August 1, 2012

Tidal energy has been so slow to harness


Anyone who spends time along our shorelines knows that tidal energy is a constant renewable resource. Two high tides and two low tides each day are part of our planet's pulse. Tidal power is an untapped resource, especially along the highly populated East Coast.

The U.S. Energy Department just recognized the "first commercial, grid-connected U.S. tidal energy project" in the U.S. What took so long? $$$.

A $10 million investment from the Energy Department provided Ocean Renewable Power Company enough to get their first tidal energy device in their pilot project  into Cobscook Bay near Eastport, Maine, this summer.

I have witnessed the famous Bay of Fundy's tides in Nova Scotia. 100 billion tons of water flow in and out of this bay daily. Initially, the Cobscook Bay pilot project will provide enough renewable electricity to power between 75 and 100 homes. But that's a good start. Detractors, of course, will divide $10 million by 100 homes and do some "funky math" to deride the program. After running and monitoring this initial system for a year, they will install additional power systems over the next three years to increase the project’s capacity to 3 megawatts—enough electricity to power 1,200 Maine homes and businesses.

Earlier this year, the Energy Department released a nationwide tidal energy resource assessment, identifying about 250 terawatt hours of annual electric generation potential from tidal currents.

Then there are the currents too. A promising project in New York City's East River has not been in the news for a long time.