Biden-Harris Administration allocates nearly $16 million for marine energy advancements in the US

12 February 2024

The Department of Energy (DOE) under the Biden-Harris Administration has unveiled an investment totalling almost $16 million to propel marine energy projects in the United States. This endeavour, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, aims to foster local clean energy transitions while bolstering the nation's development in tidal and current energy development.

“With marine energy we can sustainably harnesses the power of the ocean and rivers, providing rural and remote communities with clean reliable power,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The projects announced today are part of the largest investment by the federal government to advance the technology to capture energy from ocean tides and river currents, while helping decarbonize hard-to-reach coastal communities across the country and increasing their energy independence and resilience by increasing use of locally generated energy.”

The investment comprises two key initiatives:

Tidal Energy Research, Development, and Demonstration Pilot Site

The first initiative focuses on the development of a tidal energy research, development, and demonstration pilot site. This phase represents the initial step in a broader $35 million investment aimed at transitioning tidal energy devices to commercial projects. Two projects have been selected for this phase:

  • Orcas Power and Light Cooperative (OPALCO), headquartered in Eastsound, Washington, plans to deploy a tidal energy turbine in Rosario Strait, San Juan Islands, Washington State. This initiative aims to establish a reliable and resilient local power supply for San Juan Islanders, with the device expected to produce approximately 2 megawatts of power.
  • Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC), based in Portland, Maine, intends to deploy two tidal energy devices in Cook Inlet, Alaska, off the coast of East Foreland on the Kenai Peninsula. The project seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of tidal energy projects in Cook Inlet, which harbors the largest tidal energy resource in the United States.

During this competitive first phase, spanning one year, the selected projects will assess proposed sites and formulate comprehensive plans encompassing licensing, environmental monitoring, stakeholder engagement, and technology selection. Following this phase, one project will be chosen to proceed through the subsequent four phases, receiving additional funding of up to $29 million for testing and operation of the tidal energy device(s).

Community-Led River Current Energy Research and Development Project

The second initiative focuses on a community-led river current energy research and development project, aiming to address community energy priorities and foster technological innovation. With an investment of $9.5 million, this project endeavors to accelerate the development of current energy technologies and promote resilience and economic development in Yukon River and Alaska Native communities.

Led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Center for Energy and Power, this project aims to establish a replicable, community-led current energy research and development project in Galena, Alaska, on the Yukon River. The primary objective is to identify and develop suitable technologies tailored to the community's needs, thereby facilitating the development of river-based hydrokinetic energy projects in Alaska's numerous communities with microgrids.

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