Developers gather data at proposed Massachusetts tidal testing facility

Buzzard Bay

On June 29, several researchers and officials from marine technology interests were at the proposed Bourne Tidal Test Site (BTTS) near Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, conducting tests to determine the viability of placing marine hydrokinetic (MHK) turbines in Cape Cod Canal.

Since 1914, Cape Cod Canal has connected Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay.

Teledyne Marine Group applications engineer, Jeffrey Den Herder, deployed a sonar device at the site on Wednesday to collect data on water depth and speed of the current in the canal. He said these data will be used to generate a three-dimensional map of the underwater area.

Published reports also indicate a team from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth used submersible equipment at the site to capture underwater imagery. 

In March, the nonprofit renewable energy development corporation, Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative (MRECo), announced it received funding from the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council to develop BTTS in Cape Cod Canal.

MRECo is now seeking regulatory approval to develop the site and approval would require input from several organizations some of which include: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If MRECo successfully attains a permit, BTTS could begin operation in November 2017, according to the organization. The site will be equipped to provide power monitoring, electrical loads, and a full sensor suite for MHK and environmental monitoring.

John R. Miller, MRECo executive director, said Cape Cod Canal is an ideal location because of the velocity of its tidal flow. Companies need at least 4 knots to test their devices, but ideally prefer 6 or more knots. Miller said the tidal flow in the canal reaches 7 knots.

MHK testing facilities are available in Hawaii, USA; Orkney, Scotland; and the Bay of Fundy in Canada, but Miller said the cost of transporting turbines and maintaining monitoring can be cost prohibitive. A location on the U.S. east coast could reduce development costs for some companies and universities.

Currently, MRECo has an agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey fish testing facility at Turner’s Falls to manage tidal testing in flumes that can accommodate turbines of up to 1-m diameter in water flows of 4 knots.

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