The U.S. Surges into the Future of Tidal Energy

By: | September 23rd, 2013

Verdant Power’s Roosevelt Island “Free Flow” or “Six Pack” Tidal Energy hydrokinetic technology (RITE) project is the first of its kind for the U.S. Between 2006 and 2009, six grid-connected turbines were installed in New York City’s East River to generate electricity from the ebb and flow of tides and logged 7,128 operational hours, a world record at the time.

The project received the first-ever commercial license in the US in 2012 and the RITE field will now be expanded to 30 commercial class (Generation 5) turbines producing 1 MW of power. The project could eventually be expanded further to produce up to 10 MW of power based on the estimated potential of the East River basin. The original test project, funded with a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, is unique in that it was the world’s first array of grid connected turbines.

Tidal Energy: A Unique Renewable Resource

Tidal power is unique in that it provides an out of sight and silent energy source, thereby reducing visual disruption. Tidal energy is both renewable and predictable; water currents are more cyclical than wind or solar systems, which offer only intermittent power. Blackout scenarios for tidal power are only half as likely when ebbs and flows of tides are weak; regular predictable tides occur 80% to 90% of the time, roughly twice as reliable as wind and solar power systems.

Tidal power systems are simple, scalable, cost-effective and do not require expensive maintenance as there are only a few moving parts. Major civil works projects are not necessary when creating tidal power systems so there is no disruption to the public and upfront capital costs are minimized.

Tidal power systems can be placed in major population centers, like the RITE project, or in small villages without any externalities. Finally, tidal energy systems can be integrated with water purification technology, which is especially applicable in developing countries where the demand for both clean energy and clean water are strong.

Future For Tidal Energy In The US

The University of Minnesota has been working on the project with Verdant Power using its cutting-edge computational modeling and experimental techniques to supply electricity to New York City.  Unfortunately, Verdant’s first major commercial projects will be built in the UK, rather than the US as incentives and grants needed for commercial scaling of the technology are prevalent there and nonexistent at home.

The project will be part of the “Zero Energy Research Center” graduate school being built by Cornell University on Roosevelt Island and scheduled for completion in 2017. Read more about that project here.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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