ORPC Maine files Western Passage preliminary permit application

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Maine-based tidal energy company has applied to federal regulators for a preliminary permit for a tidal energy project proposed for development off the coast.  ORPC Maine, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ocean Renewable Power Company, LLC, filed its application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on December 4, 2015, seeking a preliminary permit for the Western Passage Tidal Energy Project off the downeast city of Eastport.  The preliminary permit could set ORPC up to develop hydrokinetic energy generation at the site, though process and uncertainty lie ahead before the project could be developed.

ORPC filed its application for preliminary permit for the Western Passage project on December 4, 2015.  The FERC docketed the filing under P-14743.  As described in its application, the project would entail "a next generation TidGen® Power System with a buoyant tension mooring system (BTMS)."  The turbine generator unit, or TGU, would be similar to that installed by ORPC in Cobscook Bay in 2012.  While ORPC noted that it will determine the ultimate project configuration based on activities conducted during the preliminary permit phase, ORPC estimates the project will consist of approximately 15 total TGUs. The nameplate rating of each will be up to 500 kilowatts (kW) with the total project output capped at 5 MW.

ORPC previously held preliminary permits for the Western Passage site (P-12680) which expired on December 31, 2013. ORPC requested a successive preliminary permit on January 1, 2014, but the FERC issued an order denying a third preliminary permit for lack of extraordinary circumstances.

In its recent application, ORPC notes that it has "continued environmental studies and engagement with local stakeholders and regulatory officials regarding the Cobscook Bay Project, and have kept them informed regarding potential future plans for Western Passage," and highlights its other recent successes, including support from the U.S. Department of Energy and local stakeholders.

It is unclear whether the FERC will grant ORPC's application.  Assuming it does, the preliminary permit will give ORPC exclusive rights for 36 months to study the site, and priority to file an application for a project license.  That preliminary permit term should enable ORPC to study any technical and economic challenges relating to the Western Passage project -- after which the developer may be in a better position to evaluate the project's feasibility and support an application for a license.

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