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Natural Awakenings

Sea Power: Tidal Turbines on the Way

Harnessing the power of tidal currents to produce electricity may seem like a new idea, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt started the first U.S. government test project in Eastport, Maine. The site sits across from Canada’s Nova Scotia on the American side of the Bay of Fundy, known for its tremendous tides.

“The tides are about as reliable as anything in nature, so you can predict years in advance how much power you will have at a given time—that’s a great advantage,” says Paul Jacobson, Ph.D., ocean energy leader of the Electric Power Research Institute.

New tidal technologies are inspired by wind turbines and are mounted on the seafloor, where they slowly spin in the current, out of sight. Ongoing tests by the University of Maine suggest no effect on marine life, which seem to avoid the devices.

Several companies are in the hunt to be the industry pioneer, but the Maine-based Ocean Renewable Power Company already has plans to deploy a full-scale150-kilowatt unit, the first tidal device to be connected to a U.S. electrical grid, off of Eastport later this year. They expect to add more units by 2015, to initially yield a total of five megawatts of current, enough to power about 4,000 homes.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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