Bourne is closely following a study being performed by an Army Corps of Engineers consultant at the canal’s east end to determine if tapping the famous waterway’s hydro-power is feasible.


 

Bourne is closely following a study being performed by an Army Corps of Engineers consultant at the canal’s east end to determine if tapping the famous waterway’s hydro-power is feasible.


The idea to harness rapid tidal flow in order to take advantage of alternative and renewable energy possibilities is not new. It has been studied before; but that was before the price of a barrel of oil topped the $145 mark and government entities started worrying about their fuel-line items becoming budget busters.


Six years ago, a hydro project was envisioned near the railroad bridge in Buzzards Bay, but the size of the equipment needed was thought to be so big that it would prove a hindrance to canal navigation. But that project was undertaken at the waterway’s most narrow point.


Now, however, science and technology have advanced and the canal still produces a huge amount of energy; except for its slack-tide periods each day. Capturing that energy and harnessing it do not represent a premiere federal priority, but the idea has merit given those continually rising energy costs.


The new analysis of canal tidal action serving as a form of renewal energy may no longer stretch the edges of technological fascination.


The alternative energy study committee says the previous tidal study of what the canal could do to reduce electric bills was a bust simply because envisioned equipment at that point could not handle tidal change. The project also would block marine navigation.


Committee vice-chairman Robert Schofield said times have changed, however, and the Corps has now retained a contractor to “test equipment outside the navigable channel” at the canal’s east end near the Visitor’s Center at the Sandwich Bulkhead.


“They’re trying something, but it doesn’t sound too opportunistic,” Schofield said last month. “The Corps’ first job is making sure the canal is always navigable to marine traffic. But the Corps is also open to new ideas. If something happens on this, it would have to be outside that channel. But as I say, they’re considering ideas. They’re open to them.”


Thomas Gray Curtis Jr., committee member, says that in terms of hydraulics, “there’s a huge amount of energy there. It’s a shame it hasn’t been taken advantage of.”


Energy committee members agree on one point, the immense tidal energy would not produce power every hour of every day. But, they say, canal tidal flow has more capacity than wind.


“You’d almost need a sluice way to cap the flow,” member Paul O’Keefe said.


Then there is the argument that alternative energy projects beg basic questions: can they stand on their own? Will they disrupt operations or missions? Will neighbors protest? And will they be dependent on subsidies, grants and gifts?


Difficulties aside, the study committee says the Corps interest in harnessing alternative energy from its own backyard “is a step in the right direction” especially during the nation’s oil shock.


“They’re just as interested as everyone else in reducing their energy costs,” O’Keefe said of the federal agency headquartered on Taylors Point.


There is some committee concern about alternative energy being harnessed from the canal being constantly reliable; perhaps more so than wind. No energy supply is 100 percent in this regard, the most notable example being the ethanol industry that is being buffeted by Midwest flooding at a time when the economy is increasingly reliant on using corn for fuel.


The Corps, meanwhile, is reviewing the possibility of partnering with the Bourne Recreation Authority and Massachusetts Maritime Academy to construct a second wind-turbine on MMA’s Taylors Point campus.


The current turbine is situated next to Commodore Hendy Field on the west side of the campus. The second turbine might be built in shallow water beyond the bow of the training ship Enterprise.


This cooperative governmental venture, however, is still in the nascent, discussion and basic-review stages. But if a turbine is built, it might serve to further reduce the cost of energy consumption at MMA, Scenic Park, the Gallo Ice Arena and the extensive Corps lighting complex along both sides of the canal.


The alternative energy venture by three distinct levels of government has not yet been publicly discussed with the alternative energy committee.


Bourne selectmen, meanwhile, continue go congratulate themselves with their appointments to the energy study panel, saying them managed to attract bright individuals and “new faces” to town government.


Bourne Courier