Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC)
ORPC was founded in 2004 with the mission of developing breakthrough technology for capturing energy from ocean and river currents that is also eco-conscious and environmentally sound. The company develops proprietary power systems as well as project sites.
ORPC specializes in tidal stream energy and is headquartered in Portland, ME. Its turbines are designed to be modular and to effectively capture energy from both river and ocean settings without relying damns. The basic unit of their system is called the turbine generator unit.
Turbine Generator Unit (TGU)
The TGU works on the same principle as a wind turbine, but looks more like a water wheel that you might find on a paddle boat from the late nineteenth century. Each unit is gearless, relying instead on a permanent magnet generator to produce electricity. This means there is no need for lubricant and thus no chance of emission of chemicals into the surrounding water. TGUs are designed to be modular so that the system can be easily scaled to a given location. ORPC has modifications of the basic TGU design that are intended for deployment in specific settings.
RivGen Power System
The RivGen system is designed for small river sites and especially for remote communities that have no large, centralized power grid. RivGen can connect directly to small grids that often rely on diesel generators and are automatically controlled so that if the RivGen system cannot provide enough electricity, then the diesel generators take over and if the energy produced is adequate, then the generator shuts off. The systems generate up to 50 kW for every 10 feet per second of water flow.
TidGen Power System
The TidGen system is designed for water of 50-100 feet, which would constitute a shallow tidal or deep river site. The system has a peak output of 180 kW and is generally modular as units of four TGUs connected to a single generator.
OCGen Power System
This is the largest modular system that ORPC offers and it is designed for use in water that is at least 80 feet deep. The system stacks to create a grid that is four TGUs wide and four TGUs high for a total of 16 TGUs. The system has a peak output of 600 kW in water with a current of 6-knots. The system is modular from one to dozens of modules.
- Maine – ORPC has installed and tested its TidGen system in Coobscook Bay, which is located off of the Bay of Fundy. In 2008, this installation became the first to generate electricity from the Bay of Fundy without the use of damns. The system is currently on track to generate a total of 5 megawatts when finished.
- Alaska – Cook Inlet of Alaska is being developed as a pilot project that could ultimately yield up to 5 megawatts of electricity when finished. The system is being specifically monitored for its impact on Beluga Whales.
- Nova Scotia – This project is also located on the Bay of Fundy, but this time in Canada. The system is in its early stages of development.
Florida – The Gulf Stream has 21,000 times more energy than Niagara Falls and is the world’s fastest and most powerful ocean current. The estimates are that up to 10 gigawatts of power can be harvested from the Gulf Stream and provide power to 7 million homes in Florida. ORPC is installing a variety of test systems in river, ocean, and deep ocean settings throughout Florida.