Hydrokinetic Power: The Future Of Electricity

Ted Christopher moved to San Diego three years ago to work in his cousins sheet metal shop. Every weekend he tinkered on his own secret project. In 2009, he returned to Minneapolis and launched his own business, Verterra Energy Inc. Through Verterra he hopes to bring his “small” project to life.

Using power of water, he hopes to place his turbines at the bottom of certain rivers to generate energy, reports Finance & Commerce.

Hydrokinetic turbines capture the power created by the current in waves underneath the water’s surface. Traditional hydropower, in contrast, uses a dam to create a reservoir above the river. Water flows downward through turbines to create energy then is released back into the river downstream from the dam.

Energy developers have inundated the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission with hydrokinetic proposals; nearly 240 are in the pipeline. New technology and tax credits are fueling much of the interest. The field is relatively open for new ideas and perhaps for Verterra’s novel approach to the challenges of making power out of waves.

The duo developed a prototype of a single shape, vertical axis turbine that can be as wide as 8 feet in diameter and as tall as 3 feet. One turbine is capable of producing five kilowatts (kW) of energy – roughly enough power for four homes. The Verterra turbine requires about 100 square feet to produce that amount of power, compared to 5,000 square feet that solar panels would need to meet that benchmark, Christopher said.

With several Verterra turbines in the water at once in “pods” or “farms,” the turbines could offer small grid power to neighborhoods and farms.

“We’re going to start small and make it scalable,” Christopher said. “The power production will depend on the velocity of the river.”

Photo by Maureen

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *