Tidal Test Site

The tidal test site next to the train bridge in Buzzards Bay.

The company that installed a tidal testing platform near the railroad bridge in the Cape Cod Canal has approached the Town of Bourne for help in securing state funding. The firm’s founder said that upgraded technology is needed to accommodate the demands of potential clients.

The company is the Marine Renewable Energy Collaborative, based in Marion. Executive director and president John R. Miller recently wrote Judith M. Froman, chairwoman of the Bourne Board of Selectmen, seeking assistance in securing funding from the Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council.

In his email to Ms. Froman, he said that the energy collaborative’s application to the council must include a public entity as a partner and financial sponsor. He requested that the Town of Bourne take on that role.

The grant the company would be going after is called an innovation grant, which the Seaport Economic Council defines as “a resource to invest in innovative ideas and projects that promote job creation and economic growth within the maritime sector.”

In his application to the economic council, Mr. Miller describes the canal testing platform as providing “an accessible, secure and stable location for sensor testing.” He noted that several companies have already used the platform or plan to do so. The grant the energy collaborative is seeking would help establish the Massachusetts Ocean Sensor Testbed, he said.

“The Blue Economy is an essential and growing part of the Massachusetts economy, and sensors are a critical enabling technology in every segment of this industry,” Mr. Miller said. “The site also will provide the opportunity for students to learn about sensors and their capabilities.”

The testing platform was installed in the canal in 2018. However, use has been limited due to a lack of connectivity, Mr. Miller said, adding that the key issue potential customers have with using the energy collaborative’s site is the canal platform does not have a grid connection or high-speed data communications.

“This funding would allow power and broadband communications to be extended to the platform, greatly enhancing its usability for sensor testing and education,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller said that David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth), state Representative for the Third Barnstable District, which includes Bourne, encouraged him to apply for funding from the Seaport Economic Council. The company’s proposal must be submitted to the council by the end of May, “so there is some urgency,” Mr. Miller said.

“Bourne has been a great partner, and we look forward to fulfilling our [proposal] to bring tidal companies to Bourne for testing,” he said.

Ms. Froman said it was highly doubtful that the board of selectmen would go forward with Mr. Miller’s request. She pointed out that the Massachusetts Maritime Academy approached the town earlier this year about collaborating on a Seaport Economic Council grant. Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi is expected to present a draft of that grant proposal to the selectmen next week, she said.

“So, it’s not likely [we’ll have] a conversation with the Marine Renewable Collaborative for this year. It’s important not to be on more than one Seaport Grant,” she said.

A similar request for Bourne to act as sponsor on an application to the Seaport Economic Council was made in 2017. Bourne agreed to be the sponsor on a $900,000 application to the council submitted by Littoral Power Systems, a water turbine manufacturer in New Bedford.

At the time of Littoral’s sponsorship request, former Bourne Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino expressed misgivings. Mr. Guerino said that sponsorship meant the town taking on oversight for all purchases and procurements, as well as meeting all deadlines and benchmarks, associated with the project. He felt that the town did not have in place the necessary staff to monitor the project.

Mr. Guerino also cautioned that any fiduciary problems associated with the project could jeopardize future grant applications Bourne might apply for, such as state housing and community development grants.

Littoral’s then vice president for business development, John Ashburne, assured the board that the town had the option to pull the plug on its involvement in the project at any time. With that assurance, the selectmen approved town sponsorship of Littoral’s application to the economic council.

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