Irish tidal energy firm wins pivotal US contract

14 Apr 2009

OpenHydro has secured a major contract to develop a tidal energy pilot project for a public utility provider in Washington State in the US.

The announcement was made today at Stanford University, where the Irish Technology Leaders Silicon Valley Awards are taking place.

The awards, which are being attended  by Tanáiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Coughlan TD, have been organised by the Irish Technology Leadership Group. OpenHydro is among the firms shortlisted for the innovation award.

OpenHydro’s contract is with Snohomish County Public Utility District (SnoPUD), the twelfth largest publicly owned power utility in the US. The aim is to develop a tidal energy project in the Admiralty Inlet region of Puget Sound, the second largest estuary in the US, with a shoreline of 3,790 kilometres.

The pilot project — which has received a grant from the US Department of Energy Advanced Water Power Projects — will involve the installation of up to three tidal turbines in Puget Sound, which will be connected to the electricity grid via subsea cables.

OpenHydro will install the turbines using its purpose-built installation barge, the OpenHydro Installer, the world’s first specialist barge for installing seabed-mounted tidal turbines. Installation is expected to begin as early as 2011.

James Ives, chief executive of OpenHydro, explained: “Our vision is to develop arrays of tidal turbines, silently and invisibly generating renewable energy under the world’s oceans. This is a significant contract for our business, and it marks a further step toward achieving that goal.

“We believe that tidal energy will make a considerable contribution towards meeting SnoPUD’s renewable energy targets, and we are extremely excited to be working with such a visionary partner.”

SnoPUD’s general manager, Steve Klein, said the partnership with OpenHydro to develop a clean, emission-free energy source has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting the growing energy needs of the region around Puget Sound’s.

“Tidal energy can be sited right here in western Washington and easily integrated into our existing electrical system without requiring hundreds of miles of new transmission lines.”

OpenHydro designs and manufactures tidal turbines and turbine deployment equipment for generating renewable energy from tidal streams. In May 2008, OpenHydro became the first company to deliver tidal generated electricity to the UK’s national grid.

The company’s technology converts the movement of water in tidal streams directly into electricity. Such electricity production has a number of environmental advantage. For example, it is completely renewable because it relies on tidal currents that are created by the gravitational effect of the sun and moon on the world’s oceans. And, whereas other forms of renewable energy are dependent on the weather conditions that day, tidal energy is completely predictable, giving the electricity produced a premium value.

 By Carmel Doyle

Pictured: OpenHydro executive chairman, Brendan Gilmore (right), and chief executive, James Ives, pictured at the unveiling of the first Irish-manufactured open-centre turbine