A Maine company recently became the first to use underwater turbines to generate electricity from tidal energy. Although this marks a step forward in the development of renewable energy, The Heritage Foundation’s Michael Sandoval points out that taxpayer support for the Ocean Renewable Power Company Maine’s Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Pilot Project runs to $10 million. And it generates enough power for just 25 houses.

Is the progress worth the cost? Here are five important statistics for consideration:

3 ‘Pros’—with Caveats

1. Job creation. The Department of Energy estimates the project to create 53 new jobs. Or according to a more optimistic forecast by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, up to 100 jobs will be “supported” by the development.

Caveat: Heritage’s Nick Loris warns:

Taxpayer-funded programs do not create jobs; they shift them from one sector of the economy to another, Loris recently wrote. The opportunity cost of government spending is the lost labor and capital extracted from other sectors of the economy to artificially support the politically preferred ones. If underwater turbines are a good investment, companies shouldn’t need subsidies to build them.

2. New energy source. The project is expected to generate enough power for 25 to 30 homes.

Caveat: A 10 million investment will only power 25 to 30 homes.

3. Increased energy predictability. Tidal energy generates power more predictably than other forms of renewable energy, which is helpful to power transmission managers.

Caveat: The Energy Department does not have “a specific plan on expanding the energy portfolio.”

2 Cons:

1.  Electricity will cost more:  The electricity produced by tidal energy will be sold at an initial price of 21.5 cents per kilowatt hour, nearly double the current electricity cost inMaine.

2. The government spends more money. This $10 million investment in the underwater project marks the largest expenditure to date by the Department’s Water Power Program. Sandoval notes that:

The Energy Department has funded more than $87 million in marine and hydrokinetic projects since fiscal 2008, with more than 45 percent going to three states—Maine, Oregon, and Washington. Private industry received more than $49.4 million of the total, or 60 percent.

What do you think? Is this new technology worth millions of tax payer dollars? 

Comments (18)

Sally Vose - October 2, 2012

This is another boon-dogle project pushed by the left-leaning liberal former govenor Angus King, who is now running to become Maine’s new senator. We here in Maine do not need another dumb program supported by another liberal global warming politician. When Maine as well as the whole country return to common sense, we may be able to start the restoration of America.

Michael - October 2, 2012

Tidal energy generation is much further along in its development in the UK. We should be reviewing what they have done before we start from scratch on such a miniature scale and waste a lot of money and time. The money would be much better spent on development of advanced coal fired generation of energy. Again, a lot of creative work is going on in Britain. We don’t seem to have even begun to modernize this industry. We are too busy reacting to ridiculous EPA regulations designed to shut down the coal industry as another measure intended to further destruct America.

Timothy Portik - October 2, 2012

I think that we would be better served by investing in “clean coal” technology. I could only guess that there will be some unforeseen thing to damage the underwater turbines

Ken Sher - October 2, 2012

I understand the need for pilot programs for the various methods of generating electricity. But, I really feel that the methodology for development is either being over thought or outright theft and waste is occuring. It seems like there’s always someone with their collective hands in the cookie jar as evidenced by Solindra. Current used to make current isn’t a new idea. And, hopefully, these methods will help with the cost of electricity before it becomes unaffordable.

Glenn Nelson - October 2, 2012

There seems to be enormous potential in the inexhaustible potential of the seas. I believe more research is warranted, but by private enterprise, in this infinitely renewable resource. Let’s establish a competition between private businesses to fairly determine if the enormous potential can be realized.

Dave - October 2, 2012

$400,000 per home is outrageous. ANything our government does in support of Green Energy is over the top in terms of cost and poorly performing. Rather than waste $400,000 on each home, find a way to convert home energy needs to natural gas recognizing the abundance of gas available to support our needs for a couple hundred years.

We should also start a waste energy program and start by taking all the paper used to document the regulations our various government entities have foisted upon us. That could surely power our needs for 50 years. At this rate, in a few years they could use all our inflated dollars too since they will be worthless.

Dewey Switzer - October 2, 2012

That is only $400,000 per house .Stated cost $0.21.5 per Kilowatt Hr. Where I live in is under 10 cents per KWH.
I agree with others : Invest in cleaning up Coal at a
Fraction of the cost with greater benefit.
River Flow (or Ocean currents) through Turbines is 10 times or greater Benefit.
D. Switzer

Russ Morgan - October 2, 2012

Government sponsored R&D is generally ok, but funding or subsidizing private companies to implement a politically favored idea is definitely not.

john - October 2, 2012

as usual the government is again wasting our tax dollars. 25 homes???? who are they kidding. I do not recall seeing this on national tv – for sure the cost and how many homes. this is a joke.

Sharron Ashton - October 2, 2012

Use Maine’s tax dollars—not mine. I want mine $$ used for the building of natural gas lines. We have an abundance of that resource.

Stephanie - October 3, 2012

Hmmm, a portion of the ocean without sealife that could be harmed? Oh yeah, how could I be so silly, a green energy programme trumps a green EPA programme! How do we get our $10million back?!?

J. Hopkins - October 3, 2012

As with any start up initiative, there is always some expenditure for R&D. The data is incomplete in that we do not know how much each additional generation unit will cost, nor do we know the life cycle costs of the device. Thus, a thorough cost analysis is needed to ascertain the feasibility of this source of energy, not just for today, but for tomorrow. Though we have energy now, we should not be so imprudent as to not explore options for the future. Many inventions have come on the backs of tax payers (e.g., NASA discoveries), and so we should not be rash in dismissing this project – albeit we need a clearly defined purpose and objectives.

Robert Heinrichs - October 3, 2012

We should be using the ocean tides to Generate Electrticity. Israel has been using tidal turbines for years and years. I saw them in the Mediteranian Sea back in the Late 1980,s,but our private companies should be doing the investing, Not the Government!

Steve Lyle - October 3, 2012

There is an incredible amount of reliable energy in the earth’s tidal movements. The ten million dollar, Rube Goldberg contraption pictured above is probably not the way to harness some of it.

Debbie Anderson - October 4, 2012

Thank you for your research and exposure of continuing wasted, taxpayer money. Again, why is the government funding research in this amount? If and when this energy generation is profitable for the private sector, it will be available. Private companies take some chances to develop new ideas and that is what is the basis of the free market system.
I agree with other comments, why aren’t we contributing to the coal industry to modernize it and electric plants? Obama and his minions are taking this country down at a fast pace. I hope people wake up.

William - October 5, 2012

What a rip off do away with dept. of energy

Shannon Roe - October 5, 2012

If a private enterprise wants to fund a project like this one for $10 million (or any amount) of its own money, then more power (pardon) to them. But not one penny of taxpayer money should be spent for this kind of speculation.

Holly - October 6, 2012

I can only shake my head. What a waste!

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