Boston-based Renewable Energy Co. Making Headway In The Bay State With Its Underwater Turbine

Posted by erik devaney

Is it a super-advanced submarine? Is it a submersible jet engine? No, it’s a hydrokinetic turbine generator, of course.

Boston-based, Free Flow Power, announced earlier this summer that it has been successfully generating electricity using its underwater, hydrokinetic turbine generator in the Mississippi River. Now the Massachusetts Maritime Academy is announcing that it has completed a successful five-day demonstration of Free Flow Power’s turbine in the Muskeget Channel between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Located in Buzzards Bay, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy hopes to add the hydrokinetic turbine to its list of other alternative energy-generators, which include solar panels and a wind turbine. As the academy’s president, Admiral Richard Gurnon, noted, canal current is the “one area where we have not taken advantage of our location.”

Don’t let the terminology discourage you: the technology that Free Flow Power’s hydrokinetic turbine utilizes is relatively simple to understand. Just like a windmill captures the kinetic energy from wind, which is energy that results from the wind’s motion, a hydrokinetic turbine captures the kinetic energy from rushing water, which is energy that results from the water’s motion. Due to the bi-directional design of Free Flow Power’s turbine, it can capture energy not only from rivers, which flow in a single direction, but also from tides as they move in and out.

Harnessing the power of water is by no means a modern innovation. Thousands of years ago, Ancient Greeks were using rushing water to move their water wheels, which generated power for grinding wheat. Unlike the Greeks, however, Free Flow Power wants to use the hydrokinetic energy it captures not for grinding wheat, but for providing power to millions of homes and businesses.

The necessary water resources are certainly available. As the Union of Concerned Scientists points out, current estimates suggest that the hydrokinetic energy that we could capture from U.S. river currents, tides and waves would be enough to power over 67 million homes.

A key advantage of Free Flow Power’s turbine over other clean energy options is that it functions underwater: out-of-sight, out-of-mind. In contrast, modern wind turbines — like the ones that will fill Nantucket Sound when the Cape Wind project gets underway — are towering, above-ground structures, which many consider to be eyesores.




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Posted by erik devaney on Aug 19 2011. Filed under Business, Featured - For home page featured article. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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