Edgartown aspires to harness energy of tides

Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is looking to achieve energy independence using renewable energy sources, especially the strong tides off its eastern shores to gain electricity from the tidal energy.

Edgartown received a preliminary permit in 2008, offered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to develop the Muskeget channel for tidal energy. The area is about 30 m deep, and has a consistent current of 4 knots, as WCAI news site reports.

The permit marked a step closer for the islands’ energy independence from the mainland.

The town teamed up with Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative, non-profit corporation that promotes the sustainable development of renewable energy in New England ocean waters, to get the project started.

According to John Miller, MREC Executive Director, the town has a deal with the Collaborative that includes more than USD 2 million in grants for surveys and studies for the Channel project. Aside from that, additional USD 300, 000 is necessary to perform other studies that are mandatory in order to get an initial pilot project license. After gaining the license, the Muskeget tidal project is expected to be developed in two phases.

The first phase will be to build a small scale pilot project that would produce 5 MW of electricity, followed by the installation of cables that would transfer the energy from the shore to the site.

“The next stage would be trying to put the cable in from shore to the site. That would cost 5 or 6 million dollars, but that would get the site to a point where a developer could go in and develop it for under 20 cents a kilowatt, which is commercially viable,” WCAI quotes Miller as saying.

The project, once completed, is expected to produce 20 MW of electricity which is equivalent to 20 percent of Edgartown’s power needs.

Edgartown Selectman, Art Smadbeck, said that the project faced a lot of challenges getting to the initial pilot stage, and that the authorities have yet to bring the legislation that would enable utilization of the electricity.

[mappress mapid=”42″]

Tidal Energy Today Staff; Image: flickr/Bill Brine