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Stuart Davies is the CEO of Ocean Renewable Power Co. John Ferland is the president of ORPC.
As president and CEO of a thriving, Maine-based company that employs 28 people in the state and has invested more than $50 million in the state economy so far, we are responding to the recent Maine Public Radio (republished in the Bangor Daily News), “12 years later, company still isn’t harnessing Eastport’s powerful tides.” While we appreciate the interest shown in Ocean Renewable Power Co., the report failed to present the larger picture of our pioneering work in Eastport and within the state overall. We’d like to provide a portion of that picture.
Ocean Renewable Power develops systems and projects that generate electricity from free-flowing river and tidal currents. From the opening of our first Maine office and first prototype testing, both in Eastport in 2007, the company has matured into a globally competitive firm providing energy solutions to areas of the world in most need. Every aspect of what we do is based on work done in Maine. Our products are designed in Maine, tested in Maine and either assembled in Maine or assembled at project sites with Maine guidance.
Our company has adapted to challenges in developing a disruptive energy technology. Ocean Renewable Power’s entry into the tidal energy market in 2012 was exhilarating (with the achievement of the first grid-connected ocean energy device in all of the Americas) and frustrating (the generator vendor provided a defective product, and then went out of business). We have consistently been upfront about the hurdles we’ve faced in creating a new product in a new industry, all the while making significant progress toward achieving high-reliability marine hydrokinetic systems.
In a remarkable market opportunity, our work in Maine attracted the attention of remote communities around the world struggling with long-term environmental and economic sustainability. Nearly 1 billion people globally have no access to electricity and another 700 million rely on diesel-fueled microgrids. These communities pay up to 15 times more for electricity than grid-connected areas do, and deal daily with the noise, poor air quality and environmental risk resulting from diesel fuel use.
Many of these areas include Indigenous communities adjacent to rivers and tidal estuaries, who live and work close to the land, and for whom climate change is not an abstract concept. In 2021 our first RivGen Power System, installed in partnership with the remote, tribal village of Igiugig, Alaska, became the longest operating device of its type in all of the Americas. That device was designed, tested in the waters off Eastport, and built in Maine.
The Igiugig experience propelled Ocean Renewable Power to other energy-solving opportunities in Alaska, Canada and South America. Last month, we deployed our first power system in Canada, and next year we will install our first in Chile. We are sifting through market inquiries from 45 countries, 20 U.S. states and 11 Canadian provinces. One of the largest engineering firms in the world, Hatch, led a $25 million investment in Ocean Renewable Power in 2021 in recognition of the global market need for our products and solutions.
Which brings us back to the economic and energy opportunity Ocean Renewable Power’s work offers Maine. This year we released nearly $1 million in contracts to eight Maine-based companies to manufacture power system components and assist with related electrical requirements. By the end of this year, we will begin testing a new product line in Millinocket serving the grid-connected river and canal market. And in 2023, testing of a next-generation tidal energy device will begin in Eastport.
While our tidal energy developments in Maine have not advanced according to the original time frames expressed over a decade ago, development of our product line and market reach have grown in ways we could never have foreseen. One thing has remained constant — our commitment to growing Ocean Renewable Power in Maine. Together with more than 300 partners, contractors and vendors located in 14 of Maine’s 16 counties, we are creating a new energy future with strong Maine roots and global implications.