Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tidal Power Projects Advance in Maine

Boats at low tide at a dock on the Bay of Fundy. Photo © Arun Sinha.
What better place to build a tidal power project than the Bay of Fundy?

The bay is home to the highest tides in the world, which generate fast, massive currents. Wolfville, Nova Scotia, located on an inlet near the apex of the bay, boasts tides of 52 feet (16 meters) every 12 hours 25 minutes! A 5-story house on the beach would be completely under water twice a day at high tide.

Tides in the U.S. portion of the Bay of Fundy aren't as dramatic, but they're not too shabby either. The swing from high to low tide at Passamaquoddy Bay, an inlet of the Bay of Fundy on the eastern tip of Maine along the U.S.-Canadian border, averages about 18 feet (5.5 meters).

That's more than enough to make the region extremely attractive to tidal power producers. Ocean Renewable Power, a Maine-based company that generates electricity from tidal power, holds a permit to produce electricity from Passamaquoddy Bay's tides.

The lure of plentiful tidal power has drawn several development projects to Maine. In addition to its high suitability for the waterways of the state, tidal power is clean, requires fewer turbines than wind to create the same amount of electricity, and poses no threats to boats.

Now, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the state of Maine have agreed to cooperate to bring more tidal power projects to the state. More turbines in the water will mean more opportunities to study their environmental impact, which could lead to faster regulatory decisions.

Maine is just about my favorite state to visit. And having enjoyed a couple of boat rides on the Passamaquoddy Bay many years ago, I can't think of a better body of water in which to place the tidal turbines.

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