In the United States’ quest to become a new energy powerhouse, marine energy has been low on the Obama Administration’s cleantech priority list. However, with ever-improving technology capable of more-efficiently capturing the power of moving water, marine energy could very well see a spike in interest from the government as well as the private market.
Verdant Power, Inc. is one of the businesses hoping to shift more attention toward the wave and tidal power industries in America. Recently, the company filed an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct the country’s first tidal power plant.
The application calls for the installation of a pilot project consisting of up to 30 tidal turbines in New York City’s East River. The turbines would transfer the tidal energy to the national grid. From 2006 to 2008 Verdant operated its RITE project in the swift moving East River; the demonstration comprised of operating six turbines.
Although the turbines encountered some difficulties, specifically turbine tips being ripped off by fast moving currents, they were able to successfully generate 70 megawatt hours of energy for local businesses.
Company officials state this was the first system of grid connected tidal turbines in the world; as a result it offered several insights. The two-year test showed the three-armed turbines do not have a negative effect on fish life. Additionally, company officials say the East River’s strong current helped the turbines set records for hydrokinetic power.
Since its first experiment in the East River, Verdant has been busy developing a new turbine which is capable of withstanding powerful tidal currents. The turbine the company intends to install in the fall represents the pinnacle of the research and will be composed of carbon epoxy composite.
Ronald Smith, Verdant’s chief executive officer, said the application to construct the country’s first tidal power plant is a significant achievement: “[The application] represents the culmination of nearly a decade of work undertaken by Verdant Power and a variety of project stakeholders to add tidal power to the U.S. clean energy mix.”
Approval of Verdant’s application could go a long way in developing the potential of this nascent and relatively neglected energy source.