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The Leading Edge

Department of Energy developing $10 billion loan program

The Department of Energy (DOE) is developing a $10 billion loan guarantee program for new energy technologies, including hydrokinetic projects. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is drafting solicitations for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric transmission projects under Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Hydrokinetic technologies – such as ocean wave, tidal, and in-stream technologies – could be eligible for the loan guarantee program. DOE previously indicated conventional hydropower technology, if already commercially deployed in the U.S., is ineligible.

The goal of this loan guarantee program is to encourage commercial development of “new or significantly improved” renewable energy, energy efficiency, and related transmission technologies. Projects are to avoid, reduce, or sequester air pollutants and greenhouse gases. To qualify for a loan guarantee, DOE said a technology must have been successfully demonstrated both at the pilot and demonstration scale and be ready for commercialization.

DOE said technologies eligible for the program could include renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, including ocean wave, tidal, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass technology development.

“We intend to move forward quickly and deliberately to issue solicitations, conduct a thorough financial and technical review, and support these truly innovative technologies that hold great promise for our nation’s energy security,” said David Franz, director of DOE’s Loan Guarantee Office.

Three hydrokinetic projects proposed near Niagara Falls

Two developers are studying the possibility of developing hydrokinetic projects in the Niagara River Gorge, both below and above the falls.

Hydro Green Energy LLC of Houston is studying development of two 70-MW projects downstream from Niagara Falls. The projects are called New York 1 and New York 2.

In May 2008, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a notice of application from Hydro Green for a preliminary permit to study development of New York 1. This project would utilize 36 Hydro Green generating units and be located about 2 miles downstream from Niagara Falls, N.Y., immediately below the area known as the Whirlpool.

FERC also received an application from Hydro Green for a permit for New York 2. This project would utilize 54 Hydro Green units 4 miles downstream from Niagara Falls, immediately above the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.

If granted by FERC, a preliminary permit gives an applicant priority for a site over competing applicants, while the permit holder studies the site and makes financial arrangements necessary to apply for a license. A permit does not authorize construction.

Hydro Green designs, builds, and operates hydrokinetic energy systems that can be deployed in rivers, tidal areas, and oceans. The systems generate electricity from moving water without a need to construct dams, impoundments, or conduits.

Another hydrokinetic developer, Free Flow Power Corp., is asking FERC for a preliminary permit (on behalf of its FFP Niagara Project 1 LLC) to study the 17.5-MW Niagara River hydrokinetic project above the falls.

That project would utilize 875 Free Flow Power hydrokinetic units grouped in matrices placed along 17.5 miles of the Niagara River from Peace Bridge, at the outlet of Lake Erie, to the lower end of Grand Island, above Niagara Falls.

Free Flow Power, of Manchester, Mass., is pursuing development of more than 60 in-stream kinetic hydropower projects, many on the Mississippi River.

In-stream turbine work progresses in Canada

The University of Manitoba is working with Manitoba Hydro to research in-stream (kinetic) turbines for river applications. One significant focus of this research is to determine if this technology can be used during cold Canadian winters.

In December 2007, a 5-kW EnCurrent vertical axis kinetic turbine supplied by New Energy Corporation was installed near Manitoba Hydro’s 78-MW Pointe du Bois project on the Winnipeg River. The unit was deployed using a pontoon boat. Data gathered from this installation includes water, gearbox, and air temperatures; water flow rate; turbine vibration; turbine electrical performance; and icing conditions.

The turbine itself operated well, despite being hit several times by large ice blocks. The cold weather did affect gearbox oil viscosity, and the company has made changes to address this issue. In addition, the unit stopped turning when hit by ice. Because these turbines are not self-starting, the next generation of this design will feature an automatic starter motor.

The turbine was removed in March 2008. The next step in this research is testing of a 25-kW EnCurrent unit at the same site.

The University of Manitoba and Manitoba Hydro also plan to test a 60-kW horizontal axis turbine supplied by UEK Corporation at the site in the summer of 2008. Testing of the UEK turbine was originally planned for 2007, but issues regarding the deployment of the turbine in the river failed during commissioning tests. These issues have been resolved.

Future work to assess operation of these turbines in Canada includes quantifying the kinetic energy available in Manitoba rivers by evaluating areas that do not freeze over winter. This will be accomplished using satellite images and aerial photographs.

This research is being funded by Manitoba Hydro, Western Economic Diversification, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, CEATI, and New Energy Corporation.

Verdant receives funding for 15-MW hydrokinetic project

The government of Ontario is making a $2.2 million (US$2.27 million) investment in Verdant Power Canada’s 15-MW hydrokinetic project, to be developed on the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall. The government is providing money for the Cornall Ontario River Energy project from its Innovation Demonstration Fund. The fund supports bio-based, environmental, and alternative energy projects, helping companies demonstrate and commercialize technologies.

Verdant said it will install the company’s proprietary Free Flow Turbine technology to test the feasibility of using the technology on a larger scale. The Free Flow Turbine is a three-blade horizontal-axis turbine designed to capture energy from the natural flows of tidal or river currents.

River-deployed Free Flow Turbines are fixed and generate power on the single, continuous flow of the river throughout the day, Verdant said. Depending on the site, various types of devices can be used to anchor the turbines under water. Free Flow Turbine projects can be scaled to various sizes and installed capacities, the company said.

Verdant Power, with offices in Ontario and the U.S., is involved in project development at several other sites, including the 10-MW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project, currently operating in New York’s East River. The company is pursuing other projects with water agencies in California, seeking to harness the hydrokinetic potential of constructed waterways.

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