U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Friday praised Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. as one of the companies that can lead the country to meet a goal of 100 percent clean energy within the next 15 years.

Granholm, who made a brief visit to Portland’s waterfront as part of a trip to Maine and New Hampshire to promote renewable energy jobs, said the company’s technology has moved from research to development and is now being deployed to draw energy from rivers and tides. ORPC uses turbines to generate electricity from the flow of river and tidal currents.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm looks to Sen. Angus King while talking on the Portland waterfront on Friday. Gregory A. Rec/Staff Photographer

Granholm, joined by Sen. Angus King of Maine, noted that her department has helped underwrite ORPC’s research. The company and the Energy Department are currently working together on several technology projects, funded by $14 million in federal grants.

ORPC is headquartered in Portland and also has an operations center in Eastport, where it is working on tidal projects, and in Alaska. It also has offices and operations in Canada, Ireland and Chile.

Granholm said she was in Alaska last month, and that small villages there are eager to use new technology that will free them from having to generate electricity from diesel generators. The fuel for those generators is expensive because many of the villages are remote, she said.

“They’re excited to come off diesel, and a lot of remote villages are looking for that,” she said, adding that the need to switch to clean technology is growing as the world warms due to greenhouse gas emissions. “The world is on fire.”

ORPC officials showed Granholm posters depicting how their operations have moved from ideas to technology deployed in the field.

Stuart Davies, ORPC’s chief executive, said advances have helped bring costs down and also speed deployment of the machinery in the field. He said the company used to need three weeks on site to install a turbine, but that it’s now down to a week, and costs are also down and dropping.

King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said an infrastructure bill that has passed the Senate and is currently before the House will provide more money to help advance technology, including green power initiatives.

“One of the most important functions of the federal government is supporting research,” he said. King also made a pitch for more research into energy storage systems, a particular area of interest to him.

King declined to predict the final vote on the infrastructure package and a companion bill that would provide $3.5 trillion in funding over the next 10 years. Both King and Granholm pointed out that the second bill would be paid for with revenue increases, such as from higher taxes on the wealthy.

King also used the occasion to provide a health update. He contracted COVID-19 last month despite having been vaccinated and had quarantined at home.

“I feel fine,” King said. “I don’t feel like climbing Mount Washington, but I didn’t feel like climbing Mount Washington before.”


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