Ocean energy provides an exciting opportunity for the United States to help advance the goal of developing clean, renewable energy, lessening our reliance on foreign oil, and creating new industries and thousands of rewarding jobs. In my home state of Maine, tidal energy and deepwater, offshore wind are just two examples of ocean energy demonstration projects where inspiring vision and effort are helping to lead the way.
Two and a half centuries ago, the first settlements in Downeast Maine were powered by the massive tides generated in the Bay of Fundy. With 100 billion tons of water flowing in and out each day with clockwork regularity, the 25-foot tides drove lumber and grain mills, and communities prospered.
Today, that mighty force of nature is again being harnessed, with benefits that could reach far beyond Maine’s easternmost region. Located in Cobscook Bay at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, the Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project is the first ocean energy project in the United States to deliver power to the electric utility grid.
The nation’s first commercial, grid-connected tidal energy project is the result of innovative research and development by Ocean Renewable Power Company with research and development assistance from Sandia National Labs, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a number of institutions of higher education throughout the U.S., including the University of Maine, and with funding in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Maine Technology Institute and private investors. This project has already injected more than $25 million into the local economy and has supported more than 100 local and supply chain jobs.
This project is one example of the type of actions we need on a national scale to stabilize energy prices, prevent energy shortages and achieve national energy independence. Continued investment and innovation in clean energy technologies are integral to advancing these goals.
Ocean Renewable Power Company’s first TidGen® Power System began delivering electricity to the grid in September of 2012. Just six months later, Maine again led the way in alternative ocean power when a prototype of the patent-pending VolturnUS floating wind turbine was deployed in Maine waters with the goal of capturing our strong and consistent deepwater offshore winds. The VolturnUS is the first floating turbine of its kind in the world and the first grid-connected offshore wind turbine off the coast of the United States.
This initiative, called New England Aqua Ventus I, is led by the University of Maine’s Dr. Habib Dagher, joined by a world-class consortium of educational institutions, including Maine Maritime Academy, and engineering, manufacturing, construction and utility firms, such as Cianbro, Bath Iron Works, Central Maine Power and Emera, as well as world leaders like Iberdrola, the largest wind developer in the world, Ershigs Inc., the largest composite material fabricator in the U.S., and Technip, which manufactured the first floating wind turbine hull in the world. This is a remarkable accomplishment and confirms my belief that the most innovative and dedicated wind energy researchers in the world are working in Maine.
Our nation’s leaders have seen the important work being done in Maine. At my invitation, both then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu and then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar visited the labs at the University of Maine.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.