In-river Hydrokinetics - Frequently Asked Questions

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In-River Hydrokinetic Projects

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 
What is in-river hydrokinetic technology?
In-river hydrokinetic electricity  is generated by river currents that power turbines that are anchored to a river bottom or attached to existing infrastructure.  Although hydrokinetic projects hold out the promise of generating power from moving water without the harmful impacts associated with dams, the technology has yet to be fully proven in a real-world setting.  Since there has been little in-water testing, the actual environmental, recreational, and other impacts of hydrokinetic power are not yet well understood.
 
Where are projects being proposed?
Developers have laid claim to 55 proposed sites on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, MO and New Orleans, LA.  There are 22 such sites on the Ohio River, and 27 on the Missouri.  Similar projects are also being proposed on rivers in Alaska, Michigan, Minnesota, Maine, and New York.  Download the file at the bottom of this article for a map of proposed projects, or visit https://ferc.gov/industries/hydropower/gen-info/licensing/hydrokinetics.asp for a complete list of projects.

To date, only one developer has filed for a license which would permit them to install a hydrokinetic project in a river.  The owners of an existing hydropower project at Lock and Dam No. 2 in Hastings, MN are seeking to add two 35 kW hydrokinetic turbines to their facility by the end of 2008.  Other projects are expected to come online in the next few years.
 
Who is proposing the projects?
Free Flow Power (FFP) Corporation (www.free-flow-power.com) based in Gloucester, Massachusetts is proposing projects on the Mississippi, the Ohio and the Missouri Rivers.

  • HydroGreen Energy (www.hgenergy.com), a Houston based company, has proposed projects on the Mississippi River in Louisiana and Mississippi, and on the Yukon, Niagara and other rivers in Alaska.
  • Verdant Power (www.verdantpower.com) has proposed projects on the Niagara River and on the East River in New York.

A handful of other companies and municipalities have also proposed test  projects.
 
What will these projects look like?
We've included a couple of concept drawings below:

[img_assist|nid=4033|title=Free Flow Power's Generator|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=59|height=75]

[img_assist|nid=4034|title=Verdant Power's Generator|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=56|height=75]

It is difficult to get a good mental picture of a project's complete footprint from concept drawings.  The turbines may or may not be visible from the surface of the river.  Each project's footprint will likely depend on the type of turbines and the characteristics of the local river.

According to FFP, their turbines will be deployed in arrays of multiple units spaced at least 50 feet apart.  Each project may have up to 5000 turbines occupying several thousand feet of river channel.  

 

How much power will each project generate?
The power-generating capacity of projects depends on the type, number, and capacity of turbines to be used, the velocity of the river, and other factors.

For instance, Free Flow Power expects that each of their turbines will generate an average of 10 kW. A 12 MW project with turbines spaced 50 feet apart would therefore require 1200 turbines in roughly 2 miles of river channel.
 
Are any projects operational?
To date, no in-river hydrokinetic projects are generating and selling power.  Verdant Power has conducted limited testing of its turbines in the East River at its proposed Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project.
 
Who regulates these projects?
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or FERC has the authority to issue licenses for these projects.  As part of the licensing process, other state and federal agencies have the authority to recommend - and in some cases, require - conditions to protect fish, wildlife, navigation, recreation, and water quality.
 
What are the potential impacts on the river?
Until projects are operational, it is difficult to determine actual impacts.  However, developers, agencies, environmental and recreation groups, and others are attempting to identify potential impacts.  Some developers have started to conduct studies to analyze these impacts.  Initial concerns include:

  •     Access restrictions for recreational activities such as fishing and boating.
  •     Potential exclusion zones on rivers.
  •     Disturbances in movement of fish and other aquatic species.
  •     Safety issues to fish and humans (from un-screened turbine operation).
  •     Cumulative effects on rivers already impacted by conventional hydropower dams.

Why should I get involved?
Your involvement can help to ensure that the environmental and social impacts of this new technology are well understood and that appropriate project mitigation is undertaken to protect rivers.

How can I get involved?
Visit our website at www.hydroreform.org for regular updates on projects and policy issues.  If you are interested in being involved in a project, email coordinator@hydroreform.org to find out how.

Free Flow Power has contacted us and is seeking stakeholder input from local river groups and watershed organizations regarding their proposed projects.  If you are interested in talking with FFP, please contact Ramya Swaminathan at rswaminathan@free-flow-power.com.

You may also want to contact other developers to inquire about their technology and projects.