US DOE allocates $6 million for development of tidal energy demo pilot site

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected two marine energy projects to receive $6 million for the development of a tidal energy research, development, and demonstration pilot site.

Illustration/DEEC-Tec-based wave energy system (Courtesy of US DOE)

A team led by Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO), based in Eastsound, Washington, and a team led by ORPC, based in Portland, Maine, will share the $6 million investment.

OPALCO is proposing to deploy a tidal energy turbine in Rosario Strait in the San Juan Islands capable of producing about 2 MW of power. The company is aiming to develop a pilot tidal power program to provide a local power supply for San Juan Islanders.

ORPC is seeking to deploy two tidal energy devices in the Cook Inlet in Alaska off the coast of the remote area of East Foreland on the Kenai Peninsula, to demonstrate the feasibility of tidal energy projects in Cook Inlet, said to be the largest tidal energy resource in the U.S. The devices are expected to produce between 1 MW and 5 MW of power.

During the first phase which is expected to last a year, the two projects will evaluate proposed sites and plan licensing, environmental monitoring, site health and safety, commercialization, stakeholder engagement, community benefits, supply chain procurement, and technology selection and qualification.

This first phase will lead up to submitting the necessary license and/or permit applications to regulators. After the first phase, DOE will select one project to proceed through the remaining four phases and receive up to an additional $29 million, concluding with testing and operation of the tidal energy device(s).

In addition, a community-led river current energy research and development project was also selected to receive $9.5 million. This project aims to accelerate the development of current energy technologies and to promote resilience and economic development in Yukon River and Alaska Native communities. 

“With marine energy we can sustainably harnesses the power of the ocean and rivers, providing rural and remote communities with clean reliable power,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm

“The projects announced today are part of the largest investment by the federal government to advance the technology to capture energy from ocean tides and river currents while helping decarbonize hard-to-reach coastal communities across the country and increasing their energy independence and resilience by increasing use of locally generated energy.”

This announcement marks the first of five phases of a $35 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support the development and installation of one or more tidal energy devices that can be transitioned to a commercial project. 

According to DOE, the investment reflects that the industry is now at a phase in development that requires moving from single-device testing to array testing with several devices grouped together. 

Recently, the U.S. DOE launched a $14.5 million funding opportunity, aiming to address challenges in marine and ocean renewable energy industries and to encourage innovation. The funding, released by the DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) and Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), will support foundational research at domestic higher education institutions, including those serving minorities.

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