Cape Cod Canal - July 2017

Cape Cod Canal

An attempt earlier this week to install equipment designed to measure plankton and microplastics in the Cape Cod Canal has been delayed until next week.

The generator that would have powered the sensory equipment failed, so the installation was postponed.

The Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative (MRECo) of Marion is partnering with Coastal Ocean Vision of North Falmouth on a project to install sensory equipment at MRECo’s tidal testing site by the railroad bridge in the Cape Cod Canal.

MRECo installed its testing platform in the canal in November 2018.

On Tuesday, September 1, representatives from both companies were in evidence at the canal, attempting to get Coastal Ocean Vision’s equipment up and running.

MRECo Executive Director John R. Miller said those efforts were forestalled when a part of the generator being used to power a winch on the testing platform burned out.

Coastal Ocean Vision is testing what is called the Continuous Particle Imaging and Classification System (CPICS).

Mr. Miller explained that use of CPICS is twofold. First, it will measure the amount of algae and plankton flowing through the canal.

Too much plankton, Mr. Miller said, could impede efforts to evaluate other equipment being tested at MRECo’s platform in the canal by clogging devices. The measuring device also will be able to detect and classify harmful algal bloom species that cause red tide.

Second, CPICS will measure the amount of microplastics coming into the canal via Cape Cod Bay from the Deer Island Sewer Treatment Plant in Boston Harbor.

Those microplastics, Mr. Miller said, can be harmful to marine life.

“Plastics are a big issue in the ocean, with microplastics ending up in the food chain,” he said.

The use of a generator to power the test platform was necessary, Mr. Miller said, because the site currently does not have a power source. His company is working to secure $200,000 in state funding that will pay the cost of connecting power to the platform, he said, as well as provide broadband data communications.

Coastal Ocean Vision was founded by 10 scientists, engineers and technicians from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The group spent several years as a team designing and building advanced underwater measurement and observation systems.

Mr. Miller has said the Cape Cod Canal is the ideal location for MRECo’s test site because of the velocity of the tidal flow. Companies need at least four knots to test their devices and would like six knots or more. Under the railroad bridge, the tidal flow gets up to seven knots.

In addition, the testing site in Bourne is the only one of its kind in the United States, Mr. Miller said. The only other facility similar to the one proposed by MRECo is in Orkney, Scotland.

The cost for US companies to travel and test their turbines there is prohibitively high, he said. Also, the site in Scotland is for much larger devices being used in very energetic waters. Having this site is important for manufacturers of smaller devices, such as CPICS, he said.

Mr. Miller said the plan is for MRECo and Coastal Ocean Vision to return to the tidal test site in the Cape Cod Canal on Tuesday, September 8.

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