News 2011: UMass Dartmouth-based Marine Renewable Energy Center conducts first in-ocean technology test in Massachusetts

News 2011: UMass Dartmouth-based Marine Renewable Energy Center conducts first in-ocean technology test in Massachusetts
UMass Dartmouth-based Marine Renewable Energy Center conducts first in-ocean technology test in Massachusetts

Plans for UMass-managed offshore test site to be outlined

The first in-ocean demonstration project of a tidal energy device in Massachusetts was completed today by UMass Dartmouth's New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) as officials outlined plans to establish a 300 square mile first-in-the-nation test site off Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

The MREC initiative is designed to incubate wave, tidal, and off-shore wind technology to capture a significant amount of the estimated 500-plus GW of wind, tidal and wave energy available off the coast of New England. Analysts believe the marine renewable energy sector has the potential to generate significant economic impact in the form of research, development, and manufacturing activity across New England. Massachusetts is believed well-positioned to compete in this sector due to the deep water ports and skilled maritime labor in coastal cities such New Bedford and Fall River.

"This is a unique opportunity to demonstrate the capability of Massachusetts and New England as a leader in marine renewable energy development," UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said. "MREC is an example of the public/private collaboration that is necessary to launch new industries and create new job opportunities. Thanks to its innovative spirit and brainpower, Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to establish a whole new industry with potential to address our energy needs, reduce our carbon footprint, and create thousands of jobs."

"Examining ways to harness the ocean's tidal power to produce renewable energy is a logical step in the Commonwealth's efforts to encourage green energy solutions," said Senate President Therese Murray. "This demonstration project through MERC highlights the strengths of organizations like Mass Maritime, UMass Dartmouth and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Furthermore, it is a great example of how the collaboration and utilization of expertise across different institutions and across borders can highlight and expand what we have here in Massachusetts and create opportunities to strengthen our sustainability and economic future."

"The University of Massachusetts has established itself as a renewable-energy research and innovation leader with particular strengths in the areas of wind and solar power, and now UMass Dartmouth, long known for the excellence of its marine science programs, has emerged as a leader in marine energy," said University of Massachusetts President Robert Caret.

"This in-ocean test site will allow us to make critical investments in research and development that will help spur clean, renewable energy innovation right here in Massachusetts," said U.S. Senator John F. Kerry. "But more importantly, this project creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and drives our economy forward, and that's a win-win-win for everyone."

"I am very pleased that I have been able to support the important work of the Marine Renewable Energy Center of UMass Dartmouth,'' said U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, whose district includes UMass Dartmouth, the University's School for Marine Science and Technology and New Bedford. "This demonstration - for the first time - of a tidal energy device in Muskeget Channel is a reminder of the excellent work that UMass Dartmouth does for the region, the state and the country, and it is an important advance in our effort to provide our nation with renewable energy sources. The project is also an example of the importance of public/private cooperation, because the result of this work will be important opportunities for private companies in southeastern Massachusetts, which will provide jobs and energy for our people."

"Massachusetts has always been a pioneer in promoting the use of renewable energy technologies, and this project will help solidify the state as a hub of advancements in this industry," said U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, whose district includes the Cape and Islands. "Investments in clean energy will help propel our economy forward -- both nationally and locally -- and that means putting people back to work. At the very least, that is reason enough to support this project, but the fact that clean energy technologies will also contribute to the protection and preservation of Massachusetts' unique ecosystems is an added benefit."

"I'm very pleased that the MREC project has reached this critical milestone," said U.S. Rep. James McGovern, whose district includes Fall River and UMass Dartmouth's Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center. "Marine renewable energy has the potential to create jobs here at home and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil -- all in a way that's good for the environment. I applaud UMass Dartmouth for their commitment to this issue."

"The Patrick-Murray Administration is exploring all avenues leading to a clean energy future, and this new tidal energy project is an intriguing and promising part of the mix," said Department of energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia. "We look forward learning more as the project moves forward."

"This project not only highlights the potential for hydrokinetic electricity generation in Massachusetts tidal waters, but it also showcases Massachusetts' world-class research institutions and innovative clean energy companies, and the technologies they have developed here in the Commonwealth.," said MassCEC Executive Director Patrick Cloney. "From Boston-based FastCAP Systems' capacitor to Free Flow Power's prototype turbine and the student involvement from UMass Dartmouth and Mass. Maritime, this project is just one example of how our community is working together to accelerate the success of the clean energy industry." MassCEC contirubted $98,000 to the project.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy President Richard Gurnon said, "As a leader in clean energy for our state, Massachusetts Maritime Academy is excited to be a part of this worthwhile project. It is our hope this study will help lead the way in the marine renewable energy field and will set the standard for our country going forward."

The demonstration featured technology developed by Free Flow Power and FastCap Systems, two Massachusetts marine energy technology developers. "Creating a test site to demonstrate and research hydrokinetic devices will continue to brand Massachusetts as a leader in the clean energy sector," said Henry Dormitzer, President of Free Flow Power. "We want to thank the Patrick Administration and MREC for their efforts in helping companies like Free Flow Power succeed in Massachusetts."

Free Flow Power's prototype underwater turbine, designed for use in rivers, was lowered into the ocean near Muskeget Channel on August 10 and has been capturing energy from ocean current over the past several days. The turbine's acoustic characteristics and its impacts on micro-organisms are also being studied by UMass Dartmouth marine scientists. The turbine was lowered into the ocean from the Mass. Maritime Academy test barge. FastCap Systems' energy storage technology is attached to the barge to capture energy generated by the turbine.

UMass Dartmouth and the Patrick Administration, meanwhile, are working with federal officials to create a first-in-the-nation National Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone (NOREIZ). This 300-square mile ocean-based technology incubator site will be used to test offshore energy devices that companies hope to bring to market. The site is unique because it offers a variety of ocean characteristics within a relatively small area.

Similar in mission to UMass Dartmouth's Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center and Bio-Manufacturing Center, NOREIZ will provide a low-cost site where companies can prove the marketability of their products so they can attract investment and ultimately create jobs in Massachusetts.

The UMass Dartmouth Center for Policy Analysis is conducting a supply chain analysis to determine the infrastructure needed to support marine-based energy development. Expected to be published this fall, the study will focus on manufacturing, port and workforce impacts and describe the jobs associated with construction, assembly, and maintenance of these systems.

A UMass Dartmouth team recently visited Cuxhaven, Germany, a small city that responded to the loss of 10,000 fishing industry jobs by developing an off-shore energy sector, which has created 1,500 jobs over the last five years and is expected to add several thousand more by 2015.

The ocean is attracting increased attention as a potential source of energy for New England. Edgartown has submitted a pilot license application with Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a 5 MW project with the intention of expanding to a full license for a 20 MW tidal development. The town has already attained a preliminary permit from FERC for development of a tidal project in Muskeget Channel. The Town has teamed with MREC for technical assistance.


More about the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center

The New England MREC is an organization comprised of academia, government agencies, industry, municipalities, public interest groups and concerned individuals. MREC's focus is to foster the development of ocean-based renewable energy (wave, tidal, current and ocean wind). MREC is developing a network of technology developers and energy users who will collectively define the needs of this nascent industry and work to bring together the required technology, capital, infrastructure, and human resources to implement ocean renewable energy in the most sustainable manner for the region. Research partners include: UMass Amherst, UMass Boston MIT, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, UNH, URI, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Industry partners include: SAIC, Resolute Marine Energy, NortekUSA, Free Flow Power, Flow Design, Ocean Renewable Power Company, and Alden.

More about the National Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone (NOREIZ)

The New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) has proposed a 300 square mile Northeast Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone (NOREIZ) to provide an area for development of technology. NORIEZ is included in the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan and will be governed by a Board with representatives from state government and UMass Dartmouth. MREC intends to use the NOREIZ as an area for the study of the marine environment and the establishment of permanent test sites.