Numerical models combined with field measurements are regularly used to characterize tidal energy resources at potential energetic sites. However, most existing works only focus on the tidal hydrodynamic characteristics, and turbulence parameters are often not reported because of the lack of high-quality turbulence measurements and the limitations of numerical models in resolving turbulent eddies. In this study, we used FVCOM – a hydrostatic primitive equation (HPE) model – to characterize the tidal energy resource in the Western Passage, Maine, USA, by taking care of the essential macro-scale turbulence properties. We observed an excellent model performance using the Mellor–Yamada Level 2.5 Turbulence Model; estimating the spatial and vertical distribution of the turbulent kinetic energy and intensity added a new perspective to the site ranking for tidal energy converter (TEC) deployments. In addition, we also examined the role of channel geometry and bathymetry, such as headlands and underwater sills, in enhancing turbulent eddies around potential TEC siting locations. Ultimately, the detailed analysis of the turbulent flow characteristics has changed the site-ranking results and demonstrated that the regional-scale HPE models could be used for the relative understanding of more or less turbulent sites for a refined resource assessment.