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ORPC signs power purchase agreement with Maine utilities

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved the primary contract terms of a power purchase agreement with Ocean Renewable Power Company for 4 MW of capacity to be provided by several tidal installations.

PUC's order directs Maine's three investor-owned utilities - Bangor Hydro, CMP and Maine Public Service - to negotiate 20-year power purchase agreements with ORPC. ORPC said it expected to complete the agreements by early June, making them the first such long-term agreements of their kind in the U.S.

ORPC's plans to install the 300-kW Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy project in Cobscook Bay off Eastport, Maine, were approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in February 2012. OPRC says it hopes to have its TidGen power system installed by late summer, with delivery of power beginning in October.

This project is to feature five TidGen units installed over three years.

The company will continue installing TidGen units at several other sites, eventually reaching a total capacity of 4 MW.

The agreements' enabling legislation was established in April 2010, when the Maine Legislature unanimously passed the recommendations of the governor's Ocean Energy Task Force, bringing the development of tidal energy to Maine's forefront.

Two utilities file hydrokinetic pilot license applications

Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1 filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March for a hydrokinetic pilot license for the 1-MW Admiralty Inlet Pilot Tidal project to be installed in Washington's Puget Sound in Kitsap County.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $10 million to the $20 million Admiralty Inlet project in 2010. Snohomish PUD plans to deploy, operate, monitor and evaluate two 10-meter-diameter Open-Centre Turbines, developed and manufactured by OpenHydro Group Ltd.

The project is anticipated to begin operating in 2013 or 2014.

In addition, Alaska developer Whitestone Power and Communications has filed an application with FERC for a pilot hydrokinetic project license for the 100-kW Whitestone Poncelet RISEC project on the Delta and Tanana rivers in Alaska. Whitestone plans to develop a single pontoon-mounted undershot Poncelet waterwheel with a maximum capacity of 100 kW to generate power from the river current. The developer said the project, to be installed near Whitestone, Alaska, is based on a conceptual design by Hasz Consulting LLC as well as extensive consultation with environmental agencies, state and federal energy regulatory agencies and local energy producers.

Whitestone holds a preliminary permit to study the project site. It said it submitted its latest application under guidance of FERC's hydrokinetic pilot license procedures.

Whitestone said construction of the project is planned to start within 18 months and to be completed within 24 months after issuance of the pilot license.

OPT, JW Fishers team for buoy recovery device

The same technology helping law enforcement solve crimes and the U.S. Navy conduct anti-submarine warfare is being used by wave energy producers keep track of generator buoys that might become untethered as a result of ship collisions or other accidents.

Ocean Power Technologies, a manufacturer of wave energy buoy generators, is working with JW Fishers to use pinger devices on buoys OPT deploys offshore.

As part of its contract with the Navy, OPT has developed an autonomous buoy that generates power from waves and stores it internally.

The stored electricity powers sensors and other equipment mounted on the buoy, which can scan areas for intruders, relay communications, monitor environmental conditions and perform oceanographic observations.

Severe weather is a concern for the buoy, but in initial testing it rode over 50-foot waves from a passing hurricane with ease. To ensure the equipment can be recovered in the event of an accident, such as a ship collision, the buoy is equipped with JW Fishers' SFP-1 single frequency pinger. The pinger uses sonar signals to locate equipment that has been lost at sea.

The pingers have also been used by law enforcement to investigate underwater crime scenes; by the Navy in anti-submarine warfare; and by private entities to track the location of marine equipment, JW Fishers says.

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