Marine turbine generators proposed off Orient Point, Fishers Island

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The sun rising over Orient Harbor in Orient.
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | The tides off Orient Point could be used as a potential power source according to National Currents Energy Services.

Tidal currents could produce electrical current if a Highland, N.Y. company can float funding for a $60 million alternative energy initiative that aims to harness the power of Long Island Sound.

Natural Currents Energy Services is raising money to conduct preliminary studies to measure the tides as a potential power source.

The company estimates the east-west Sound tides flowing to the south of Fishers Island and around Shelter Island have the potential to generate up to 1,000 megawatts of electricity that could feed New York and New England. (By comparison, the long-shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant was designed to produce 800 megawatts of power.) Last year Natural Currents estimated the cost of the infrastructure required to tap that energy at $3.5 billion.

The project would consist of two $30 million underwater turbine sites, each designed to generate 5 megawatts of power, one off Orient Point, the other off Fishers Island. The company has not set a construction timetable.

Natural Currents had filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to conduct studies, but that application was canceled in 2009. Last year, they filed again, seeking permission to conduct studies in a 17-square-mile area including Plum Gut between the tip of the North Fork and Plum Island and in The Race, the four-mile stretch of open water between Fishers Island and Little Gull Island.

The company has identified 15 federal, state and local agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard, that may have jurisdiction over weighing potential environmental impacts and issuing permits.

Louisa Evans, who as Fishers Island justice also sits on the Southold Town Board, said the company’s presentation to Fishers Island residents last year left them intrigued.

“It could mean jobs on the island and therefore, possibly, a boost to the year round population,” she said. “I have not heard anything since the presentation but would love to learn more.”

Roger Bason, president and founder of Natural Currents, says the push to revive the project was inspired by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Energy Highway initiative, aimed at fostering a public-private partnership to bring alternative energy to New York.

“We want to embrace the community,” said Mr. Bason, who was raised on Long Island.

Due to Hurricane Sandy, a meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office was delayed last fall, Mr. Bason said. He’s now hoping to meet with state representatives to discuss his project later this spring.

Mr. Bason declined to say how much his company has raised to date.

The turbine project could also be aided by a bipartisan federal bill introduced by the U.S. Senate energy and natural resources committee last week. The proposed legislation is aimed at increasing hydro development and would allow FERC more freedom to grant permits for such projects.

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