Testing Tidal Power in Knik Arm
ORPC’s RivGen device prior to installation at Igiugig in 2014.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is partnering with Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) of Maine to test its RivGen Power System in Upper Cook Inlet.
Going with the Flow
ORPC deployed RivGen in the Kvichak River village of Igiugig in 2014, making it the longest-operating hydrokinetic project in the Americas. The Cook Inlet project would harness the tidal current of Knik Arm to power the cathodic protection systems that prevent metal structures at Port MacKenzie from corroding.
“It is a win for everyone: the State, ORPC, and Port MacKenzie,” says the borough’s Port Director, Therese Dolan. “This energy source is virtually limitless and could cover all the Port’s electrical costs, in particular cathodic protection, and provide an energy source for manufacturing in the Port District.”
ORPC’s Alaska Director of Development, Merrick Jackinsky, adds, “Cook Inlet’s strong tides have been a driver for tidal power developers for a long time, and ORPC is grateful to be a part of the responsible development of Alaska’s resources.”
Cathodic systems at Port MacKenzie protect its assets from corrosive saltwater, requiring power from the local electrical grid or a diesel power plant to operate. ORPC power systems harness predictable power from tidal and river currents and can provide sustainable, baseload electricity needed to power these systems. If testing goes well, Port MacKenzie will be the first port in the United States to harness tidal energy for local operations and economic development opportunities.
A cargo ship docking at Port MacKenzie.
ORPC will carry out environmental reviews and analyses of Cook Inlet beluga whales as the company initiates the Port MacKenzie project, as well another tidal energy project in Cook Inlet at East Foreland for Homer Electric Association, under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission preliminary permit. ORPC has initiated an adaptive management process in consultation with federal and state regulators for assessment of risks and impacts to belugas to inform this work.
In addition to efforts in Cook Inlet, ORPC’s Alaska presence includes a project office in Anchorage, the ongoing RivGen project in Igiugig, and a federally funded project to develop a tidal energy microgrid in False Pass at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula.
ORPC’s Igiugig partnership illustrates how the company provides baseload renewable energy to remote communities, replacing diesel generators and lowering carbon emissions, noise, and environmental risk.
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