A Portland hydrokinetic power company has received a national award for innovation, the first marine energy company to receive the honor.

The National Hydropower Association on Tuesday designated Ocean Renewable Power Co. a 2016 Outstanding Steward of American Waters for its river energy project in Alaska.

The project involved installing submersible turbines in the Kvichak River to generate power for the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig. A pilot project, the technology has been tested for two years and successfully demonstrated that it can provide one-third of the electrical power needs of the village, according to a release from the association.

ORPC earned the award under the operational excellence category, which recognizes waterpower projects that add value to the industry through technical contributions, innovation, engineering, upgrades and improvements, or technology breakthroughs for new hydropower or marine hydrokinetic technologies.

“NHA is pleased to present ORPC with [this award] – the first marine energy company to receive this distinction,” said Linda Church Ciocci, executive director, in the release. “Remote communities like the Alaskan Village of Igiugig, often have to rely on fossil fuels like diesel to generate electricity. ORPC’s RivGen® Power System is working to be a clean, innovative and affordable energy option for communities worldwide. As the marine energy sector moves forward, it is projects like [this] that are leading the way.”

In November, ORPC received a $2.2 million Department of Energy grant to continue developing its river and tidal turbine systems.

The river system provides remote communities with lower, stable electricity generation costs; reductions in carbon footprint and environmental impact; and long-term economic development, according to the association.

Over 1.5 million sockeye salmon migrated upstream past the ORPC installation during its operation with no evidence of fish injuries, mortalities or passage delay of upstream migrating salmon. The data collected was so voluminous that the Energy Department allocated new funds to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to analyze the full data set and develop automation tools for future use by the industry.

The project was partially funded by the Denali Commission and the Alaska Energy Authority and based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Small Business Innovation Research Grants Program. The U.S. Department of Energy also provided funding, and recently awarded the Village of Igiugig a grant to further advance the design and operation of the ORPC system.


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