Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ocean Motion

My interest in hydrokinetic energy was revived after reading a recent article in CleanEdge about the Series-A (or first-round) funding of a company called Hydro Green Energy. I was first introduced to Hydro Green, a company devoted to the development of high-efficiency hydrokinetic turbines, about three years ago when I worked as an intern at the UT Clean Energy Incubator (CEI). While at CEI, I learned about various alternative energy technologies, including hydrokinetic energy. Hydrokinetic energy is derived from the movement of ocean (or freshwater) currents across the blades of a turbine. Unlike traditional hydropower, there is no need to first build a dam or other infrastructure.

The article reports that Hydro Green's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensed hydrokinetic power project on the Mississippi River, expected to be operational by late August of this year, will be the first one of its kind in the United States. However, it seems that Hydro Green is not the only company developing hydrokinetic power projects on the Mississippi River. In an article published earlier this month in the St. Louis Dispatch, a New England startup called Free Flow Power Corp. is planning to put hydrokinetic turbines in the Mississippi from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico.

With a potential to develop a minimum of 23000 megawatts (MW) of hydrokinetic energy by 2025 [according to a 2007 study by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)], it is no wonder that companies are jumping onboard the hydrokinetic bandwagon. In addition to possessing a huge resource base, hydrokinetic energy is emissions-free and highly efficient. In fact, the National Hydropower Association claims that today's turbines are more than 90% efficient. With these characteristics in mind, I would not be surprised if hydrokinetic power generation becomes more common in the very near future.

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