Ocean Renewable Power Co. is opening an office in Ireland's County Donegal to capitalize on that coastal region's interest in the Portland-based company's renewable marine energy technology and expertise. The subsidiary, ORPC Ireland LLC, will be located at the Co-Lab Business Center at Letterkenny Institute of Technology in County Donegal, located on Ireland's northwest coast and having more mainland coastline than any other county in the country.
"One of the next steps for us will be getting ORPC Solutions active in that country so we can begin a feasibility process with our partners in Donegal," said John Ferland, Ocean Renewable Power Co.'s vice president of project development who earlier this year was named president of ORPC Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary offering project development, licensing and strategic services to river and ocean energy projects throughout the world. Ferland said that process includes identifying optimum sites along the Donegal coast for deploying ocean, tidal or river power systems; determining the appropriate scale for those possibilities; and establishing strategic and supply chain partnerships in that region.
Nathan Johnson, ORPC's director of environmental affairs, said the decision to locate in Ireland grew out of months of discussions with Irish officials who visited Maine several times to learn first-hand about ORPC's Cobscook Bay pilot ocean energy project in Eastport, which made history in 2012 when it became the first hydrokinetic tidal energy project to deliver electricity to a utility grid in the Americas. ORPC also installed and operated its first river power system in the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig last summer, successfully delivering power to shore.
"It's taken lot of time and effort to get to this point," Johnson said, crediting Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative, as a key ally in the company's efforts to expand its network of partners in the international arena. "The similarities between County Donegal and Washington County are striking. The coastal and island cultures in Maine and Ireland are very, very similar. We both face the same challenges and the same opportunities."
"What they saw when they came to Maine was an economic opportunity that developing renewable ocean power provided in a rural part of our state that resembles their country," Ferland added, citing the ways in which ORPC's Eastport pilot project has tapped local marine industry businesses in a supply chain that so far has pumped $25 million into Maine's economy.
Ferland said ORPC's subsidiary in Donegal will be working closely with its Irish partners to identify Irish and European funding opportunities to advance hydrokinetic energy projects in Donegal. "Being a European company now, we can use Ireland to access other opportunities in Europe," he said. "Right now we're investing capital with the hope of accessing the funding that might become available for tidal energy development."
"Donegal's tidal range is similar to Maine," said Johnson. "There are numerous sites where tidal velocity is strong, providing a lot of opportunities for projects to tap that renewable source of energy."
In a release announcing ORPC's new Irish subsidiary, officials from Donegal hailed what Seamus Neely, CEO with Donegal County Council, characterized as an opportunity to partner with local communities "to bring an injection of economic impetus to Donegal and the Northwest region."
"We are eager to expand our renewable energy expertise and look forward to the founding of the marine renewables industry in Donegal with ORPC Ireland," Paul Hannigan, president of Letterkenny Institute of Technology, said in the release.
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