Homer investigates tidal power prospects
July 24, 2013
By Carey Restino | The Homer Tribune: Anyone who has spent time on the waters near Homer can tell you that there’s no question there is a lot of tidal energy in the Cook Inlet. Since 2011, the Homer Electric Association has been eyeing that energy as a possible source of power for the area, partnering with Ocean Renewable Power Company to explore the idea.
At last week’s association board meeting, attendees got their first taste of what the project might look at when investor Doug Johnson described the company’s pilot project, a tidal turbine generator unit in Eastport, Maine, which was deployed last summer.
Board member Jim Levine, who said his interest in tidal energy preceded his election to the board, said the turbine generator resembles a large handpush lawnmower, though it turns much slower than a lawnmower turns. Though the project is still very much in the research and funding stage in Alaska, the potential for a similar pilot project at the East Foreland site near Nikiski seems plausible so far, Johnson said. If successful, the tidal energy turbine could produce up to 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 2,300 Kenai Peninsula homes.
Currently, power in Southcentral Alaska comes mainly from natural gas, though the Bradley Lake hydroelectric plant provides more than 10 percent of the power for Homer Electric customers, Levine said. The new technology is not without its challenges, however. Johnson noted that Cook Inlet silt could cause problems with its constant abrasive activity.