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OPALCO awarded Phase 1 funding to explore tidal generator in Rosario Strait

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office has competitively selected OPALCO as one of two organizations to explore tidal energy development for what OPALCO hopes will become the first tidal generation project in US waters. The OPALCO team will engage with stakeholders, conduct technical feasibility, and initiate prelimary permitting activities over the next ten months. At the end of the grant term, only one of the two organizations will be funded to move forward with development of a full project.

Picture Courtesy of Orbital Marine: O2 Tidal Generator in the Orkney Islands, Scotland

OPALCO’s proposed site is off Blakely Island in Rosario Strait. OPALCO has completed initial grant funded research for this project including engagement with tribes and regulatory agencies, tidal flow studies, and environmental impacts. OPALCO intends to partner with Orbital Marine in the Orkney Islands of Scotland to provide the tidal generator for the project. Their patented tidal generator machine has been in the water operating for two years under conditions very similar to our Salish Sea. Learn more at: https://www.opalco.com/quick-fact-opalco-tidal-energy-pilot-project/2022/11/

“Our exploration into tidal energy could help balance the local renewable generation and help keep the lights on when the sun goes down and the wind doesn’t blow,” said OPALCO’s General Manager, Foster Hildreth.

Two workshops on tidal energy were well attended by Co-op members in 2023 and more sessions are planned for 2024. There will be an information table on tidal energy at OPALCO’s Annual Meeting (April 26, 3-6p at OPALCO’s Eastsound campus). Check OPALCO’s online calendar for other upcoming events as they develop. Reach out to tidal@opalco.com if you want to receive periodic updates on the project. 

There are no single or simple solutions for figuring out the complexities of our future energy supply. OPALCO is exploring a variety of possible technologies to build reliable, sustainable and carbon-free resources in San Juan County. Tidal energy is one of those technologies that could make sense for our islanded territory, but there are big hurdles to overcome such as in depth environmental studies, additional grant funding, furthing regional partnerships and electrical system updates. 

Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,400 members on 20 islands in San Juan County.  OPALCO provides electricity that is 97% greenhouse-gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937. Follow OPALCO @OrcasPower on Facebook and Twitter.

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Picture Courtesy of Orbital Marine: O2 Tidal Generator in the Orkney Islands, Scotland 

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