Tapping the Power of the Mighty Mississippi: Thousands of Hydrokinetic Turbines Could Generate 1600 MW

Swing by the Mississippi River a few years from now, and you may be surprised to see hundreds of thousands of miniature electric turbines dotting the fast moving river's bed. All the electricity generated by this massive "in stream" hydrokinetic project - around 1,600-MW - would be enough to power up to 1.5 million homes, according to Daniel R. Irvin, the chief executive of Massachusetts startup Free Flow Power Corp.

The company's goal is to install several hundreds of thousands of turbines at 59 sites along the river; each turbine would be attached to pilings in the river bed and would be made of a lightweight composite material like carbon fiber. If all goes according to schedule, Irvin is confident his turbines will be ready to begin producing electricity by 2012. Despite securing permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the sites, Free Flow Power is already facing some close scrutiny by environmental regulators and the Army Corps of Engineers, who have expressed concerns about the turbines' effects on river navigation and its wildlife - the pallid sturgeon, a species native to the Mississippi river basin, is endangered.

His other major concern will be one familiar to most renewable energy enthusiasts: cost. Though he didn't disclose any specific figures, Irvin said his project would quickly be able to generate electricity at a price competitive with that of coal- and natural gas-fired plants.

Barring any unforeseen effects on the river's ecology, this seems like a great way to take advantage of one of the best (and plentiful) sources of renewable energy.

Image courtesy of cbanck via flickr

Via ::redOrbit: Startup Seeks to Tap the Mississippi River for Power (news website)

See also: ::Riding the Mississippi by Electric Bike, ::Sustainable and Sound Infrastructure Now.

Tags: Hydropower | Renewable Energy

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