Massive energy potential waits to be tapped in Alaska’s waters 

By Hal Spence of The Homer News: Waves and tidal currents off Alaska’s coastline would generate more than 850 terawatt-hours of electrical energy annually if fully developed, according to two reports recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Much of that potential lies untapped in the waters of the Cook Inlet region, a location already under study by hydrokinetic energy companies.

Federal resource assessments of the national coastline show wave action and tidal streams could “contribute significantly” to and diversify the country’s energy supply, according to a Jan. 19 Department of Energy press release. That clean and renewable energy, when combined with conventional hydropower and other water resources, “can potentially provide 15 percent of our nation’s electricity needs by 2030,” the DOE said.

The two federal reports, “Mapping and Assessment of the U.S. Ocean Wave Energy Resource,” and “Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the U.S.,” represented “the most rigorous analysis” yet of the nation’s ocean energy resources, DOE said.
One company already engaged in developing hydrokinetic resources in Cook Inlet under permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is Ocean Renewable Power Co., or ORPC, which has partnered with Homer Electric Association.

The two companies are engaged in monitoring the inlet environment and assessing and characterizing a site off Nikiski in the East Forelands area of the inlet.

ORPC, which has been developing tidal power systems since 2004, hopes to produce power for the Railbelt electrical grid by 2014, said Doug Johnson, director of business development for the company. Plans announced early last year called for a 150-kilowatt pilot project to be up and running in the water in 2013. However, Johnson said, those plans were pushed back a year to allow ORPC to fully concentrate on powering up its first commercial-scale generation system this coming spring in Cobscook Bay, Maine.

“It will be our first fully grid-connected tidal generation system,” he said. “It will put us on the world stage as a pre-eminent energy company.” More

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