Solar panels, wind turbines, solar panels, wind turbines, solar panels … you know the theme in the energy-generation sector. However, we’ve got a fun one tonight that doesn’t get much love — because it’s hardly deployed anywhere. As you might have guessed from the headline, I’m talking about tidal turbines.
Marine energy company Verdant Power has plopped three tidal power turbines into New York City’s East River on one array. This is called the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project, and it is indeed the first US-licensed tidal power project.
“The RITE Project activity is a technology demonstration of Verdant Power’s fifth-generation tidal power system and its novel TriFrame™ mounting system,” the company notes, “which is the next step on a pathway to global commercialization and profitable commercial operations.” What do you think — will tidal turbines like this be getting installed in water bodies around the world? They do have an appealing look.
This is still a demonstration project. Naturally, if these were being commercially deployed in earnest, many more tidal turbines would be getting placed in the water than three.
The system lifespan is expected to be 20 years, but you never know for sure until real-world experience rolls in, so this demonstration project is aimed at helping to prove out the tech.
“This design provides for readily scalable systems to larger sizes for deeper and faster tidal straits,” Verdant Power notes.
“The RITE Project, as a grid-connected array of tidal power turbines, provides the metrics for system performance, and operational costs which are scalable to other sites, and demonstrates [a marine renewable energy] project as distributed generation for alternative global market opportunities.”
Verdant Power is based in New York. Hence its first deployment being in NYC’s East River. The RITE pilot project got the first tidal power project license from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, more commonly known as FERC (which I have to admit is one of my favorite acronyms). The project also received support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE). But don’t forget about the private market — Verdant Power’s RITE Project is also backed by private equity investors.
The electricity from this project will go to Roosevelt Island “through a distributed generation connection to Con Edison’s local grid.”
I figured that we had never written about Verdant Power before. But I was wrong.
We published an article about it in 2012 from the US Energy Information Administration. The update at that point in time was: “Verdant Power’s Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project, approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in January 2012, plans to install up to 30 three-blade hydrokinetic generators on the bottom of New York City’s East River to produce about 1 megawatt of electricity, enough to power around 800 homes. After initial problems resulting from strong river currents, the company has successfully tested new blades made of plastic and fiberglass.”
In 2013, Tina Casey picked up the story, writing: “Another notable project comes under Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will get $95,000 to study the impact of tidal turbines on fish populations, based on the operation of an existing tidal power project in New York City by the company Verdant Power. The goal is to develop assessment tools that can be used at other tidal and riverine sites.”
In 2015, she brought even more company history and this particular project into the picture, stating: “Verdant has been steadily hammering away at the East River project since 2002, and it passed a major milestone in 2012, when it received a federal permit to operate. News out of the company has been rather quiet since then, but with a share of that $10.5 million in hand it looks like Verdant is gearing up for another milestone.” 2002! Wow — I was still in college back then, and renewable energy was many generations back from where it is today.
So, while this company is just putting the project into the water that has the first commercial license in the USA, all of this didn’t pop out of nowhere. And Verdant Power’s claim that it is “a leader in the global marine renewable energy industry, developing systems that deliver clean power from tidal and river currents,” that rings true. Verdant further notes that it “has developed industry-leading capabilities in design, system demonstration and operation, tidal and river power resource assessment, and environmental monitoring.”
At the end of the day, whether Verdant Power is successful is going to come down to money, money, money. Can the company produce and deploy tidal turbines at a competitive cost? That’s the aim. Verdant claims that it is “dedicated to delivering the highest quality MRE technologies and services at the lowest possible cost.” Hopefully it’s not another 5 years before we write about the company again.
Images courtesy of Verdant Power