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Nonprofit secures license to test 'minimal impact' tide-powered turbines: 'Reliable, predictable, and available'

"Tidal energy is an important piece of the mix."

"Tidal energy is an important piece of the mix."

Photo Credit: Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative

Thanks to an eight-year federal license, a Cape Cod nonprofit is harnessing the power of the ocean's tides to make electricity.

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative just secured the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to test promising turbine prototypes. 

This testing will take place just offshore in the Cape Cod Canal, and the energy produced will be sent directly to the New England power grid. 

"Tidal energy is an important piece of the mix because it is reliable, predictable, and available along coasts where population densities are highest," said John Miller, the executive director of the Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative. 

Although the prototype won't generate a lot of energy, it's worthwhile because it will demonstrate the turbine's usefulness and scalability. With the new license, the nonprofit can test turbine designs to an unprecedented level and improve their efficiency, durability, and impact. 

"What this is all about is making it quicker and cheaper for people who have new technologies to get them tested," Miller said.

Tidal turbines generate energy through the flow of the tides in the canal's fast waters. The test site in Cape Cod is the only one in the U.S. with such capabilities.

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative estimates that tidal energy could provide one-tenth of the world's electricity needs. The collaborative also states that the local waters in Massachusetts have the energy potential of a nuclear power plant. 

According to the nonprofit: "Tidal energy has been shown to have minimal impact on the environment because the blades turn slowly and, placed on the ocean bottom, has no visible impact on coastal beaches."

The next step is running a power transmission line between the shore and the test platform that will be hung along railroad tracks to transmit electricity to the grid. 

This electricity-generating project adds to the mix of other green energy efforts in New England, including Vineyard Wind, which is America's first commercial-scale, offshore wind project. Approximately 15 miles off the Massachusetts coast, it's projected to reduce harmful carbon pollution by over 1.6 million tons annually and power over 400,000 Massachusetts homes and businesses. 

It's also raising public awareness of tidal energy and building industry momentum for floating tidal turbines in U.S. waters.

"They should have done it 50 years ago," one Facebook user commented on the story. As long as it doesn't affect marine life, especially when the stripers are running, then great," another user added.

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