With the flick of a switch, the first ever commercial-scale hydrokinetic power plant in the U.S. officially commenced operation in the Mississippi River yesterday. The hydrokinetic turbines, manufactured by Hydro Green Energy LLC, are located below an existing hydropower plant at Hastings, Minnesota. The initial turbine has a capacity of 100KW. When fully operational, the new facility will have a capacity of 250KW, adding more than 5.7% of sustainable energy generation without the need to expand the existing dam or build a new one.
Hydro Green Energy
Unlike hydropower dams, which operate on water pressure, hydrokinetic turbines produce energy from ambient movement in the water. Tidal power and wave power are two other examples of hydrokinetic power. Hydro Green installed the first hydrokinetic turbine in the Mississippi late last year, as a first step in an ambitious plant to draw 1,600 MW of hydrokinetic power from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Commercial operation of the plant had to wait until an intensive study of the impact on fish, which has just been completed by Normandeau Associates. The study found a survival rate of over 97%.
One advantage of hydrokinetic power is its scalability. Hydro Green’s ambitious plans are at one end of the scale. At the other end are low cost mini-turbines such as those offered by Seattle-based Hydrovolts, Inc., which can be simply dropped into canals or industrial outflows and tethered in place. Buoy-sized wave power devices are another modestly scaled example. Either way, both large and small hydrokinetic power installations promise the ability to draw extra power from the U.S. water supply without intensive construction or significant impact on aquatic life.
Image: howieluvzus on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.