Hydro Green Energy has installed the first commercial hydrokinetic turbine in the Mississippi River near Hastings, Minnesota. The hydrokinetic turbine, which essentially is a “wind turbine for the water” was positioned just downstream from a currently operating hydroelectric plant and dam. When the second planned hydrokinetic turbine is added, the 35 kilowatt turbines will increase the output of the hydro plant by more than 5 percent.
Hydro Green Energy feels very confident about the outlook for these turbines. “We don’t require that massive dam construction, we’re just using the natural flow of the stream,” said Mark Stover, a vice president at Hydro Green Energy, the Houston-based company leading the project. “It’s underwater windpower if you will, but we have 840 or 850 times the energy density of wind.”
This type of hydropower has had some problems getting a foothold in the past due to regulatory burdens. The hydrokinetic turbines must clear the same regulations as hydrolectric dams. That’s why Hydro Green installed their turbines as part of the already existing hydroelectric plant and dam – all the regulations had already been satisfied.
Verdant Power, which is another company that makes these types of turbines, has been testing its own design in the New York’s East River. Verdant Power has already spent more money trying to get permits than it has spent on the turbine itself. Hydro Green is hoping that its turbines will generate environmental impact data that could be used to shorten the permit time, since they feel that their turbines produce a very low impact to the river ecosystem.