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Nick Kuhn

First in the nation:

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Anyone else read this?

Nation's First 'Underwater Wind Turbine' Installed in Old Man River

By Alexis Madrigal EmailDecember 22, 2008 | 8:08:03 PMCategories: Energy, Environment

Hydrokinetic

The nation's first commercial hydrokinetic turbine, which harnesses the power from moving water without the construction of a dam, has splashed into the waters of the Mississippi River near Hastings, Minnesota.

The 35-kilowatt turbine is positioned downstream from an existing hydroelectric-plant dam and — together with another turbine to be installed soon — will increase the capacity of the plant by more than 5 percent. The numbers aren't big, but the rig's installation could be the start of an important trend in green energy.

And that could mean more of these "wind turbines for the water" will be generating clean energy soon.

"We don't require that massive dam construction, we're just using the natural flow of the stream," said Mark Stover, a vice president at Hydro Green Energy, the Houston-based company leading the project. "It's underwater windpower if you will, but we have 840 or 850 times the energy density of wind."

Hydrokinetic turbines like those produced by Hydro Green and Verdant capture the mechanical energy of the water's flow and turn it into energy, without need for a dam. The problem for companies like Hydro Green is that their relatively low-impact turbines are forced into the same regulatory bucket as huge hydroelectric dams. The regulatory hurdles have made it difficult to actually get water flowing through projects.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has oversight of all projects that involve making power from water, and the agency has recently shown signs of easing up on this new industry. In the meantime, the first places where hydrokinetic power makes in impact could be at existing dam sites where the regulatory red tape has already been cut.

“I am thrilled to support today's historic order that allows for harnessing more power from the Mississippi River,” FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller said in a release. “I hope this is the first of thousands of similar projects that produce clean and renewable power from in-stream flows at existing dams.”

Moeller's enthusiasm could encourage other companies that are trying similar strategies to tap tidal or current power.

Verdant has been testing its own turbine design to capture tidal flow in New York's East River, but it hasn't been easy.

"Verdant has spent more money on permitting their East River project that than they did on hardware," said Roger Bedard, a researcher at the Electric Power Research Institute, who has studied water-current–based energy generation.

Hydro Green's Stover hopes that his company's new unit will help shorten that regulatory process by generating environmental impact data that could ease concerns the turbines will disrupt river ecosystems and habitats.

And in the meantime, investors will continue to scour the planet for companies and technologies that could benefit from Barack Obama's plans to create green jobs. Congress already passed a bill this year to extend tax incentives for hydrokinetic projects through 2016.

"After the wind and solar craze, people said, 'What else is out there?'" Stover said. "The investment community is quite interested."

Image: Mark Stover/Hydro Green Energy, LLC

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How do they allow the living animals to pass through unharmed?

Bob

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I would almost guess that they have a RPM controller on them like the wind turbines do. If they turn at the same speed , i don't think there would be much problem for the fish.

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I would almost guess that they have a RPM controller on them like the wind turbines do. If they turn at the same speed , i don't think there would be much problem for the fish.

Water is much more dense and they'd operate at a much lower speed. I would imagine fish could pass through it unharmed, though they probably would avoid it altogether. Windmills do kill birds though, they aren't 100% eco-friendly. The braking is just to keep the windmill from spinning out of control and destroying itself.

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Dam-based and dam-free hydro are essentially the same — water turns a turbine to generate electricity. The differences are noteworthy: Dams create “head” — a drop through which water falls to generate more power. During high or low water, however, dam-based hydro may operate less efficiently or shut down. Dam-free’s advantage is, well, it doesn’t require a dam. Hydro Green’s enclosed, horizontal-axis barge-mounted units with rotors 12 feet in diameter needs 22 feet of stream depth. Another plus: If it doesn’t work, yank it out. Hydro Green plans barge-mounted units with collapsible gantries that can lift turbines out of the river for routine maintenance or outright removal. In theory, dam-free turbines work wherever current flows — and work best in deep and fast water.

One of the issues is whether turbines harm migrating salmon and other fish. Dam-free hydro developers say the turbines turn slowly enough to allow fish to escape.

LeClaire, Iowa, gave up on hydro after trying since 1979. A federal Fish and Wildlife Service requirement for a 1,400 foot “fish rack” barrier killed the project. The rack bumped costs 57 percent to $110 million.

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Dont fall out of the boat. wink

Its nice to see that they are doing something like that. I have always wondered if that would work well or not. Dams kind of multiply the energy of the water with gravity makeing the turbines spin faster so im curious if it will really put out enough to be worthwhile. It sounds like they have done some serious research, so we will find out I guess.

No kind of power we have today is casualty free. Its just a matter of what kind, and how much of a casualty we are willing to accept. With the minimal impact of something like this, it should be a good thing. Like LIMITOUT said it can be removed if its a no go.

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who cares about the fish making it through what if I fall out of my boat??again

lol that's what I was thinking

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who cares about the fish making it through what if I fall out of my boat??again

That might not be as big a problem for areas like Minnesota but if memory serves me correctly, it has been determined that building dams on rivers frequented by certain species can have a dramatic impact on their ability to survive.

I'm thinking of salmon for one where they spend much of their life in the ocean but rely on getting back to certain inland locations to spawn. We cut that path off to build our power plants without providing some means for the fish to pass by and we can dramatically impact their life cycle.

I don't know this for fact but am relying on my memory so take it with a grain of salt.

Bob

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dont take it the wrong way Bobt I am glad that this will allow us to use the water to provide clean energy without the use of dams. another big plus is no permanent structure. Just makes me wonder what will happen one some dummy gets drunk and decides to swim somewere they are not suppose to be.. (chum)

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I would hope there are safeguards to protect us from our own stupidity or lack of foresight.

I agree that the idea of the underwater turbine is better than building dams.

Bob

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very slow rpm, might harm a couple fish but very rarily. something like 20 or 30 rpm. it is fixed under a "barge" of sorts and will be close to the dam were no boats are allowed. I think more use of these should be looked into.

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Originally Posted By: bottom-bouncer
who cares about the fish making it through what if I fall out of my boat??again

lol that's what I was thinking

If you fall out of the boat all I can say is thanks for the chum. grin

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It slices, it dices, it makes gallons of Boater Puree in minutes. It's Boater Blender, yes Boater Blender.

Boater Blender...Coming soon to a crowded (but not for long if it's working right) waterway near you.

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Boater Blender....Take one for a spin today.

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very slow rpm, might harm a couple fish but very rarily. something like 20 or 30 rpm. it is fixed under a "barge" of sorts and will be close to the dam were no boats are allowed. I think more use of these should be looked into.

Yep these are put just below dams. The only 2 ways you're going to get chopped up by these is falling out of your boat upstream from the dam and go over it them through the turbine, or by getting your boat right up to the tailrace and then falling out. In either case you're dead with or without the turbine.

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not to blow original subject but a privete party offered to run a electic generating turbine or two of much smmaer size in the DNRs Mill Pond rebuild up here in New London mn and was actually shut down

With the first rbuild in 100 years you would think it would have generated some interest but no support from what i have heard.

You would think Excell or someone would like this

oh well back to your original post

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