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August 30, 2013 | last updated August 30, 2013 10:34 am

Ocean Renewable wins $5M in federal energy grants

Tidal energy company Ocean Renewable Power Co. of Portland won two Department of Energy grants of a total of 17 awards offered, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said yesterday.

The two grants, totaling nearly $5 million, will further help Ocean Renewable develop its TidGen Power System technology, company President Chris Sauer said in a press release.

"We've proven the technology, but this federal investment will give us the boost we need to take it to the next level. And it's going to mean more jobs and investment in Maine," Sauer said in the release.

ORPC in 2012 became the first company to connect tidal power generators to the electric grid with a project currently under way near Eastport.

One of the DOE grants for $1.9 million will be used to develop a control system that predicts tidal conditions. Those measurements will then be used to adjust turbine settings for optimal performance. The other grant for $3 million will be used to study the system components that convert water currents into electricity and develop more efficient equipment that can be used in tidal, wave and river current generators.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King were quick to praise the award. "Renewable energy sources, like tidal power, offer a promising opportunity to help our state and nation make significant strides in the direction of energy security and independence," they wrote in a joint statement.

ORPC launched the system in August 2012 in Cobscook Bay at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, between Lubec and Eastport. The system is designed to generate electricity at water depths of 50 feet to 100 feet and is used at shallow tidal and deep river sites. It connects to an on-shore station through one underwater transmission line. The company also plans to deploy power systems in Western Passage, also in the Bay of Fundy, that will connect to the New England power grid through Bangor Hydro Electric.

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