Vinalhaven was once famous for its export of polished granite, but few folks know today that much of that granite was smoothed in a shop run by tidal power. As fuel prices rise today and islanders look to alternative energy sources, tidal power is again raising interest. A collaborative group is now looking to rebuild Vinalhaven’s largest tidal power station, located right in the town of Carvers Harbor.
This tidal dam is located next to the Tidewater Motel, and once housed three turbines that ran a series of belts driving granite polishing stones, a sawmill and a bellows for a blacksmith shop. This downtown shop ran two shifts every day, on each ebb tide. Salt water flowing out of Carvers Pond was impounded by set of heavy doors that would open on the flood and close when the water started out. This arrangement held back the power of the water, thus extending the usage time, while also allowing upstream passage when not generating power.
This dam will now be rebuilt with funds from a program of a state-funded program, Efficiency Maine. This program aims to promote the more efficient use of energy, by supporting innovative projects through financial incentives, education and training, small grants and new building design and construction. The Vinalhaven project was proposed by The Ocean Energy Institute of Rockland in collaboration with Phil Crossman of the Tidewater Motel. Project Coordinator Benjamin Neal plans to first rebuild the granite dam structure, and then to solicit innovative engineering ideas from regional colleges for turbine design. Any power generated will be donated back for municipal needs.
Maine once supported dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of small tidal mills, and has some of the best tidal power resources in the world. There is currently no tidal power generation in the state. Project coordinator Neal noted that the Vinalhaven site is fairly small, stating “We just want to get a turbine turning again at this site, more as a demonstration, and see if it is practical. Perhaps in the future our island and coastal communities will again derive some part of their power needs from this clean, twice-daily, and never ending resource.” Large scale tidal generation possibilities are being studied in Downeast Maine, with the Quoddy Narrows a likely site. Maine Maritime Academy is also interested in this technology, and has established a tidal engineering test site in the Bagaduce River in the Castine area.
Anyone with further interest in this project is encouraged to contact Benjamin Neal of the Ocean Energy Institute at email@example.com.