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Roth: Maine's new tidal power ready for mainstream?

By June 13th, 2022No Comments

In February, I wrote a column called “Hydrokinetic power: wave of the future?” In it, I described Verdant Power Inc.’s development of the first tidal energy production projected in the United States in Long Island Sound in New York. Some exciting new developments are awash.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently approved the first-ever long-term power purchase agreement for tidal energy in our country. Operated by Ocean Renewable Power Co., the first installation of the underwater turbines will be this summer off the Cobscook Bay. The commission also took a bold step further and mandated that Maine’s three regulated utilities put tidal-powered electricity onto their grids as well this summer.

Compared to traditional renewable power sources like solar or wind, tidal energy is more predictable. However, because the technology has never been market-ready, perhaps until now, it has been considered to be an expensive undertaking to develop. Yet, the recent advances in technology as spearheaded by the project in New York, and now most recently in Maine, have shown that the technology is feasible and within economic reach. These advances might just be unlocking a highly available energy source for our country’s shoreline.

This tidal power is largely developed thanks to the moon. The gravitational forces at work cause the tide in our oceans to have a significant magnitude of potential power generation. The tidal generator, placed underwater, uses the flow of the tide to make electricity. As the tide comes in, or goes out, the turbines placed underwater are spun and ultimately electricity is generated just like any other form of power. And because we are not running out of gravity any time soon, this source is considered to be renewable.

While this particular resource of electricity generation will be expensive at first, it’s an investment that may be worth exploring, especially in areas where access to traditional fossil fuels is difficult to come by. Plus, because of its renewable characteristic, there aren’t any real emissions to worry about. American energy needs being met by American ingenuity and native sources.

That’s a high tide, for sure.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.