Faced with the need to find a new source of energy to replace fossil fuels, which have been warming the planet exponentially since the 1700s, water has turned out to be one of our best bets – for the simple reason it never stops moving, and movement creates energy.
That’s good news for the town of Hull, which is surrounded by busy water due to something called a gut, a gut being an especially large body of water that drains through a narrow channel, a situation that ultimately results in heavy flows and strong currents.
The happenstance of a gut has made possible the town’s selection to be part of a national competition, which is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Currently, that agency is focused on marine energy, which requires a lot of research. To do that research, 12 small businesses, from nine different states got chosen for this task, each given an assignment. Hull’s was to develop a tidal turbine system to supply power to off-grid electric vehicles and electric charging stations.
Being at the end of a vulnerable peninsula, and aware of the fact (according to many scientists) that eventually the planet might be too warm to cool down, Hull, some time ago, committed itself to be mostly dependent on clean energy by 2030. One of the town’s early acts toward that goal was the installment of a couple of wind turbines in two locations. They have served the town well, but there is a drawback to wind – the fact that it doesn’t blow all the time. Thus, the attraction to tidal turbines, which never are still because water never is.
It might seem too big a deal to replace a wind turbine with a tidal turbine, since the latter is much heavier and sturdier than the former, meaning it would be more expensive to build. But here is the good news: A company called Aegis Technology will be developing Hull’s tidal turbine at no cost to the town since it will be contributing to the project created by the U.S. Department of Energy.
So that Hull residents, and visitors to the town, can have an idea of what a tidal turbine would look like, a small mockup of one will be on view for several months at the far end of the peninsula, beginning in September. That demonstration has been made possible by Stephen Barrett, an energy consultant, who lives in Concord and travels the country advising those who have embarked on the journey to clean energy.
Barrett is not alone in promoting the actual advent of a tidal turbine in Hull waters. Among them is Hull resident Ben Maitland-Lewis, who, for most of his life, has been involved with the arts but who these days is using his talents to spread the word about this highly effective turbine.
Recently, at Pemberton Point, Maitland-Lewis expressed his thoughts about ways the turbine could be presented to Hull and its surrounding communities.
“We have to start talking to people,” he said. “We can have digitalized signs around town explaining what’s happening.” He then gestured with both arms extended toward the point, and the ocean beyond, while continuing to share his ideas about how to introduce this new turbine.
“We have to have a website; we have to have a turbine statistics board that folks can read on site; and we have to have an unveiling of the turbine,” he said.
“If it becomes successful,” he concluded, “it would be the first tidal energy-powered charging station of its kind in the United States.”
Constance Gorfinkle is a Hull resident.