ORPC’s TidGen™ turbine generator unit being readied for installation at Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project site. Image (c) ORPC

The United States’ first grid-connected tidal power project is now online and delivering electricity to the grid from an underwater power system in Cobscook Bay, Maine, the U.S. Department of Energy said this week.

Bangor Hydro Electric Company verified that on September 13 electricity generated by an underwater turbine generator started flowing to their power grid from Ocean Renewable Power Company’s (ORPC) Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project. The project is funded by a $10 million investment from the Energy Department, as well as the Maine Technology Institute and private investors.

This is the first power from any ocean energy project including offshore wind, wave and tidal, to be delivered to an electric utility grid in the United States, and it is the only ocean energy project, other than one using a dam, that delivers power to a utility grid anywhere in North, Central and South America.

The device, called a TidGen, is designed to operate in shallow tidal or deep river sites at depths of 50 to 100 feet , and has a peak output of 180 kilowatts. That amount is enough electricity to power 25 to 30 homes annually.

In April, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a 20-year power purchase agreement for ORPC’s Maine Tidal Energy Project (which includes the Cobscook Bay Project) with three utilities: Central Maine Power, Bangor Hydro Electric, and Maine Public Service. Two additional TidGen devices will be installed at ORPC’s Cobscook Bay Project site in the fall of 2013, and together, the three-device power system will generate enough energy to power 75 to 100 homes.  The devices connect directly to an onshore substation through a single underwater transmission line.

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