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What are tides?
Tides are created by gravitational interactions between the earth, moon and sun. As the earth rotates, the moon’s gravitational force causes the oceans and other large bodies of water to “bulge” towards it, generating long-period waves that move from deeper water to the coasts and then back out again. The regular, predictable movement of these “waves” appears as the twice-daily rise and fall of the tides.
What is tidal energy?
Tides rush in and out with horizontal movements of water called tidal currents. Tidal currents contain a type of kinetic energy called tidal energy, and the stronger tidal currents are, the more tidal energy they possess. While currents in the middle of the ocean are fairly weak, the currents in straits, inlets, and other areas where water is forced through narrow channels, can reach speeds of up to several kilometers per hour. ORPC is permitting some of the most robust tidal regions in the United States as testing and installation sites for our first tidal energy projects. Energy from tides can be converted into electricity using several different methods. Dams and other water impoundments, though widely used in the past, can be extremely costly as well as detrimental to marine environments. ORPC power systems, designed around our proprietary Turbine Generator Unit, or TGU, don’t use dams or impoundments. Our TGU works on the same principle as a wind turbine, with rotating foils naturally pushed at slow speeds by the tidal currents that power a central permanent magnet generator. But because we install it underwater, and water is more than 800 times denser than air, our TGUs provide significantly more power than wind turbines at relatively low water current speeds.
Can ORPC power systems work with river currents too?
Yes, ORPC power systems can and do work with river currents, and without the use of dams. In fact, we have tailored our RivGen® Power System specifically to generate electricity at river sites, particularly in remote communities with no large, centralized power grid. Since many areas in the U.S., including Alaska, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio and northern New England, have an abundance of free-flowing freshwater resources, the potential for river current energy in the U.S. alone is tremendous.
What is the impact of ORPC power systems on global warming?
Because ORPC power systems require no fossil fuels to operate and produce no emissions of any kind, they do not contribute to the problem of global warming. Since clean river and ocean energy can often be used in place of other energy sources that emit greenhouse gases, such as oil and coal, ORPC power systems also have the potential to help reverse global warming trends, reducing our emissions by reducing our use of polluting energy sources.
What is the impact of ORPC power systems on marine life?
ORPC is engaged in an ongoing effort to ensure that our technology does not interfere with marine ecosystems or harm marine life. In collaboration with environmental groups and research universities, we closely monitor our equipment with underwater cameras and other devices to observe its impact on fish and sea mammals. To date, our Turbine Generator Unit testing has caused no negative effects on either fish or sea mammals, which tend to simply avoid the unit the way they would a rock or other natural barrier, by swimming around it. Since the turbine foils rotate slowly and do not funnel or suck water into them, they pose minimal risk to the fish that do swim through the units. Our Cook Inlet site is located near an area inhabited by a local population of beluga whales that was recently added to the endangered species list. In September 2009, ORPC received a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to continually monitor these whales. This will allow us to ensure that our power systems do not interfere with the whales’ wellbeing.
Do ORPC power systems interfere with other marine industries?
ORPC develops every power project in consultation with local communities, marine organizations, including fisherman’s associations and shipping industry groups. Our power systems are designed to operate underwater, at sufficient depths that they will always be out of the way of surface marine vessels—posing no threat to shipping or boating. While we are perpetually monitoring our technology for adverse effects on sea life, our results thus far indicate that it does not have a significant impact on fish populations, and therefore will not interfere with the fishing industry.
Do ORPC power systems impact the natural beauty of water landscapes?
Because our power systems are fully submerged underwater, they are completely invisible from the surface, and have no effect on natural water landscapes.
What is the potential for tidal energy around the world?
According to the 2001 World Energy Council Survey of Energy Resources, the energy potential of tidal currents alone exceeds 450 gigawatts (450 million kilowatts). This does not include river current energy, which has significant potential in non-coastal areas of the world.
Who can generate electricity using ORPC power systems?
Currently, ORPC power systems are designed for use in a wide range of applications, from large commercial-scale projects to smaller community-based projects. Their electricity is deliverable to community or centralized power grids. Interested customers include: * Grid-connected public and municipal electric utilities that are reasonably close to tidal or ocean current resources. * Remote coastal, island and interior communities that are not grid-connected. * Independent developers of river, tidal and ocean current energy projects. * Military facilities near river, tidal or ocean current resources.
What happens to the electricity once it’s generated?
ORPC power systems transmit electricity through a single underwater power cable to an on-shore substation. From there, an electricity transmission company delivers the energy to area homes and businesses. In Maine, Bangor Hydro Electric Company transmits electricity from our projects to its customers.
What do the names RivGen®, TidGen® and OCGen® mean?
Because different underwater environments call for different design solutions, ORPC has adapted our technology to work in three distinct power systems. Our RivGen® Power System is designed for small river applications; our TidGen® Power System is designed for shallow tidal current applications; and our OCGen® Power System is designed for deeper tidal and ocean current applications. All ORPC power systems incorporate some version of our proprietary Turbine Generator Unit, which works on the same principle as a wind turbine. The TGU in each system is configured slightly differently to best fit the water current conditions in which it will be operating.
How can I learn more about ORPC?
Please contact us with your questions, comments and concerns. We’d love to hear from you.