Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tidal power in United States – Current outlook

There doesn't seem to be a lot of talk about tidal power in United States. In fact, not many Americans are aware that U.S. has very good tidal power potential in several different areas, and that by harnessing this renewable energy source U.S. could ensure more energy coming from clean energy sources, which would not only help our environment but also improve our energy security as it would reduce the need for foreign fuel import.

This lack of knowledge about tidal power shouldn't come as a big surprise because tidal power is still relatively unknown energy source, even on global scale, the one that has so far been limited to few prototype projects, mostly used for demonstration purpose.

The several studies have confirmed that U.S. Northeast has the best tidal power resources in the country. One of the studies even said that harnessing tidal power in this area would be far more profitable than going for new solar or wind energy projects. The Pacific Northwest is also one of the areas with very good tidal power potential.

Harnessing tidal power is connected with large upfront costs, meaning that the investment return period is longer than with many other energy sources. Tidal power technologies also require large enough tidal range (above 10 feet) to make new projects economically viable. It also has to be said that tidal power produces electricity only during tidal surges, and is therefore in need of adequate energy storage solution to ensure reliable supply.

Still, even despite these drawbacks, the 2006 study by the Electric Power Research Institute concluded that tidal power could in some very favorable locations in U.S. produce electricity at a price of around 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Harnessing tidal power in Maine, United States

At the end of August, 2012, the nation's first commercial tidal power plant went online near Eastport, Maine. This $21 million project by the Ocean Renewable Power Company already harnesses energy from tides that rise and fall more than 12 feet every day. It has capacity of 180 kW, enough to power around 25 to 30 homes.

Whether tidal power will get the real chance in United States or not still remains to be seen. We are talking here about technologies that are still in the earliest stage of the development, and this is something that doesn't help attract investors who look for more proven or more popular renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.

Who knows, perhaps this project in Maine will open the door for many new similar projects.