Company hopes to introduce tidal power to Mat-Su valley

Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

WASILLA - A Florida company hopes to generate power from tides in Knik Arm but so far has not attracted interest from the local electric utility, Matanuska Electric Association.

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Ocean Renewable Power Co. wants to build a commercial power plant between Port MacKenzie and the Port of Anchorage.

Chris Sauer, president and chief operating officer, said his company's tidal generators, called OCGen modules, could produce enough electricity to power thousands of homes in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Tide-power generators work like wind turbines. As tides rush in and out, water flows over turbine blades, causing lift. The lift pulls turbine blades around and spins a generator.

The project would start with a yearlong test of Ocean Renewable's prototype OCGen module. Sauer said his company looked at possible sites in Southeast Alaska, Cook Inlet and Resurrection Bay near Seward. Ocean Renewable chose the area of Knik Arm just off Port MacKenzie as its test site because of the arm's fast tidal currents, in excess of six knots, and proximity to electrical grid and port facilities.

"We're hoping to actually get his thing in the water in less than two years," Sauer said.

Sauer said the prototype will help find the effects of an OCGen module on its surroundings.

"The environmental community have their concerns, which they should," Sauer said. "None of us know absolutely at this point if there are any issues. This prototype will help us determine this."

The yearlong test would monitor the prototype's efficiency and effect on fish, Beluga whales and overall tidal flow.

The project has not obtained funding and has not received required federal permits. In a letter Feb. 5, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requested that the company more narrowly and specifically describe the equipment it intends to use and the status of its development. The letter was posted on FERC's Web site under pending tidal applications.

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