Tidal Power Coming To New York City, For Real

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 Power tidal power New York

image via Verdant Power

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.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Vladimir Markovic


    days ago I visited more home pages referring
    TIDAL projects. As I was previously following similar VERDANT program from USA,
    after studying all VOITH – Siemens and ALSTOM designs, I found out that all that
    projects are carrying similar disadvantages which are coursing 12 to 20 times
    larger investing and operational costs for each received MWh which instead of
    35 to 40 € per MWh has price which overcomes 500 € per MWh and by my
    calculations could be never smaller than 300 € for MWh.

    Since more years I am http://www.izumi.si involved also to problem of
    exploring energy from slowly moving water streams. Up to last year I used to work on only smaller
    units (SP 1) with Power up to 80 kW. Today I am involved in new designs (SP 2)
    which are 10 times stronger.

    SP 2 units are incomparably cheaper,
    technically extremely simple and their life time can realistically be longer
    than 50 years. They are maximally 3
    m high but their horizontal diameter is very large
    because SP2 are not axially operating (like other TIDAL turbines) but on radial
    way. Therefore, I made plans and calculations for two types of SP 2 units – 22
    and 32 meters
    of diameter – very convenient to be used as TIDAL units:

    SP 22 m with 300 kW of Power,
    complete price of 1,5 Million € and price for each MWh of 45 €

    SP 32 m with 500 kW of Power,
    complete price of 1,9 Million € and price for each MWh of 40 €

    In deeper water with high of nearly 6 m, capacity of each can be
    multiplied but not with doubled producing price what means that price for
    electricity can be lowered to 30 to 35 € for each MWh.

    Please, answer me what are the reasons
    that all those companies are insisting in production of 20 times more expensive
    and technically wrong solutions regarding which we shall never get electric
    power based on expectable price ? I
    tried to ask them but nobody was not prepared to give me any kind of answer.

    Best regards,

    Markovic Ljubljana, 2013-03-31