Marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy offers a promising new source of renewable ocean energy. However, regulatory uncertainty and social acceptance may constrain industry development. Our human dimensions research aims to understand the regulatory and permitting process for MHK development and the factors influencing community acceptability. Research has focused on Ocean Renewable Power Company’s (ORPC’s) Cobscook Bay Tidal Energy Project (CBTEP), the first functioning commercial MHK project in the U.S. Using observations, interviews, and focus groups we identified salient stakeholders and examined community perspectives of the CBTEP. We found an emphasis on direct benefits, indirect benefits, “hopeful” benefits, and potential costs associated with the project. Community stakeholders and fishermen generally perceived ORPC’s approach as effective; they noted the company’s accessibility and their efforts to engage them early and often. Analysis of a community mail survey administered in two Cobscook Bay communities will be used to support or add to these qualitative findings. Through observations and interviews with regulators and developers we identified institutional factors important for supporting regulatory and permitting decisions including a commitment to interagency coordination, “learning by doing” and an emphasis on early proactive engagement with developers. We also identified institutional challenges that may hamper MHK development. These included knowledge gaps and uncertainties, conflicting agency cultures, and high financial costs and long timeframes associated with baseline data collection. Lessons learned from this study can assist regulators, policymakers, and developers move new renewable ocean energy development forward in a way that is socially acceptable and environmentally responsible.
**No Video is Available for this Session