and I look forward to the results of further studies as it moves forward,” Raye said.

A study team — managed by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, California, and supported by funding from the Maine Technology Institute — identified and conducted a preliminary evaluation of 40 potential sites up and down Maine's coast this summer. The 40 sites were subsequently reduced to 10 finalists, each of which was visited and evaluated by members of the study team in late August. 

The selection of the Eastport-Lubec area as the prime location for a Maine project is part of EPRI’s process to target potential sites in the states of California, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, as well as the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Depending on the outcome of the ongoing process, pilot projects could be located at some or all of the 7 targeted sites. “This confirms the extraordinary quality of our natural resource, and its potential for increasing energy self-reliance,” said Bob Judd, a part-time Lubec resident, member of the lead advisory team for the EPRI project, and key advocate of the Lubec and Eastport sites. “We have successfully taken the first step in a process that has the potential to serve our area and make it a model for homegrown electricity.  It is a good start, but many steps remain in the process and this preliminary step does not yet guarantee the final siting of the project.”

Maine's advisors on the project, in consultation with study team consultants, selected Eastport and Lubec as the state’s strongest candidate sites. Extensive modeling of the area’s unparalleled tidal flow, done by Texas A&M Oceanography Professor David Brooks, an Eastport native, was pivotal to the selection.

In addition to the quality of the tidal flow, project advisors were impressed with the skills available in the local area, the proximity of shoreside support resources, the potential for international collaboration with New Brunswick, and the receptivity demonstrated by local leaders at an Aug. 26th meeting in Lubec with Judd and site selection consultant Dr. George Hagerman, of Virginia Tech.

Among those participating in the Lubec meeting were Sen. Raye, Andrew Varisco of U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s office, Carol Woodcock of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’s office, Lubec Selectman Bill Daye, Eastport City Manager George “Bud” Finch, and Lubec Town Administrator Maureen Glidden. Also taking part were Capt. Bob Peacock, Lubec Harbormaster Davis Pike, Kathy Billings of Bangor-Hydro, Will Hopkins of the Cobscook Bay Resource Center, Michael Mayhew of the Maine PUC, Michael Szemerda of Cooke Aquaculture, and Lubec residents Harold Bailey, Peter Boyce and Dick Hoyt.

Following the meeting, Peacock took Hagerman, Raye, and others on a tour of potential sites. Raye indicated to Hagerman his support for the local sites, and subsequently contacted Beth Nagusky, Maine’s Director of Energy Independence, urging that the Eastport-Lubec area be selected. Raye noted that the area’s powerful tides, strong local interest, and history as home of the former Passamaquoddy Dam tidal power project combine to make it an ideal location to test a turbine generating system. Raye also noted his belief that the project offers potential for increasing economic activity in Washington County.

Specifically, consultants report that waters between Dog Island and Clark's Ledge in Eastport appear to have the highest potential for larger scale power generation. Waters near Shackford Head in Eastport were also deemed attractive but have some limitations. The Lubec Narrows ranked high due to its extremely powerful tidal flow, but lacks the water depth at low tide required to accommodate larger-scale generation systems. Those close to the project indicate there is a good possibility that the Lubec Narrows could become the site of a 500-kilowatt pilot "prototype" project. If the technology proves successful after a 12-24 month test, project management hopes for a larger commercial project in the 10 megawatt range, likely at Eastport, in future years. A 10 megawatt generation system would generate enough electricity to serve the needs of 7,000-8,000 typical households. As envisioned, the projects would be owned by developers who would finance the purchase, installation, and operation of the generation systems. They would recoup their costs and earn a profit by selling the electricity into the existing electrical distribution grid. 

A more detailed study will be undertaken, with results expected in early May 2006. This analysis will address a number of questions, including the projected cost of electricity generated from tidal power.

“These are emerging technologies that have not had the federal R&D support and other incentives provided to more mature technologies such as wind energy and fossil fuels,” said Judd. “But this offers the potential for Washington County to become a pioneer in tidal power generation.  Building the local infra-structure to support tidal energy development is attractive. This project could become an incubator, a model that others can follow, but it will take persistence, policy support and community interest to become a reality.”

The purpose of the initial phase of the study was to select Maine's best potential site for the future generation of commercial-scale electricity from the energy in the free flow of the tides, and to match up this site with the best available technology for converting this energy into electricity for sale into the power grid. If successful, the generation of tidal energy — a classic renewable resource — would increase our energy independence, provide local economic benefits, and demonstrate the effectiveness of newer technologies that could be used both for larger-scale electricity generation and a range of scaled-down local applications.

The next step will be to select the best technology for the potential Maine site. Of eight companies identified by the study team as designing and manufacturing tidal power generation systems, three that appear to have products most suitable to the area have been selected for further review. One will be selected for the detailed economic and environmental and regulatory analysis that will take place over the next six months.  

“All who have been involved so far deserve congratulations and thanks, with special recognition to the contributions of Kevin Raye, Dave Brooks, Bob Peacock, Peter Boyce and Will Hopkins. “Now we need to keep this pioneering project alive and nurture it with care and clear thinking. It could turn out to be something special right in our back yard,” Judd concluded.