I met Mike Michaud over seven years ago when I was trying to figure out where we should locate our tidal energy startup company and how we could raise the R&D funding we needed. At that point in time, my company consisted of me, a co-founder and a few part-time consultants scattered around the country but we had a vision about what we might become and how we might get there.
When I first met Mike Michaud, he looked me right in the eye and listened intently to our plan to make tidal energy a reality in Maine. He understood the challenges, but he also understood instantly the jobs and other economic benefits.
Michaud was particularly interested in how tidal energy would have positive economic and social benefits for Washington County, in places like Eastport and Lubec, where hardworking people have been struggling for decades. He didn’t call us crazy but encouraged us to locate in Maine where he and superb organizations like the Maine Technology Institute would do their best to foster our growth. I have to say, I liked Mike right from the start but, after all these years, I like him even more.
At first, Mike Michaud went to work in Washington and was able to secure critical funding to allow the University of Maine to help our company in engineering analysis and environmental monitoring of our early prototype and demonstration projects. Since that time, we have built a highly valuable partnership with the UMaine School of Marine Sciences that has given both of our organizations worldwide recognition for the tidal energy work we have done in Cobscook Bay.
In the last few years, Michaud has worked behind the scenes to help get money appropriated to the U.S Department of Energy for tidal energy research and development and demonstration projects. Funding of this Department of Energy program began in 2010 and, since that time, my company has been successful in competing for and winning more of this DOE funding than any other company in our industry.
Most recently, after funding levels for this DOE program were cut back last spring, Michaud and Chellie Pingree worked together across the aisle in Congress to get most of that funding restored to the program. Through all of this, Mike Michaud’s commitment to growing this exciting new industry in the state of Maine has never wavered because he saw from the beginning what our work could do for the people of Maine.
Our company is no General Electric (at least not yet!) but what we’ve been able to achieve, thanks in part to Michaud’s efforts, is somewhat impressive. In 2012, we built our first grid-connected tidal energy project in Cobscook Bay, with financial investment from the DOE, Maine Technology Institute and our unbelievable private investor.
This project was the first ocean energy project of any kind that didn’t involve a dam to deliver electricity to a utility grid anywhere in North, Central or South America. Yes, Maine is in the history books, but I’m afraid most people in Maine don’t even realize it. Along the way, we have created or retained over 100 jobs and have invested more than $25 million into the Maine economy.
Ocean Power Renewable Company has become an internationally recognized leader in our exciting new sector of the energy industry and now has 20 employees. And if we and Mike Michaud have our way, this will just be the beginning.
Mike’s leadership and advocacy on behalf of the renewable industry in Maine — thoughtful, diligent and not showy — is exactly what Maine needs in a chief executive. We need someone making the pitch for Maine exactly as Mike has helped make the pitch for our growing renewable company. We need someone who cares more about making the deal than about making headlines. For this Maine business owner, that leader is Mike Michaud.
Chris Sauer is president and CEO of Ocean Renewable Power Company.