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  • Energy Dept. Spends $10 Million on Water Turbine to Power 25 Houses


    Photo credit courtesy of NREL

    The first underwater turbine to make use of tidal energy went live last week in Maine, supported by a $10 million investment by the Department of Energy.

    The Ocean Renewable Power Company Maine’s Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Pilot Project received the Energy Department money to build, install, and operate the hydrokinetic energy conversion devices situated at the easternmost tip of the state.

    The turbine, with a rated capacity of 180 kW, is expected to generate enough power for 25 to 30 homes.

    The electricity produced by the tidal generation will be sold by Ocean Renewable Power Company to Maine’s utilities under a 20-year power purchase agreement, according to Boston.com. The initial price of 21.5 cents per kilowatt hour is almost double the current average price of 11.21 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity in Maine.

    Heritage’s Nick Loris, a critic of government subsidies for energy sources, said Washington should stop propping up industries that happen to have good connections in Washington. “Taxpayer-funded programs do not create jobs; they shift them from one sector of the economy to another,” Loris recently wrote. “The opportunity cost of government spending is the lost labor and capital extracted from other sectors of the economy to artificially support the politically preferred ones. If underwater turbines are a good investment, companies shouldn’t need subsidies to build them.”

    The power company plans to construct a network of as many as 20 of the seafloor-mounted underwater turbines to eventually produce electricity for approximately 1,200 homes:

    The first tidal generator is expected to begin delivering electricity to the regional power grid in September, starting small, with just enough to power 25 homes. It is the product of several years and millions of dollars in investment by Ocean Renewable Power’s backers and the Department of Energy.

    The Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project cost about $21 million, including research and development, design and fabrication of three turbine units, installation, and environmental monitoring. The systems capture the energy of the moving water, rotating a turbine that powers a generator.

    According to Energy Department estimates released in the project’s impact statement, 53 new jobs are expected to be created over the course of the eight-year pilot period. In announcing the project’s culmination this summer, Energy Secretary Steven Chu put the figure slightly higher, at around 100 jobs “supported” by the project.

    Generating energy from tidal forces is more predictable and reliable than other forms of renewable energy, especially wind turbines.

    Paul Jacobson of the Electric Power Research Institute told Boston.com that predictability is crucial. “That’s highly valuable to the folks who have to manage the generation and transmission system,” he said. “To know how much power they can expect to get from a system over time is valuable.”

    The Electric Power Research Institute is a recipient of approximately $1.5 million in Energy Department funding for a variety of ocean energy assessments, including ocean wave energy resource recoverability, fish injury and mortality, and available hydrokinetic energy from U.S. rivers.

    The Energy Department believes the project represents the first step in promoting the development of tidal energy in the United States. Based on its own estimates from early 2012, the Energy Department projects that as much as 15 percent of the nation’s electricity could come from waves and tidal currents and up to one-third of the nation’s electricity demand could be generated along the coast, though it did not provide a specific plan on expanding the energy portfolio in the announcement.

    The Energy Department has funded more than $87 million in marine and hydrokinetic projects since fiscal 2008, with more than 45 percent going to three states—Maine, Oregon, and Washington. Private industry received more than $49.4 million of the total, or 60 percent.

    The Maine project’s $10 million award was the largest of the Energy Department’s Water Power Program projects.

    Posted in Featured, Scribe [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to Energy Dept. Spends $10 Million on Water Turbine to Power 25 Houses

    1. KJinAZ says:

      As an electronics engineer I ha e several problems with this development. There are several concerns with what it does to the enviornment. I am NOT a tree hugger, but I do have concerns with what large scale use of this type systems would cause. Why develop something that cannot be expanded safely to start with?

      We could have solar energy here already. Just look at what we have done to cut the cost of computers. We just have not made the effort, due to the Muslim world who has in the past controlled the cost of oil, and made it not profitable for solar developmeent. These same people also used their oil money to buy up, and bury any new competitive technology. This allowed them to stay in power with their oil supply.

      The fact that our government is wasting 10 million dollars on this boondoggle is sad. Our government is playing sucker for STUPID investments with OUR tax dollars. This administration has blown Billions on BS science projects that they were to DUMB to understand. This is our money they are wasting.

      Yes these projects can work and they can prove that on paper, but why build something you can't use on large scale? Who wants thousands of turbines in the oceans? How many fish will they kill? How much will it slow down the tide on mass scale? Even if they cut the cost in half it's still to expensive.

      We could build a Tesla based system that would allow people to have free power within range of transmission. The problem is the can't charge you for the power very easily. We could have a government power distribution system that is wireless and would cost less than half of what we spend on energy now. There are also other technologies that have been buried that could make energy very cheap, or even free that we have allowed the big money oil people to end before they started.

      Our leadership is the problem. We ha e NONE! None of our political leaders care about making real improvements. They care ONLY about keeping power. Obama has done more to keep the Muslims and their oil money in power than anyone in history. We MUST GET OUT OF THEIR CONTROL! They are our sworn enemy according to them. Why are we allowing them to control our lifestyles due to their control on power? The Muslims own the patients in OUR patient office to solve our power problems. When are we going to do something that will actually benefit humanity, instead of rich oil Muslims who fund our elections?

    2. Clifford Goudey says:

      Michael, this was an R&D project. ORPC's devices are an early-stage commercialization of a new generator concept. I wonder how expensive the first gas turbine was and how much taxpayer money has been spent in their development. This type of funding continues even though gas turbines are a mature technology. What about the $millions being spent on "clean" coal? http://inhouse.unt.edu/federal-funding-allow-stud… Why do you chose to only beat up on renewable?

      We all agree that Washington should stop propping up industries that happen to have good connections in Washington. To me, that means the fossil fuel and nuclear industries whose products would be unaffordable were it not for massive and undeserved federal subsidies.

    3. Clifford Goudey says:

      Michael, this was an R&D project. ORPC's devices are an early-stage commercialization of a new generator concept. I wonder how expensive the first gas turbine was and how much taxpayer money has been spent in their development. This type of funding continues even though gas turbines are a mature technology. What about the $millions being spent on "clean" coal? http://inhouse.unt.edu/federal-funding-allow-stud… Why do you chose to only beat up on renewable?

      We all agree that Washington should stop propping up industries that happen to have good connections in Washington. To me, that means the fossil fuel and nuclear industries whose products would be unaffordable were it not for massive and undeserved federal subsidies.

      • kuhnkat says:

        Clifford, the fossil fuel industry gets NO subsidies!!! Renewable energy receives SUBSIDIES!!

        A susbsidy is CASH GIVEN to the company. As the article noted renewables also recieve guaranteed higher prices for their generated energy, effectively another subsidy.

        Tax breaks similar to what ALL businesses receive are what the fossil fuel industry receives. I agree, we should get rid of ALL TAX breaks and greatly simplify the tax system.

    4. Roy Hogue says:

      Give it up folks. Renewable energy will never do the job. Just do the sim[ple math.

      Remember Solyndra!

    5. jms says:

      53 jobs? Really? In other words it will require 53 people to operate and maintain a generator that provides electricity to 25 homes. Or maybe 100 employees for those 25 homes … they aren't sure apparently. Yeah … that's the future of energy production alright. This is criminally stupid.

    6. Guest says:

      30 years ago they started cancelling nuclear plants citing fusion as a replacement for fission power plants. Eventually they decided to just continue building coal-fired powered plants, as nuclear was too dangerous. Now we a re engaged in much sound nd fury over "clean" energy, wich will come or not with the same prognosis as nuclear fusion. Current costs per KW on these projects is rediculous, solar projects would require thousands of acres, windmills in veritable forrests to replace existing power plants. Imediate solution? Clean coal plants (yes, they do exist) and conversion to natural gas. Build Nukes. Continue research and development as financial capabilities allow and quit worrying.

      • O2BMe says:

        No Nukes until they find a safe way to dispose of used fuel rods. Natural gas could run our cars as well as heat our homes and create electricity. We have enough natural resources if our government would get their act together.

    7. @georgfelis says:

      So…tidal energy only works when the tide is coming in, and going out, right? Isn't that only about half the time? Do the homes sit in the dark the rest of the time?

    8. AD-RtR/OS! says:

      This is an employment project for deep-sea divers and out-or-work lobster-men, right?

    9. Old Salt says:

      The two big enemies of equipment in seawater are corrosion and fouling. The potential for accelerated corrosion due to circulating electrical currents is a formidable obstacle for any submerged electrical moving parts. My prediction is that this product won't last a year before it has to be pulled for maintenance, and eventually abandoned.

    10. Javelin47 says:

      Aside from the probable environmental impact of killing fish – similar to wind turbines killing birds, the Feds have no business subsidizing ANY company for production of a product (cars, oil, nat'l gas, corn/ethanol, etc.). Our $ from the Feds should only be for R&D, and SMALL scale demo of the technology – prove it works – then if its commercially viable, someone will produce & sell it.

    11. higley7 says:

      As Old Salt above relates, corrosion and fouling are huge problems in such endeavors and maintenance of bottom-based installations will be very expensive and dangerous. It makes no sense to create systems with limited lifetimes, even worse than wind turbines, and place them in hard to reach places.

      Tidal power can work to a limited extent as you do not want to stop or slow the flow into the estuaries. They have to be very careful with its "ripple" effects.

      Wave power is a waste of time as waves are certainly too variable, even less reliable than wind, and can create huge forces that tear these machines to pieces. Too much motion and stresses that cannot be handled. And, I have been out on the ocean numerous times when the water is almost glass smooth—no power there at all.

      Power from shore currents or the Gulf Stream should not be allowed. It would slow down the stream and change climate in the areas that the Stream effects. This would have the worst consequences while affecting estuary flows would affect fisheries and many other local conditions.

      Just plain a waste of time and money. Hey, let's have idle fishing boats drag turbines behind them to generate power. Sounds good! Let's find some government friends and give them a few millions to make it happen.

    12. PaulE says:

      Another failed and costly attempt by the federal government, via squandered taxpayer dollars being wasted on an uncompetitive and over-priced green technology project. All done to prop up the green agenda so loved by the inside the beltway crowd in Washington. Does anyone want to start the countdown clock until this green energy company declares bankruptcy too?

    13. This is nothing more than lining the pocket to make wealthy people out of the recipients of this grant. It is a worthless effort and can could easily be replaced with much cheaper coal, oil or natural gas, all of which are available in plentiful supply at a much cheaper cost. It is payola!

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