While wind and solar power systems have been the primary focus of the clean energy movement for the past few decades, energy captured from the natural flows of tides and rivers, without the use of dams or large civil structures – kinetic hydropower – has begun to emerge as a viable, low-impact clean energy option.
Verdant Power, based in New York, NY, with sister companies in Canada and the UK, is a world leader in the effort to bring cost-competitive kinetic hydropower technologies to market. Verdant’s Kinetic Hydropower System (KHPS) uses three-bladed, horizontal-axis turbines installed underwater to convert the kinetic energy of river and tidal flows into electricity (similar in concept to an underwater wind turbine). Since it must operate reliably underwater, the KHPS is designed for simplicity and ruggedness, operating automatically by the water currents, largely without the use of failure-prone complex controls. The system is also scalable for use in a wide variety of water settings – from placement near shore in shallower urban areas, to deeper remote offshore sites that can accommodate much larger turbines, 10m in diameter and larger. With a majority of the world’s population living in cities, many of which are situated near flowing waters, this unique ability to scale the KHPS for use in urban areas becomes a key advantage for the technology. Also, river and tidal currents produce predictable power – another advantage for the technology that helps it compete with fossil fuels, as well as solar and wind systems, which are less predictable.
Since 2002, Verdant Power has worked to develop the KHPS through the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project in New York City’s East River. During 2006-08, we successfully demonstrated a six-turbine KHPS array at the project, with the 4th Generation grid-connected system successfully powering two commercial end users. Based on this success, we are now applying to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build out the RITE Project to a field of 30 turbines for 1 MW of installed capacity – a new source of clean, indigenous, distributed generation. The plans also include providing power from the expanded RITE field to the New York MTA for use at the Roosevelt Island subway station. The energy from the RITE Project will not only provide an alternative to polluting fossil fuels, but will also support New York’s goals to import less energy from outside its borders, and to create clean energy technology jobs.
Verdant Power will install its new commercial-class 5th generation KHPS at the RITE build out project. This latest technology version has been developed for projects in the US and Canada, with the support of both governments. Technical collaborators include the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory, the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, the University of New Brunswick, and Natural Resources Canada’s Canmet Energy, among others. The resulting further technological advances will yield systems that can produce cost-competitive power in an expanding array of sites, moving towards the realization of kinetic hydropower’s global potential of over 250 GW of power.