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James Burgess

James Burgess

James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…

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Hydrokinetic Power Could Grow to be a Big Player if it Passes its First Test

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


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  • Vladimir Markovic on March 31 2013 said:
    Dear Mr. James Burgess,

    days ago I visited more home pages referring TIDAL projects. As I was previously following similar VERDANT program from USA, after studying all VOITH – Siemens and ALSTOM designs, I found out that all that projects are carrying similar disadvantages which are coursing 12 to 20 times larger investing and operational costs for each received MWh which instead of 35 to 40 € per MWh has price which overcomes 500 € per MWh and by my calculations could be never smaller than 300 € for MWh.

    Since more years I am http://www.izumi.si involved also to problem of exploring energy from slowly moving water streams. Up to last year I used to work on only smaller units (SP 1) with Power up to 80 kW. Today I am involved in new designs (SP 2) which are 10 times stronger.

    SP 2 units are incomparably cheaper, technically extremely simple and their life time can realistically be longer than 50 years. They are maximally 3 m high but their horizontal diameter is very large because SP2 are not axially operating (like other TIDAL turbines) but on radial way. Therefore, I made plans and calculations for two types of SP 2 units - 22 and 32 meters of diameter – very convenient to be used as TIDAL units:

    SP 22 m with 300 kW of Power, complete price of 1,5 Million € and price for each MWh of 45 €
    SP 32 m with 500 kW of Power, complete price of 1,9 Million € and price for each MWh of 40 €

    In deeper water with high of nearly 6 m, capacity of each can be multiplied but not with doubled producing price what means that price for electricity can be lowered to 30 to 35 € for each MWh.

    Please, answer me what are the reasons that all those companies are insisting in production of 20 times more expensive and technically wrong solutions regarding which we shall never get electric power based on expectable price ? I tried to ask them but nobody was not prepared to give me any kind of answer.

    Best regards,

    Vladimir Markovic Ljubljana, 2013-03-31

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