Tidal energy in NYC's East River

Verdant Power seeks to install the first tidal power farm to connect with the national grid.

The currents in New York's East River are strong. So strong the river, which cuts between Manhattan and the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, has been notoriously used for sending the bodies of murder victims out to sea.

But in 2011 the currents may gain fame for a more positive reason. By fall, Verdant Power power wants to place 30 underwater turbines east of Roosevelt Island to generate tidal energy. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves Verdant's application, the tidal project could be the first of its kind to send power to the national grid.

Verdant Power CEO Ron Smith says in a statement:

We are extremely excited about the submission of this license application. It represents the culmination of nearly a decade of work undertaken by Verdant Power and a variety of project stakeholders to add tidal power to the US clean energy mix.

The 1-megawatt RITE Project began in 2002. Four years later, the company began installing 6 turbines to see how the devices performed in the area. Different from the jet-engine-looking turbines being considered for the Mississippi River, Verdant's 16-foot turbines resemble those of wind power. Completely submerged beneath the surface, the turbines' three blades harness the energy of the tides coming in and out, generating power to NY businesses.

Verdant says it would not install all 30 turbines at once, but add them in batches while collecting environmental impact data as they expand the project area. During their first pilot term, they reported the turbines did not increase the number of fish deaths or injuries in the river.

Hydro Green Energy launched the country’s first licensed, commercial in-stream hydrokinetic project In August 2009 in the northern Mississippi. Meanwhile to the south, Free Flow Power is looking to tap into the river's energy in Louisiana.

John Miller of the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center tells the Christian Science Monitor that although the total amount of energy tidal power could provide in the U.S. is smaller than the potential of offshore wind and wave power, it does have its perks.

Tidal may not be the biggest, but because it's so close to land it can be a lot cheaper to develop than wind power and wave power that may be a lot farther offshore. The other thing about it is that it's incredibly predictable for centuries.

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Image: Kris Unger/Verdant Power, Inc.

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