The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) website has long listed hundreds of hydrokinetic projects at various stages in the regulatory approval process [PDF]. Preliminary permits, pending preliminary permits, pre-filing for license, post-filing for licensing—well into January this year there were projects in several different categories, but not a single one had been granted a license to create and send power to the grid. Until now.
Verdant Power’s 1.05-megawatt tidal power project in the East River in New York City is modest in scale. What’s big about it is what it represents—the first federally approved tidal pilot project. That approval by FERC comes a full year after Verdant filed its application to put 30 turbines on the riverbed.
Verdant’s work in the East River, called the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project, began way back in 2002—giving some insight into how long it takes to take a clean energy project from idea to reality. Between 2006 and 2009, Verdant demonstrated its “Free Flow System” with six full-scale, three-bladed turbines using passive yawing to keep them oriented against the flow of the river, producing energy on both ebb and flood tides.
Now, the license from FERC will allow Verdant to expand that system and operate for 10 years with its fifth generation of turbines.
According to the FERC licensing order, Verdant will build out the pilot version of RITE in three phases. First, in year one, the company will install three 35-kilowatt (kW), 5-meter-diameter axial flow turbines mounted on a single triframe mount, providing 105 kW of installed capacity. In phase two a couple of years later, three more of those three-turbine mounts will go in, bringing installed capacity to 420 kW. Finally, in phase three, an additional six three-turbine mounts will be installed, bringing capacity to 1,050 kW (1.05 MW). Power will travel from the turbines to five shoreline switchgear vaults through 480-volt underwater cables.