U.S. developer advances hydrokinetic projects

Free Flow Power is pursuing development of dozens of hydrokinetic projects on the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio rivers. Completion of all these projects could provide up to 3,000 average MW in new generation, the company said.

Hydrokinetic projects generate electricity by turning windmill-like turbines from swiftly flowing water in river, tidal, or ocean currents. Hydrokinetic power differs from traditional storage hydropower in that a dam or impoundment is not required. Typically, a hydrokinetic turbine is submerged and secured to the riverbed or ocean bed, or is attached to existing infrastructure, such as bridge pilings.

Free Flow Power, an equipment manufacturer and project developer headquartered in Gloucester, is focusing on developing projects that generate electricity from river currents. The company makes hydrokinetic turbine-generators ranging from 3 kW to 40 kW.

Free Flow Power said it has studied 80,000 potential hydrokinetic sites in the U.S., finding the largest grouping of sites with the best development potential on the lower and middle Mississippi River. FFP said the Mississippi River’s importance as a navigational resource limited development of hydroelectric facilities in the river’s lower reaches, preserving the opportunity for hydrokinetic development.

Free Flow Power Project Development Director Jon Guidroz said the company would file applications for operating licenses with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for 55 projects on the Mississippi River. The firm anticipates that group would feature 180,000 turbines with a total of 1,800 MW average generation and a total installed capacity of 7,200 MW.

For each project, the developer proposes arrays of horizontal-axis hydrokinetic turbines and generators. The equipment would be affixed to stationary mounting structures or floating structures. Each project could consist of 900 to 5,000 turbines, with the exact number tied to channel topography, river depth, flow characteristics, and existing underwater infrastructure, Guidroz said.

The company and its subsidiary limited liability corporations requested permission to use the traditional licensing process for 51 of the 55 Mississippi River projects, rather than the default integrated licensing process. To date, FERC has granted the company’s request to use the traditional licensing process for 44 of the 51 projects. On March 16 FERC issued a notice of Free Flow Power’s stated intention to file license applications for the 44 projects.

In addition to the Mississippi River projects, Free Flow Power is studying the development potential for sites on the Missouri and Ohio rivers. (HNN 1/21/09) Since October 2008, FERC has granted preliminary permits to Free Flow Power for 48 hydrokinetic projects, including 27 projects on the Missouri River with proposed capacities totaling 1,748 MW and 20 projects on the Ohio River totaling 949.8 MW.

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