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USA: U.S. Department of Energy Announces $35 Million in Funding for Hydrokinetic Turbine Development


Source: US Department of Energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy today announced $35 million in funding for 11 projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems (SHARKS) program. SHARKS teams will develop new economically competitive Hydrokinetic Turbines (HKT) designs for tidal and riverine currents.

“Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable resource that can boost grid resiliency and reduce infrastructure vulnerability, but it is currently a cost prohibitive option compared to other energy generating sources,” said ARPA-E Director Lane Genatowski. “SHARKS teams will address this barrier by designing new, efficient HKT systems that utilize America’s tidal, riverine, and ocean resources to develop economically attractive energy generation opportunities.”

SHARKS projects address at least one of four generation use-cases: remote riverine energy, remote tidal energy, utility scale riverine energy, and utility scale tidal energy. Projects are encouraged to apply concurrent (as opposed to sequential) design methodologies: control co-design, co-design, and designing for operation and maintenance. These methodologies will significantly decrease the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of the final HKT design. Projects will work to reduce the LCOE through multiple approaches, including increasing generation efficiency, increasing rotor area per unit of equivalent mass, lowering operation and maintenance costs, minimizing potential impacts on the surrounding environment, and maximizing system reliability.

The multi-disciplinary nature and challenges of HKT design requires expertise from a range of scientific and engineering fields working together concurrently. SHARKS teams will reflect this multi-disciplinary scope. They will incorporate experts in hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, control systems, power electronics, grid connections, and performance optimization.

A sampling of SHARKS projects can be found below; for the full list of projects click HERE.

University of Alaska Fairbanks – Fairbanks, AK

Material and Cost Efficient Modular Riverine Hydrokinetic Energy System – $3,331,361

The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ concept employs BladeRunner’s floating generator housing and tethered turbine to create a Hydrokinetic Turbine (HKT) system that has low capital and operating costs and is well suited for community co-design. The turbine is coupled to the generator by a flexible torsion-cable that transmits mechanical power while allowing the turbine to deflect around debris. This technology combines three significant new and innovative solutions to reducing remote riverine HKT levelized cost of energy: (1) the highly material-efficient BladeRunner architecture increases swept area per equivalent mass by 130% over the base case; (2) the implementation of C-Motive’s novel electrostatic generator to efficiently convert low speed mechanical rotation into grid-voltage electricity; and (3) the shore-based deployment and retrieval method enabled by the BladeRunner modular design.

Ocean Renewable Power Company, Inc. – Portland, ME

Optimized Hydrokinetic Systems – $3,676,997

Using control co-design methodologies and design for operation techniques, Ocean Renewable Power Company, Inc. (ORPC) proposes a novel hydrokinetic energy system that identifies dynamic couplings between turbine subsystems and components to optimize system mass and performance. The new systems will be deployed in arrays. The project includes hydrodynamic testing of model-scale turbines to guide and validate the new concepts and the construction of a larger-scale turbine, with sensors embedded during manufacture to validate structural design. The team will perform open water testing and measurements of performance and loads by mounting the turbine in an open water test frame, based on the ORPC RivGen® Power system. It will demonstrate prognostic health monitoring and active load control approaches.


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Bryan Leyland's picture
Bryan Leyland on Nov 30, 2020

What a waste of money! In conventional hydropower, 2 m is absolutely the lowest head that is worth trying to develop. Tidal power is uneconomic below anything less than about 8 m of tidal range.

Hydrokinetic turbines try to extract power economically from about 250 mm of velocity head. If they are in the sea, they have to cope with marine fouling, variable velocities, neap tides and flow  reverses.

 It just doesn't add up to common sense.

 And if you want emissions free power, then nuclear is better and cheaper. And 100 times safer than any other form of major power generation.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 6, 2020

Bryan, your post is like a breath of fresh air on Energy Central. Too often, people with no experience in engineering, physics, or thermodynamics tell us the answer to getting reliable energy from the sun, wind, or water is more investment, better technology, lower prices.

They tell us we can get water from a rock, if we only squeeze hard enough.

When they do it with enough panache and self-assurance, there is always someone who will believe them and invest in their startup. There was once a time for tolerance with these people - their investors would learn the hard way.

With climate change, however, that time has passed. If we continue allowing children to drive the energy bus, we'll all learn the hard way.

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