Wind and solar power dominate the renewable energy conversation, but tidal power could soon play a much larger role. On Monday, the New York based company Verdant Power filed the nation’s first-ever application to build a tidal power plant. The desired location? New York City’s East River.
The application submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee calls for the installation of 30 new tidal power turbines in the river’s fast moving east channel. The company’s three-blade Free Flow System turbines work — and look — similarly to wind turbines; they capture the power of the tides just as wind turbines capture energy from air movement. Verdant Power conducted extensive research to ensure that the turbines would not harm fish or aquatic life.
From 2006 – 2008, the company deployed six turbines in the East River, which provided energy to city businesses. John Miller, the executive director of the New England Marine Renewable Energy Center told the Christian Science Monitor that the application is a milestone for the off-shore energy industry. “[Verdant has] been the groundbreaker for this,” said Miller. “They’ve conducted a tremendous number of costly studies in order to show no harmful impacts on fish.”
Tidal power is not the strongest type of renewable energy, but Miller notes that it can be much cheaper to develop than wind or wave power because of its close proximity to land. He adds, “The other thing about it is that it’s incredibly predictable for centuries.”
The world’s most developed market for offshore wave and tidal power is in Scotland, home of the world’s largest tidal turbine, where tests have shown that tidal power could provide up to 20 percent of the United Kingdom’s energy needs. Tidal power is much less popular in the U.S., where only a few projects have gone forward. If Verdant’s plan is approved, we could see a large increase in tidal power in the United States.
Images © Verdant Power, Inc.