Thursday, March 13, 2008

Castine: Group checking local opinion on tidal energy plan

Bangor News

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CASTINE - A public-private effort to develop a tidal energy research center is testing the local waters regarding community interest and concerns about the project.

Tidal Energy Device Evaluation Center, a consortium of Maine Maritime Academy, Cianbro Corp., Marinus Power and OceanWorks International, is working with Maine Solutions, a program of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, to gauge public sentiment on the project.

Ron Beard, a UM professor and coordinator for Maine Solutions, is conducting a community assessment that will help set the stage for a public forum on the project later this spring. The comments from the public and their discussion in the forum will help to guide TEDEC as it begins the second phase of the project.

TEDEC also has worked with state Sen. Dennis Damon, D-Hancock, who will convene the forum that could evolve into a working group that includes community leaders and other stakeholders.

According to Beard, the community assessment involves interviews with stakeholders to determine concerns about the activities that TEDEC would conduct under a federal permit. The process also will help to determine the level of interest in the community in learning about and contributing to the testing of tidal energy equipment and systems and determining the impact of those activities on the natural ecosystems, cultural resources, community economics and other factors.

"This will help in providing direction for the efforts of a working group," Beard said in a prepared release from MMA. "That group will explore collaboration to assure that both TEDEC and community interests are met in all phases of the project."

MMA, as the host institution for the project, announced plans for the center last February and obtained a preliminary permit from the Federal Energy Regulation Commission last October. The permit allows TEDEC three years to evaluate areas along the Bagaduce River as potential sites for the center, which would test and evaluate a variety of tidal energy devices under development around the world.

TEDEC officials have stressed concern for the local environment from the start of the process. According to Mark Cote, an MMA engineering professor and the president of TEDEC, part of the center’s function will be to provide device developers with access to environmental research and interpretation, academic expertise regarding environmental influencers and impact reduction, as well as professional engineer suggestions and solutions.

"Partners in this group realize that renewable energy will not work if devices create more damage than good," Cote said. "We’ve teamed together to try to offer a comprehensive solution that will help investors see their concepts become reality while being socially and environmentally responsible. We’re taking that approach in our own community, understanding that a testing center will not work if industry and the community are not behind it."

For the past year, TEDEC has been in the organizational phase of the project, which has included obtaining the FERC permit, organizing as a nonprofit agency and electing a board and president. It is awaiting a decision on its application for federal tax-exempt status.

With the federal permit in hand, TEDEC can begin an environmental assessment of the Bagaduce River estuary and potential sites for the testing center and to determine if it will work in the area.

"Right now, that’s still very tentative and hinges largely on the results of the environmental study evaluation of the actual tidal conditions in the river, feedback from the local community and other stakeholders and an assessment of the industry need," Cote said.

The public forum will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 30, at the Harold Alfond Student Center at the MMA campus.

More information on TEDEC is available at


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