Hydrokinetic power shows great promise for growth as it can be theoretically installed in both industrial waterways such as wastewater treatment and food processing plants, and natural water ways without disrupting natural flow. Hydrokinetic turbines are designed to be anchored in place in the waterway, and don’t require construction of a large dam to generate false water pressure, which reduces the huge costs in capital and carbon emissions.
A company called Verdant Power has just been the first ever to win a commercial license for a hydrokinetic power facility in the US. Its Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project will install 30 turbines to take advantage of the powerful currents in New York’s East River. It is the first project of more than 100 waiting to be granted a permit throughout the country, and if successful could signify that the technology is ready to enter mainstream commercial use.
Hydrokinetic energy does on the surface then seem to be a shining example of clean, renewable energy. However it faces some major challenges:
First is the impact that it has on marine life in clean waterways; do the turbines pose health risks?
Second is that the turbines rely on natural currents rather than high pressures artificially enhanced by huge dams. The much lower, natural currents require the mechanics of the turbine to be delicately refined.
The third problem asks the question of whether or not the turbines will continue to function in the varying conditions of natural waterways, such as floods, droughts, ebb and flow tides, etc.
In light of these obstacles it is not surprising that RITE has been in development since 2006.
In order to speed up the development of new hydrokinetic technologies in the future, the US Economic Department Administration presented a $3 million to Tulane University to develop the RiverSphere centre; a facility on the Mississippi River for private sector companies to test their prototype turbines. If RITE is a success, maybe it won’t be long before most waterways around the country are producing clean, renewable energy from small hydrokinetic turbines.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com