Ocean Renewable Power Company
Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC, Inc.) is a marine renewable energy company based in Portland, Maine. The company develops technologies which generate electricity from tidal, river, and ocean currents. The turbines are a cross-flow design in the helix shape of DNA with the axis of rotation perpendicular to the flow of water and work on the same principle as water wheels. As the tide comes and goes, the turbine foils spin in the same direction producing mechanical power that a permanent magnet generator converts to electricity and then sends to the electrical grid via an underwater power cable and onshore power station. The TidGen® power system (for tidal currents) and RivGen® power system (for river currents) are the company's trademarked systems.
The genesis of ORPC began in 2004 when a cruise ship industry executive, Paul Wells, queried whether there was a way to generate electricity from ocean currents like the Gulf Stream. He teamed up with two others, a structural engineer Chris Sauer, and a third co-founder with a financial background.
In 2010 the company's 60-kilowatt tidal turbine began providing grid-compatible electricity to the Eastport Coast Guard station's utility boat.
ORPC pursued and won the first contract with the Maine Public Utilities Commission to provide up to 5 megawatts of tidal power in April 2012. ORPC will receive 21.5 cents per kilowatt hour produced, which is higher than the fluctuating price paid to producers on the open electricity market. They determined that the economic benefits that would accrue to the state would be a factor of 1.8, meaning more money would be returned to the Maine economy through jobs and taxes than was being invested in the higher rate paid. Maine's state senate president, Kevin Raye, described the deal as major milestone "in the 80-year effort to commercially harness the vast power of the tides”.
In August 2012 the company installed an underwater turbine to use tidal currents to generate renewable energy. The unit was installed on the ocean floor at the company's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission-licensed Cobscook Bay project site, in Eastport and Lubec, Maine. The project transmitted the first electricity ever delivered to a utility-scale grid from an ocean resource in North or South America in September 2012. A $21 million project, the Cobscook Bay Project was funded almost equally between private and public sources with the United States Department of Energy providing a $10 million research grant. The project produced enough electricity for 25 homes. Said Jose Zayas, director of the Wind and Water Power Technologies Office at the Department of Energy, "These first pioneering projects are complicated (and) really breaking new ground." Said Paul Jacobson, an ocean energy expert at the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Electric Power Research Institute. "With this project, these tidal power devices have finally crossed the threshold into commercial development."  "The project, which injected $14 million into the local economy and has supported more than 100 local and supply chain jobs, represents the first tidal energy project in the United States with long-term contracts to sell electricity."
Starting in 2013, ORPC submitted annual environmental monitoring reports for the Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with findings from acoustic, marine mammal and fish species studies along with other environmental impacts, which the company indicated had no adverse impact on the marine environment of Cobscook Bay."
Along with 17 other high-tech small businesses and 3 individuals, ORPC received a Tibbetts Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C., in May 2013. The award honors companies and individuals nationwide, "who are beacons of promise and models of excellence in high technology."
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