Tidal test site in Massachusetts first in US to receive federal license

Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative (MRECo), a non-profit corporation dedicated to sustainable development of ocean renewable energy, has secured an eight-year pilot license from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct tests on tidal turbines at the Bourne tidal test site (BTTS) in Bourne, Massachusetts.

Bourne Tidal Test Site test structure (Courtesy of MRECo)

The BTTS stands as the sole tidal test site in the U.S. to attain this license. With this license, the turbines can directly feed renewable electricity into the grid.

The BTTS enables tidal turbine developers to test prototypes up to three meters in diameter. With the FERC license, MRECo can oversee testing in the ocean currents of the Cape Cod Canal, assessing turbine efficiency, generation capacity, durability, and environmental impact. 

Developing turbine technologies is costly and challenging. University test tanks are limited to small prototypes while testing large devices in the ocean involves expensive and time-consuming permitting, said John Miller, the MRECo Executive Director. The BTTS addresses this by providing a solution for testing larger prototypes efficiently.

Funded, designed, and constructed by the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council, the BTTS was built to ease the shortage of test sites. Unlike testing from barges or bulkheads, it features a fixed test stand to avoid flow disruption. An accessible lifting arm facilitates turbine installation, while its stability enhances sensor accuracy.

“To meet climate change challenges, we need all the sources of renewable energy available. Tidal energy is an important piece of the mix because it is reliable, predictable, and available along coasts where population densities are highest,” said Miller

“New England has the intellectual capital available in its universities to lead in developing this source and BTTS provides a critical tool. Thirty years ago Professor Gorlov from Northeastern University invented a new type of turbine with helical blades and tested it at the site where BTTS is located. That technology has been commercialized and is being deployed in Alaska and exported to Chile. Its time for the next generation and we are ready.”

Additionally, the BTTS houses the Marine Observatory for Sensor Testing (MOST), providing a platform for long-term ocean sensor testing.

In April 2023, MRECo informed that an unnamed Massachusetts developer would test a scale model of a tidal energy turbine designed to generate power from slower waters at BTTS.

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