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The Leading Edge

DOE funds projects for waterpower research

Fourteen waterpower research projects will share in $7.3 million of funding as partners with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in testing, demonstration, validation, and development of advanced technologies. Under its research and development solicitation for Advanced Water Power Projects, DOE named the research teams for negotiation of awards totaling $7.3 million, with a cost-shared value of more than $18 million.

DOE said the projects are expected to advance commercial viability, cost-competitiveness, and market acceptance of new technologies that can harness renewable energy from oceans and rivers.

Awards were made in three areas: technology development, market acceleration, and marine energy centers.

Technology development

Awards in this area are for industry-led partnerships to develop or field test advanced waterpower technologies. Winners are to develop project teams with at least one other industrial, university, or national laboratory partner. Six projects were selected in the topic area, which offers up to $600,000 for up to two years:

Market acceleration

The second topic area is designed to facilitate the market penetration of advanced waterpower technologies through awards of up to $500,000. Universities, companies, and non-profits organizations were eligible to apply, and encouraged to form teams, including partnering with DOE’s national laboratories. Six projects were selected in the topic area:

Marine energy centers

The third topic area, which offers awards of up to $1.25 million for up to five years, will assist the development of National Marine Renewable Energy Centers. Two projects were selected:

Research projects under way at Florida ocean energy center

Researchers at the Center for Ocean Energy Technology at Florida Atlantic University are developing a 20-kW prototype turbine and installing instrumentation to evaluate the state’s ocean energy resources.

The center was established in 2006 to research, design, develop, implement, test, and commercialize ocean energy technologies that are cost-competitive with existing power technologies, says Dr. Rick Driscoll, associate professor in the university’s department of ocean engineering.

The prototype unit is a 3-meter-diameter single-axis horizontal turbine with three blades. The underwater housing is filled with biodegradable oil and contains a generator, gearbox, and mechanical brake. Power cables take the electricity generated to a control buoy on the surface of the ocean. Researchers are reviewing the design and planned to begin fabricating and assembling the unit in the fall of 2008.

Operation of the unit is intended to help the center collect data about potential environmental effects, as well as to determine the viability of the technology. Instrumentation on the turbine includes underwater cameras; tachometers; and vibration, temperature, tilt, and pressure sensors. The unit will be deployed incrementally, starting with a short deployment of less than one day and then progressing to deployments of a month or more.

To evaluate the state’s ocean energy resources and to characterize the environment where testing of pre-prototype and prototype systems will take place, the center plans to install a suite of sensor systems. Sensors include a real-time, two-location ocean surface current radar system from Seasonde; six bottom-mounted acoustic doppler current profilers from Teledyne; and a conductivity temperature and depth system supplied by Seabird.

The center has submitted a lease application to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) for an area offshore of Fort Lauderdale to perform this research. MMS is expected to issue a final ruling on this application in late 2008.

The state of Florida has allocated almost $14 million to the center.

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Verdant retrofits tidal turbines in New York City

Verdant Power Inc. is operating two tidal turbines with redesigned rotors at its 70-kW Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project in New York’s East River. The company retrofit the two units in September.

Verdant said the fifth-generation rotors replace fourth-generation units that experienced structural failures in 2007. The company said it optimized the new rotor assembly for enhanced structural strength. The rotor passed tests at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory without incident, Verdant added.

The company’s kinetic hydropower systems use axial-flow turbines to convert the kinetic energy of tides and rivers into electricity. The project is progressing from an initial demonstration system to a complete system that could generate up to 10 MW.

The RITE project’s newly retrofitted turbines are connected to the grid and deliver electricity to a supermarket and parking structure in New York City.

Since 2005, Verdant Power has gathered operational and environmental data from turbines at RITE, preparing to apply for an operating license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2008. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has invested more than $2 million in the project.

Massachusetts center advances tidal and wave research

Researchers at the Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth are pursuing several projects to support marine renewable energy development. The center, established in 2008 by the university’s Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center, is funded by the state of Massachusetts.

One project, begun in September 2008, features computational fluid dynamics modeling of tidal turbine designs. The modeling is intended to provide information on how water applies force to a turbine blade. Researchers hope to determine the number of blades required to provide optimum power and the best angle of the blades to the water. Results are expected to be available in spring of 2009.

Another project involves analyzing the tidal potential of the Muskeget Channel in Massachusetts. The analysis, being performed by researchers with the University of Massachusetts School of Marine Science and Technology, is expected to be complete by the end of 2009. If the results of the analysis are favorable, the center anticipates testing marine energy equipment in the channel.

A third project involves expanding a stakeholder consortium to support marine renewable energy development. One purpose of the consortium is to develop a regional infrastructure of research facilities, wave and flume tanks, and ocean test sites. By making research facilities and test sites available, the consortium can lower the cost of testing marine technologies in the field and, ultimately, shorten the time needed to get these technologies to a commercial scale. Representatives from universities in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island that are researching wave, tidal, and ocean wind technologies have already joined the consortium.

In addition, the center is the site of development of two prototypes for electricity generation. Resolute Marine Energy Inc. is developing a point wave generator and Natel is working on a new technology for low-head hydrokinetic generation.

– For more details about these projects, visit

U.S. funds South Carolina wave, tidal program  

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $493,000 grant to the state of South Carolina to help overcome barriers to development of wind, wave, and tidal energy projects. The state will use the grant to establish a South Carolina Coastal Clean Energy Regulatory Task Force. The task force is to create a regulatory environment leading to wind, wave, and tidal energy development in state waters. It also will use the grant to develop studies on transmission, resource validation, and regulatory barriers.

The grant was included in a group of nine awards to states totaling $4 million to create and implement a policy and regulatory framework that would enable gigawatt-scale clean energy capacity. Colorado, Georgia, and Hawaii were among the other recipients.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency David Rodgers announced the awards at a National Association of State Energy Officials meeting in September. The projects are expected to stimulate innovative state policy activities and investments to help transform markets for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

DOE awarded Colorado a $397,000 grant to develop a report addressing key barriers and incentives for building transmission capacity for renewable energy. Georgia will use its $257,000 grant to build on ongoing activities to create infrastructure that will enable Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina to integrate clean energy supplies into their electricity portfolios. Hawaii plans to use a $500,000 grant to establish a policy framework for renewable energy for the grid infrastructure.

The awards were made under DOE’s State Energy Program, established in 1996 to provide grants to state governments to design and carry out their own renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.

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