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Project Experience: Muskeget Tidal Energy Project

The Challenge

The Town of Edgartown Massachusetts holds a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) providing it with exclusive rights to develop a tidal energy project in Muskeget Channel. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, HMMH, on behalf of the Town, is managing a comprehensive study of the marine environment in Muskeget Channel and assessing the potential impacts of the tidal project on indicator species and habitats. HMMH is also working under separate state funding with the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth (UMASS-D) to undertake siting and engineering studies as funding becomes available.

The Strategy

Muskeget Channel is located between the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Current velocity resource assessments conducted by partners at UMASS-D have indicated that the project can support up to 20 MW of nameplate generation capacity which is about a quarter of the power consumed on the island of Martha’s Vineyard annually. The tidal energy project will be developed in two phases: a pilot 5 MW project followed by a full-scale deployment of 20 MW.

The Solution

HMMH is directing research performed by UMASS-D, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies to collect baseline environmental conditions and predict potential impacts from the two predominant tidal turbine technologies – the open bladed and helical types. The research investigates issues that may be altered by the operation of tidal turbines in Muskeget Channel, including: changes in sediment transport and benthic habitat, colonization of mooring by marine vegetation and animals, and direct and indirect impacts on protected species including seals, sea turtles and whales. The study findings will be used to prepare environmental permit applications and obtain approvals for project construction. In February 2011, HMMH prepared a Draft Pilot License Application with the FERC and an Expanded Environmental Notification Form with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office to commence formal federal and state environmental reviews of the 5 MW pilot project.