Muskeget Channel Tidal Demonstration (August 8-15, 2011)

The first in-ocean demonstration project of a tidal energy device in Massachusetts was conducted between August 8-15, 2011 in Muskeget Channel, located between the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The demonstration of tidal power production using currents in Muskeget Channel was a collaborative effort between scientists in the Coastal Systems Program (University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology), the UMass Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC), Massachusetts Maritime Academy, FreeFlow Power Corporation and FastCap Power Systems. (Watch slide show of preparatory research and turbine test.)


• Demonstrate the potential to generate and store electrical energy using a team of Massachusetts companies working with Massachusetts educational institutions.
• Highlight the renewable energy and economic development value of expanding the offshore energy industry in New England.
• Emphasize the importance of continued monitoring/surveying of ocean resources to provide data for multiple stakeholders.
• Utilize the test deployment to collect data on the interaction of a tidal turbine with the marine environment, specifically potential effects on the acoustical characteristics in the Channel as well as potential effect on zooplankton flowing through a spinning tidal turbine.

The demonstration also represented a coordinated effort by the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center (MREC) at UMass Dartmouth, the Patrick Administration's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Presently, MREC and the Patrick Administration are working with federal officials to create the National Offshore Renewable Energy Innovation Zone, a test site for offshore energy technologies to be located in Muskeget Channel and waters south of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as additional partial-scale test sites at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the University of New Hampshire.


During the August 2011 Muskeget Channel Tidal Power Demonstration, research in Muskeget Channel utilizing the test barge had two primary tasks that would be facilitated by the deployment of an actual tidal turbine.

1. Studying the impact of a turbine on micro zooplankton. To determine the effects of tidal turbines on zooplankton, ambient communities were measured as they were carried by tidal currents into the turbines and after they emerged. Effect of the turbines were gauged based upon direct observations of individuals for injury or mortality or changes in total numbers. Underwater video was also captured during the operation of the turbine to observe the interaction of the tidal turbine with zooplankton and with fish, if present.

2. Studying the acoustic signature of a turbine and potential impact on the background acoustic environment in the channel. Field data collection was completed on background acoustic characteristics of Muskeget Channel tidal energy site as well as at times when the turbine unit is operational. This was undertaken to determine if the deployment of underwater tidal turbines would have any effect on increasing noise levels in this marine environment. Increased noise above background levels produced by the operation of tidal turbines could potentially attract marine animals to the turbine generating units increasing the potential for interaction with the turbines or repel them and reduce the potential for a strike. In order to collect data on these tasks, a FreeFlow tidal turbine was deployed on a test barge which was positioned in Muskeget Channel. This turbine was suspended from the test barge moored in the channel.

SMAST grants the MS and PhD degrees in seven interdisciplinary fields through the University of Massachusetts School of Marine Sciences (UMass SMS). The system-wide graduate school combines the resources of five campuses and some eighty faculty members from more than a dozen departments. For information about academic programs, visit the UMass SMS website at www.umassmarine.net.