Tidal Power Keeps on Truckin'

Ocean power has suffered some setbacks recently, such as Pelamis’ bellyflop in Portugal and the UK’s WaveHub losing a developer, but the industry isn’t slowing down β€” in fact, it’s been a busy month for tidal technology. While there are only a small number of wave or tidal power projects in oceans and rivers right now, and large-scale projects remain a few years away, the race is on for companies hoping to get a first-mover’s advantage.

Alstom jumped into the tidal game this week when it teamed up with Clean Current Power Systems, and Verdant Power said earlier this month that it has moved closer to expanding its New York project. And developers of the Bay of Fundy site in Canada, which will include a turbine from Clean Current, are busy setting the stage for the first turbine to go in the water this fall.


Vancouver, British Columbia-based Clean Current now has a big-name partner in its corner, which could give it a leg up over the competition. France’s Alstom, a major railroad and power infrastructure company is getting an exclusive worldwide license to Clean Current’s technology for ocean power applications, and plans to commercialize its first tidal power products by 2012. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, but Alstom is not taking an equity stake in Clean Current as part of the deal.

For New York’s Verdant Power, which has already been knocked around by the rough waters in the Big Apple, it may be trying to prove that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. The company installed six turbines in the East River in 2006 generating 175 kilowatts of power, but wants to bump that up to an array of 30 turbines. The company said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded the pre-filing process for the expansion, and that the next step is for Verdant to submit its final license application.

The power output on that project would still be relatively low, generating about 1 MW of electricity, but Verdant is planning on building a larger project nearby that would generate 2-4 MW. Verdant is also working on a demonstration project up north, in the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario, which the company said could eventually produce up to 15 MW of power.

Further east, in Nova Scotia, the Bay of Fundy project, backed by the provincial government and EnCana (s ECA), is filing an environmental report this week. The project will have three grid-connected turbines producing a total of about 4 MW. In addition to Clean Current, Ireland’s OpenHydro, and the UK’s Marine Current Turbines will be plugging into the test site.

Ocean power is likely to face some more bumps on the road to commercialization β€” the more projects that are in the water, the more chances there will be for kinks to show up in the technology β€” but if this pace continues, there could be plenty of momentum to keep things going forward.

Photo of a turbine being installed at Race Rocks in British Columbia courtesy of Clean Current.