Maine energy company to test the waters in Alaska
April 8, 2014
By Tux Turkel | Portland Press Herald: Chris Sauer was speaking at a 2007 energy conference in Anchorage, Alaska, about his ambitions to test a marine power generator in the massive tides of Cook Inlet when a participant asked if the design could be downsized for rivers. That turned out to be a prescient question for Sauer, president of Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co.
Mainers who have heard of Ocean Renewable Power Co. know it as the innovative startup that built North America’s first grid-connected tidal generator in the waters off Eastport in 2012. But as Sauer has determined, the company’s financial future actually may lie in selling off-the-shelf current generators for remote, off-the-grid communities that are located next to fast-moving rivers.
A pilot project in Alaska this summer will test not only the company’s RivGen technology, but also its ability to attract investment capital that’s critical to moving the business forward. Sauer figures the company needs $15 million to $20 million over the coming three years to take the next steps in marine power and get its river units on the market. He is hopeful that revenue from RivGen could finally put the 10-year-old company in the black.
“We think RivGen could be our nearest-term profit potential,” he said.
Harnessing the power of the tides has received the most public attention, and the larger size of the units does hold more promise for total megawatts of electricity generation. But places on the planet with big tidal ranges, such as those found in Maine’s Cobscook Bay, Nova Scotia’s Minas Basin and Alaska’s Cook Inlet, are limited. In contrast, Sauer discovered that hundreds of millions of people who either don’t have reliable electricity or pay a lot for it, live close to flowing rivers.