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Federal license allows turbine testing in canal to continue

The turbine test site at the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne.
Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative
The turbine test site at the Cape Cod Canal in Bourne.

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative has been awarded an eight-year pilot license by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to test marine renewable tidal turbines at the Bourne Tidal Test Site at the Cape Cod Canal.

The canal facility is the only tidal test site in the country with a license that allow turbines to generate renewable electricity and send it to the grid.

The Collaborative's Executive Director John Miller tells CAI tides in Massachusetts waters have great potential to produce electricity.

"We could generate about the equivalent of a nuclear power plant in Massachusetts waters. Wave energy is also something we are helping people test. And that has a larger potential. And worldwide these have tremendous potential because wave and tidal energy tend to be more consistent and predictable," Miller said.

The Collaborative is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the sustainable development of ocean renewable energy. It owns and manages the test facility in the canal and private developers bring their turbines to the facility for testing.

Because the canal test site is in ocean waters, it allows for larger turbines to be tested. Land-based test sites can only accommodate turbines up to two feet in diameter.

"Our site allows them to test up to ten feet in diameter in the real ocean water," Miller said.

He added that there is little risk to marine life from turbines that produce energy.

"The blades on these things, because they are in water, move relatively slowly compared to wind turbines, and animals in the water are used to having things around them that move at that speed. Despite millions of dollars of testing. worldwide there has been absolutely no impact on fish or marine mammals."

Miller also said the Collaborative is seeking state funding to run a line that will connect the test site to the power grid. That way, energy produced during testing would go to use rather than be wasted.

The Bourne Tidal Test Site was designed and built with Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council funding.

John Basile is the local host of All Things Considered weekday afternoons and a reporter.