This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

December 17, 2008

Federal Regulators Approve an In-Stream Hydrokinetic Project

Photo of a three-bladed turbine in a cylindrical housing, which is mounted in a rectangular metal frame. A crane is lowering the assembly onto two metal supports that are projecting upward from a barge, which is docked on a river.

Hydro Green Energy delivered the first of two hydrokinetic turbines to Hastings, Minnesota, in early December. The barge-mounted power plant will be parked in the output of Mississippi Lock and Dam No. 2, which is visible in the background.
Credit: Mark R. Stover, Hydro Green Energy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its first full license for an in-stream hydrokinetic power project on December 13. The project will be located on the Mississippi River, in the output channel of a hydropower dam operated by the City of Hastings, Minnesota. FERC has previously issued only preliminary permits for in-stream, wave, and tidal energy projects, and its only full hydrokinetic license was for a wave energy project. For the Hastings project, Hydro Green Energy will provide two underwater turbines, each carrying a nameplate capacity of 100 kilowatts and an expected power output of about 35 kilowatts. So the project is expected to provide a 70-kilowatt boost in output to the 4.4-megawatt hydropower facility, and the FERC order is technically an amendment to the existing license for the facility.

The turbines will be suspended from a barge, and each turbine will drive a generator that is mounted atop the barge. The barge-mounted power plant is meant to be permanent, but it could easily be removed if any problems are found with the system. The barge will be anchored to the riverbed and tethered about 50 feet downstream from the hydropower dam, the Army Corps of Engineer's Mississippi Lock and Dam No. 2. Recognizing that there is very little operating experience from in-stream hydrokinetic projects, FERC is requiring the city to immediately modify turbine operation or to remove the turbines or the barge if any adverse effects on water quality, fish, or diving birds are found. See the press releases from FERC and Hydro Green Energy (PDF 304 KB), the official FERC order (PDF 173 KB), the FERC Hydrokinetics Projects Web page, and Hydro Green Energy's description of its technology. Download Adobe Reader.