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April 25, 2012 | last updated April 26, 2012 10:37 am

PUC sets terms for selling tidal-derived electricity

Maine utilities regulators have issued the country's first long-term power purchase agreements for tidal energy, a move that will boost Ocean Renewable Power Co., which is slated to install its first commercial turbine unit later this year.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has established a 20-year contract term sheet that sets the rate to be paid for electricity from tidal power, according to The Associated Press. The subsidized rate is 21.5 cents per kilowatt hour, much higher than the 11- to 12-cent rate most Maine residents pay. Richard Davies, Maine's public advocate, said the price seems high now, but that it could become competitive in five years as the price of fossil fuel-derived electricity rises. The PUC also directed Central Maine Power Co., Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co. to negotiate a contract with ORPC under those terms to sell the tidal-derived electricity on the grid this summer.

ORCP in February received a federal license to install the 300-kilowatt tidal power pilot project off the shore of Eastport in Cobscook Bay, after successful beta testing. The company is positioned to be the first in the country to generate grid-compatible tidal power, though another company also has a license for a tidal project in New York City's East River. The ORPC system initially will generate enough electricity to power up to 25 homes, with plans to power more than 1,000 residences by 2016.

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