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Tidal energy, fish habitat at odds in debate

Charles B. Cooper, a Massachusetts-based consultant who has been retained by Maine Tidal Energy Co., said the company is developing new technology for its Maine and national tidal energy projects. The tidal in-stream energy conversion units, which could be used in the Kennebec River, would resemble a tall fan with a giant hole in the middle of the section where the blades would be located. Portions of blades, or propellers, would extend 20 to 50 feet outward through the rim of the fan. As the tides flow in and out of the river with each lunar cycle, the blades would rotate slowly -- in the range of three to 10 revolutions per minute, Cooper said.

The powerful tides of the Kennebec River could be harnessed one day to produce electricity for hundreds of Maine homes and businesses.

It's an idea that is at least a few years and millions of dollars away, and one that already is raising environmental concerns. But the potential of tidal energy is attracting entrepreneurs to the coast of Maine.

Maine Tidal Energy Co., based in Washington, D.C., has asked for federal permission to study the feasibility of operating an underwater tidal power generating facility in a stretch of the Kennebec between Bath and Woolwich. The company has proposed similar projects on the Penobscot and Piscataqua rivers and is seeking permits for another eight sites nationwide.

The company says it will take up to three years and $4 million to determine whether the passage between West Chops Point in Bath and Chops Point in Woolwich -- known locally as The Chops -- would be suitable for such a facility, according to the company.

Several groups, however, already have come out in opposition to the so-called Kennebec Tidal Energy Project, contending the company could not have selected a worse location.

Organizations such as the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay say The... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The powerful tides of the Kennebec River could be harnessed one day to produce electricity for hundreds of Maine homes and businesses.

It's an idea that is at least a few years and millions of dollars away, and one that already is raising environmental concerns. But the potential of tidal energy is attracting entrepreneurs to the coast of Maine.

Maine Tidal Energy Co., based in Washington, D.C., has asked for federal permission to study the feasibility of operating an underwater tidal power generating facility in a stretch of the Kennebec between Bath and Woolwich. The company has proposed similar projects on the Penobscot and Piscataqua rivers and is seeking permits for another eight sites nationwide.

The company says it will take up to three years and $4 million to determine whether the passage between West Chops Point in Bath and Chops Point in Woolwich -- known locally as The Chops -- would be suitable for such a facility, according to the company.

Several groups, however, already have come out in opposition to the so-called Kennebec Tidal Energy Project, contending the company could not have selected a worse location.

Organizations such as the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay say The Chops is a crucial passageway for endangered fish species such as the short-nosed sturgeon and other wildlife that are moving between the Kennebec River and one of the Northeast's most diverse and richest ecosystems, Merrymeeting Bay.

"The whole bay drains out at that 280-yard slot. Fish and seals have to swim through there. In our zest for alternative energy, we should not be turning a blind eye to protecting our natural resources," said Ed Friedman, chairman of the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is reviewing a preliminary permit application that would allow the company to take up to three years to determine whether The Chops is a suitable site for power generation, according to Celeste Miller, a FERC spokeswoman. The company would have to reapply to FERC if it wants an operating license, she said.

In addition to its Maine projects, Maine Tidal Energy Co. is seeking preliminary permits for projects in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Miller said. Its parent company is Oceana Energy Corp.

Nationwide, 22 tidal energy projects are under review by FERC. Last year, FERC issued 11 preliminary permits for tidal energy projects, with most of those located in Florida.

Charles B. Cooper, a Massachusetts-based consultant who has been retained by Maine Tidal Energy Co., said the company is developing new technology for its Maine and national tidal energy projects.

The tidal in-stream energy conversion units, which could be used in the Kennebec River, would resemble a tall fan with a giant hole in the middle of the section where the blades would be located. Portions of blades, or propellers, would extend 20 to 50 feet outward through the rim of the fan.

As the tides flow in and out of the river with each lunar cycle, the blades would rotate slowly -- in the range of three to 10 revolutions per minute, Cooper said.

In its application to FERC, the company says the conversion units could be connected by underwater transmission cables to onshore electrical power stations.

Cooper said one device could be capable of providing power to about 750 homes, though it is far too soon to provide more exact figures.

The company's federal application says that the conversion units would be underwater and would not intrude on the viewscape or interfere with navigation, unlike coastal wind farms that have drawn criticism for their visual impact. The water depths in The Chops ranges from 20 feet to 100 feet. Cooper said the company has multiple permit applications pending because not all of the sites under consideration will be suited for such a facility.

A group of about 18 residents of West Chops Point, a subdivision in Bath, submitted concerns to FERC to a recent public comment period.

"What will happen to the migratory fish, the eels, the seals, the sturgeon and the stripers? ... These blades that they are talking about could turn them into sushi," said David Barber, a spokesman for the West Chops Point homeowners association.

The city of Bath is also interested in the project.

"We are not opposed, but we'd like to learn more about this project," City Manager Bill Giroux said. "We want more information."

John Grill, a Woolwich resident, said he has concerns about the effect the project could have on the marine environment, as well as on property owners' rights. He said waterfront property owners could end up looking at transformers and switch yards.

"Everybody loves the idea (of alternative energy), except the fish," Grill said. "This could turn out to be an environmental disaster."

 


Source: http://kennebecjournal.main...

JUL 24 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3624-tidal-energy-fish-habitat-at-odds-in-debate
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