The Town of Edgartown is working with government and academic partners to explore the opportunity of generating electricity from the tides in Muskeget Channel. The Town is proposing to develop a 5 MW pilot project which would generate enough electricity for 1,500 homes each year. In parallel, the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Marine Renewable Energy Center would establish a research and development testing facility to support the development of tidal energy technology.
Tidal energy is a type of marine hydrokinetic (MHK) technology that uses the power of the ocean to produce electricity. Other types of MHK technology include wave, ocean currents, and ocean thermal. Tidal energy was once developed by constructing a dam across a tidal waterway and producing electricity when water is released on the outgoing tide much like a traditional hydropower river project. New technologies extract electricity on both the incoming and outgoing tides without a dam thereby decreasing environmental impacts and increasing efficiency. These new types of tidal energy technology are presently operating in Northern Ireland, and being tested in Scotland, the Bay of Fundy, and in the US in Maine, New York, and Washington State.
The Muskeget Project is unique for a number of reasons
Edgartown, a municipality, holds the development rights and not a commercial entity.
Most projects are being developed by private companies that conduct all environmental studies and often allow only limited access to results. Edgartown’s studies are being conducted primarily by the University of Massachusetts and all results are public.
Edgartown has committed to reserving one site for a permanent tidal test site.
The only permanent test site in the world for tidal energy is the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) in Scotland. The US needs testsites and siting one with a full tidal project will have cost efficiencies in deployment as well as operations and maintenance.
Edgartown is developing its project with a board coalition:
The Muskeget Project is making significant progress
Muskeget Channel Tidal Demonstration
In August 2011, the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) at UMass-Dartmouth, the MA Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center coordinated an in-ocean demonstration project to test a tidal energy device in Muskeget Channel. MREC worked with Massachusetts Maritime Academy, who provided the barge test platform, FreeFlow Power, which provided the tidal turbine, and FastCAP, which provided a battery storage system to capture the electricity generated by the device. Scientists at the UMass School of Marine Science and Technology conducted biological and acoustic studies to assess potential impacts of the device on the marine environment.
Muskeget Channel Surveys and Studies
Muskeget Tidal Project Regulatory Approval Process
The Muskeget Project is subject to local, regional, state, and federal laws. Edgartown must obtain a variety of permits and approvals prior to construction of the pilot project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the lead federal agency. The state process is led by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs through its Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office. On island, Edgartown is working with the Martha's Vineyard Commission and municipal boards. Throughout project permitting, Edgartown is discussing the project with stakeholders including fishermen, boaters, tribal organizations, environmental groups, and citizens.