Development of renewable energy affects or is affected by numerous stakeholders. Understanding who the stakeholders are and how they are engaged in the process is necessary for improving the responsible development of renewable energy technologies. Using structured community interviews and in-depth ethnographic research (semi-structured interviews, informal interviews, observations, and document review), we identified and characterized the most salient stakeholders associated with tidal power development in Maine and documented stakeholder perceptions of developer engagement strategies. Stakeholder characterization was facilitated using a framework by Mitchell et al. (The Academy of Management Review 22:853–886, 1997) that characterizes salient stakeholders using attributes of power, urgency, and legitimacy. Key stakeholders identified include fishermen, community members, tribes, regulators, developers, and scientists. Fishermen and regulators are definitive stakeholders, with legitimacy, power, and urgency in the process. Tribes are considered dominant stakeholders; they have legitimacy and power, but their interests are, at this time, not viewed as urgent. Scientists are considered to have urgency and power. The developers viewed their stakeholder engagement strategy as open and transparent. Community stakeholders, regulators, and fishermen generally perceived the developer's approach as effective; they noted the company's accessibility and their efforts to engage stakeholders early and often. Given the dynamic nature of stakeholder salience, our findings highlight the importance of engaging dominant stakeholders so that future conflict can be more easily avoided as new information develops. Our approach can be used to inform stakeholder identification and engagement research in other renewable energy contexts.