In the middle of New York City’s East River sits Roosevelt Island, a strip of land that serves as the home base for Verdant Power. In the last decade, Verdant has tried to use the river’s current to generate a new green energy source – one that pulls from underwater turbines. Its initiative, the RITE project, will test, demonstrate and deliver commercial electricity from Verdant’s Free Flow Kinetic Hydropower System. Within the last year, Verdant decided to use composites for the rotor blades after numerous designs and materials failed in the harsh water conditions.
In 2006, the blades from one of the rotors in the river broke on its first day and the currents chewed up other earlier models badly enough that they had to be removed. Verdant refined its design, using fiberglass and plastic composites rotors that emerged completely intact. The turbines white rotor blades were still gleaming even after 10 days on the river floor. The turbine blades move slowly enough for fish to swim through them and testing shows that the blades don’t pose a threat to birds or any other wildlife in and around the river.
“They look a lot like wind turbines, except they’re smaller because they have to fit entirely underwater,” said Dean Corren, director of technology at Verdant Power.
When the current is at its peak, the company predicts that a single turbine will generate enough power for at least 30 homes. Unfortunately, when the river isn’t moving, neither are the turbines.
Verdant received the first-ever license for a tidal energy product from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on January 23, 2012. They plan to put two additional turbines in the river over the next year and then continue to build from there.