By Beth Daley, Globe Staff
Last week, I wrote a story about the state opening the door for dozens of wind turbines – and likely many more – to be built in state waters that stretch three miles from shore.
A worker in Salisbury checks a buoy recently that will float over a device that will generate energy from waves. (Joanne Rathe/Globe photo)
Meanwhile, the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center is busy getting ready for the next generation of energy from the sea by hoping to use a rectangular ocean swath south of Martha's Vineyard as a testing ground.
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth-based center just received $950,000 from the US Department of Energy to develop better technologies for offshore wind, waves and tides. The center is already working with the towns of Edgartown and Nantucket to develop a tidal energy project in Muskeget Channel between the two islands known for its fierce currents.
But center researchers also hope to get permission to use a piece of ocean from the channel extending 30 miles south for energy entrepreneurs to use as an experiment center at the full mercy of deep waters and tough ocean conditions.
Scientists are just in the research stages now but if the site pans out it will be wired to allow energy developers to test their systems at a fraction of what it would cost if they had to pay for it on their own.
Wave, tidal and deeper water wind farm technology is still fledging, center director Miller says, and many kinks need to be worked out. Yet he predicts some tidal energy projects could be operational within five years, with wave energy and wind turbines in deeper waters following soon after. The center, which links researchers from UMass, MIT, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Rhode Island, is hoping to do what Europe has done - pool together resources so developers can research technology and get it to the market as soon as possible.