Monday, April 23, 2007

Improved Use of Tidal Energy

The tide rises and falls twice a day, every day, as regular as clockwork. Why not tap into the tidal river to produce renewable energy?
Thanks to lessons learned by wind turbine designers, tidal power is already economically competitive, producing electricity at prices similar to wind power, according to feasibility studies by the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry R&D consortium. And it offers a big advantage over wind and other renewables: a precisely predictable source of energy. As a result, developers in the United States have laid claim to the best sites up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. In the past four years the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, DC, has issued preliminary permits for tidal installations at 25 sites, and it is considering another 31 applications.

.... "The whole point of doing kinetic hydro is to have a very small environmental footprint," says Dean Corren, Verdant's director of technology development, who designed the tidal turbines in the early 1980s while conducting energy research at New York University.

Corren's team installed its first two turbines in the East River in December. One has been delivering a maximum of 35 kilowatts of power to New York City, swiveling to generate power as the river swells with the high tides and empties with the low. The other turbine delivers performance data that Corren says will be crucial to refining the blades and gearbox, generator, and control system to optimize power generation.

This month Verdant added four more 35-kilowatt turbines. Corren says Verdant is now working on a next-generation design that will be cheaper to mass-produce, in anticipation of installing a farm of at least 100 turbines at the East River site.

Although the absolute quantity of electric power available from the East River may not compare with a large coal or nuclear power plant, the potential is not insignificant. New nuclear power plants will be needed, but adding incremental sources such as wind, tidal, and wave power will help round out the symphony of power sources.



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