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Updated: November 4, 2019

ORPC awarded $3.9M to develop innovative hydropower turbines

COURTESY / ORPC ORPC was awarded $3.9 million to develop innovative hydropower turbines that fit specific river constraints. Here, ORPC and ÉireComposites team members pose in front of one of two commercial RivGen Power System turbines.

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding Ocean Renewable Power Co. of Portland a grant of $3,875,859 to further develop its innovative hydropower technology. 

The company will use the grant to develop hydropower turbines that fit the specific constraints of rivers, allowing them to be used in more remote areas, according to a news release.

“This award will facilitate additional product innovation in ORPC’s power systems that will enable our company to enter more markets and assist more customers with an economically feasible, no-carbon, renewable energy solution,” ORPC President John Ferland said in the release. “The Department of Energy’s funding award process is competitively rigorous, and we are honored that the agency selected our proposal.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine 2nd District, added: “Renewable energy is the key to a clean future for our children and grandchildren, and Maine has huge potential to lead clean energy innovation — both in wind and tidal power. I’m thrilled to see Ocean Renewable Power Co. receive this grant, which will help support Maine’s position as a leader on tidal power, and will spur job growth in Maine.”

Tidal power in remote markets

ORPC's technology uses tidal power and river water flow to create renewable, carbon-free electricity. With the help of the grant, the company plans to modify the design of its turbines and equipment so that they are more useful in remote areas, including parts of Maine.

ORPC invests heavily in rural communities, and since 2010 has brought more than $35 million into Maine by employing local tradespeople, engineers and support staff in locations including Portland, Eastport and Lubec. The company generally sites its renewable energy systems in rural areas where electricity is supplied by a diesel-fueled system, creating an affordable, carbon-free alternative source of power.

In June, the company made three announcements about the progressing commercialization of its energy systems.

The news included the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval to install and operate a full-size river marine renewable energy project in Igiugig, Alaska, under a pilot permit; completion of two full-scale RivGen turbines by ORPC’s Irish partner ÉireComposites Teo; and another DOE grant, for $200,000, to advance development of a tidal-powered energy storage system in the rural community of False Pass, Alaska.

ORPC, founded in 2004, has 20 employees in the United States and says it is the only energy developer to have built, operated and delivered power to a utility grid from both tidal and river turbines.

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