Monday, July 23, 2012

Tidal power comes of age, in Maine of all places

For the better part of a decade now, I've been covering the development of a new form of renewable energy here in the Gulf of Maine / Bay of Fundy region, home to the world's highest tides.

Tides -- which run about 10 feet here in Portland, and over 50 feet at the head of the Bay of Fundy -- pack an enormous amount of energy, a fact that led early 20th century engineers to propose damming entire bays in eastern Maine as part of Hoover Dam-scale energy projects. The ecological effect would have been enormous, of course, so it's probably a good thing these projects were never completed. (Parts were built under F.D.R., including the causeway linking Eastport (a.k.a Moose Island) to the mainland.)

But the new iteration of tidal power requires no dams and, indeed, appears to have little if any adverse effect on the environment. After years of development, it's finally going commercial on this continent, starting next month in Cobscook Bay, between the two easternmost towns in the United States, Eastport and Lubec, Maine, where the tides run 20 feet.

My front page piece in yesterday's Maine Sunday Telegram tells the story of how a Maine start-up company has managed to take the lead in an industry that's attracted the likes of Siemens and Lockheed Martin, and the opportunities and challenges ahead for them and their competitors as they seek to expand in the region.

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