FERC okays permit for hydrokinetic project in Michigan

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on July 15 granted a three-year preliminary permit to Vortex Hydro Energy so it can study the feasibility of the St. Clair River Hydrokinetic Project, to be located in the St. Clair River in the city of Port Huron, Mich., just across the river from Canada.

The proposed project would consist of: three 20-foot-long by 32-foot-wide by 27-foot-high Vortex Induced Vibration for Aquatic Clean Energy (VIVACE) Oscylators, each with a nameplate capacity of 33 kilowatts (kW), for a project total of 100 kW of installed capacity; twelve 10-kW generator units; a traditional direct current to alternating current inverter for power connection to the grid; and three 500-foot-long, 1-kV to 3-kV underwater transmission lines. The estimated annual generation of the St. Clair River Project would be 840 megawatt-hours.

During the course of the permit, the commission expects that the permittee will carry out prefiling consultation and study development leading to the possible development of a license application.

Vortex said in its application that it is commercializing a University of Michigan (UM) patented marine hydrokinetic (MHK) device, the VIVACE Oscylator. Unlike water turbines, it does not use propeller blades, the company noted. Rather, river or ocean currents flow around cylinders causing them to move up and down. The kinetic energy of the cylinder is then converted to electricity.

“Importantly, the Oscylator is simpler in design and more cost effective than a water turbine,” the company added. “Vortex Hydro Energy is unique in that it is the only company using the physical phenomena of vortex induce vibrations and galloping (collectively known as Flow Induced Motion or FIM) to generate energy from river and ocean currents.”

The company added: “The VIVACE technology expands the available alternative energy market for river and tidal energy conversion by tapping into the slower river current power generation segment of 2 to 4 knots. Nearly all water turbine installations target tidal rivers with currents reaching 5 to 7 knots. According to an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) study, the vast majority of rivers in the US are slower than 4 knots, off limits to conventional turbine technology.”

No existing transmission lines will be required. Electricity generated will be transmitted to nearby Dunn Paper Plant via underwater cables. Dunn Paper is very interested in purchasing electricity generated by the proposed project, Vortex said.

The company contact information is: Vortex Hydro Energy, 330 East Liberty, Lower Level, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, 734-253-2451; Michael Bernitsas, Chief Technology Officer.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.