Tidal study finds potential 2,750 MW off Alaska

Fourteen tidal power sites off the coast of southeast Alaska have a total generating potential of more than 2,750 MW, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

The University of Washington prepared the report of the EPRI study, Tidal In-Stream Energy Resource Assessment for Southeast Alaska. The Alaska Energy Authority requested the assessment, which examined the magnitude of available in-stream resource in six specific locations.

EPRI evaluated sites using four criteria: cross-sectional area; average depth; power density; and total kinetic power.

The report identifies North Inian Pass in Cross Sound as the site with the greatest cross-sectional area. The same site also has the highest average depth — 230 meters — and the most power potential — 1,600 MW. The site with the greatest power density is Kootznahoo Inlet in Chatham Strait. It features a density is 7.4 kW per square meter.

Based on results of the assessment, EPRI suggested next steps for the process of site development. The institute said those steps should involve a site feasibility and economic assessment, and a more detailed resource study. Such a study should include numerical calculations and field measurements, it said.

Of sites investigated, EPRI concludes that only those in Cross Sound and Icy Strait are suitable for development of large-scale power plants. In fact, EPRI indicates the potential in those areas is more than enough to meet the region’s energy needs and to allow export of electricity to Canada and to the Pacific Northwest.

While other sites in Southeast Alaska assessed in the study are too shallow and/or too low in power density for large-scale development, EPRI said they might be good options for providing electricity in remote locations.

The report is on the Internet at www.epri.com/oceanenergy/streamenergy.html#reports under TP-003 AK. EPRI previously published feasibility reports on studies of prospective tidal sites in other states and two Canadian provinces, also available at the above site. (HNN 6/19/06)

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