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Surprising Science

Harnessing the Tides to Make Electricity

New and less invasive technologies are helping to harness the power of the tides in Eastport, Maine, next to the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tides in the world. 

What’s the Latest Development?

With some of the highest tides in the world, Eastport, Maine, has become the world’s testing ground for new renewable energy technologies that harness the tides’ power. The Ocean Renewable Power Company (O.R.P.C.) “plans to deploy a full-scale 150-kilowatt unit off Eastport later this year, intending it to become the first tidal device to be connected to a U.S. electrical grid.” The O.R.P.C. is making grounds on European companies which once dominated the industry. By 2015, the company hopes to have enough tidal stations installed to power 4,000 homes. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Renewable tidal energy technologies have vastly improved since President Franklin Roosevelt, who summered in Eastport, first began trying to harness the area’s formidable tides. “Tidal power used to be extremely disruptive to the marine environment, as it involved damming a waterway and forcing the currents—and marine life—through conduits housing turbines.” Current technologies, inspired by wind turbines, require no damming. Instead, they simply sit at the bottom of the ocean floor and use tidal changes to slowly spin electricity generators.


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