Submitted by OPALCO.
OPALCO has begun to explore the feasibility of installing tidal generation. This could provide another layer of energy resilience for the islands. It’s early days for this technology and will require a lot of research before planning an actual project. OPALCO received a grant from the Department of Commerce to do some preliminary work on design and siting studies.
OPALCO is encouraged by a similar project already in the water and providing power to the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The Orkneys represent a marine environment that is remarkably similar to our Salish Sea. OPALCO is in conversation with the company that designed and deployed those generators.
There are no simple solutions for figuring out the complexities of our future energy supply. OPALCO is exploring all possible technologies to build reliable, sustainable, and clean resources to meet the energy needs of San Juan County. Tidal Energy is one of those technologies that could make sense but there are big hurdles to overcome such as environmental studies, success in grant funding, regional partnerships to share costs, waterfront land to bring the power up and onto OPALCO’s system and staff capacity to operate and maintain a tidal generator. OPALCO won’t proceed beyond investigation until we have good information to share with our members and time to engage the stakeholders.
About 75 co-op members attended an Island Way Workshop on tidal power in March. The presentation and a fact sheet on OPALCO tidal exploration is available online: https://www.opalco.com/quick-fact-opalco-tidal-energy-pilot-project/2022/11/.
Orcas Power and Light Cooperative is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,400 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 97% greenhouse- gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937. Follow OPALCO @OrcasPower on Facebook and Twitter.