Jorge Chapa

Underwater Ocean Turbines Will Generate Renewable Energy

by , 12/10/07
filed under: Renewable Energy

Underwater power-generating ocean turbines, ocean turbines, oocean current turbines, turbines, water, ocean, electricity, generator, generating, university of florida, center of excellence in Ocean Energy Technology

One the greatest untapped energy resources in the world is the motion of the ocean. And while floating wind turbines and wave-powered generators are being explored throughout the world, there still remains one largely untapped power source, the underwater ocean currents. Well researchers at the Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology have developed what they believe is a technology to allow them to use the Gulf Stream currents that could conceivably cover all of Florida’s energy needs.


The idea is to have underwater turbines placed right in the middle of the Gulf Stream current. The turbines are designed to be about 100 feet in diameter. These will be connected to a buoy that holds the electricity generating equipment. The gulf stream carries billions of gallons per minute, so the impact of these turbines would be minimal if negligible to the current itself.

Now granted, installing all these turbines will take time and significant research, which is why the team is hard at work developing a considerably smaller prototype version that they hope will provide them with enough data to assess whether installing such a system will have an impact in the ocean current, and, just as importantly, all the sealife moving through the area. The prototype will launch in February 2008.

+ Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology @ Florida Atlantic University

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38 Comments

  1. Ashval Vaderaa June 30, 2014 at 2:11 am

    what about under water turbines to generate electricity using temperature difference of at least 25 degrees Celsius between the surface and at 100 feet depths using three step heat exchangers to jack the temperature to 200 degrees Celsius?

  2. teo2 May 27, 2010 at 1:35 am

    do you knows what a return siphon is? small description: we put a Turbine on the sea-bottom and it must be into a frame-housing.throught the top of this, falls the water into the Turbin-room and move it, revolving and increasing speed. the water get down into the centrifuge. the on this area begining pressure will be throught the outlet pipe to the surface sended. If you like this design, call for more abut to. don´t be the last.

  3. Bruno Oliveira April 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    i came up with an idea for creating energy and am on the verge of finishing my very own prototype its rather simple no new machinery no new invention just a diferent aplication of tech we now have available. as soon as i have this tested will let you know if its liable.
    no fossile fuels needed, nor no direct enviromental impact.
    do you know of any funding for this kind of research?
    many thanks

    available at j.bruno.oliveira@gmail.com

  4. chelsea_marie November 20, 2009 at 8:28 am

    i think every1 has pretty good points here! But i also believe we should go through with this and conserve energy! I believe that weare basically killing ourselves by global warming and by using way tomuch energy! WE NEED 2 GO THROUGH WITH THIS

  5. chelsea_marie November 20, 2009 at 8:26 am

    this is a good idea.. now a days things are crazy! we r basically killing ourselves by global warming and using to much energy! I think that by using this stuff we can definetley save ourselves, and help earth also!

  6. Renee January 15, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    The biggest concern should the impact on the stream after the turbines. Yes we are taking a renewable source but what about the ecosystem upstream. With enough of these I would imagine it would weaken the current to a certain degree. With extended use it could have huge impacts. Look at global warming and the impact that a few degrees increase has. The gulf stream is a vital source for ocean circulation and weakening it to any degree will eventually have consequences. I am all for this though as an ocean engineer but there are a few details that we still need to consider. (I have to agree with everyone who says that the marine life will not affected but the turbine blades themselves. They would be movng at a slow speed and the concentration is on torque not speed. If anything we would have to worry about marine life messing with the turbines.)

  7. Edouard Petrounevitch January 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Modular System for Generating Electricity from Moving Water

    http://www.optimset.com

    A submersible technology, which is called Optimset Turbo, for producing electricity from the channel, river, ocean or tidal water currents is disclosed.

    This is the only free-flow hydropower technology having the following unique features:
    1. Innovative vertical axis underwater hydro-turbine
    2. Water flow acceleration
    3. High torque and superior efficiency
    4. Ideal for shallow water implementations
    5. 100% fish and clogging protection
    6. Instant deployment and removing
    7. Equal suitability for use in unidirectional (river) and bidirectional (tidal) currents
    8. Equal suitability for commercial and individual customers
    9. Low cost production and maintenance
    10. No negative environmental impact
    11. Portability and modularity.

    The turbine comprises an arrangement of two sets of paddles with asymmetrically fixed blades to increase the torque and power output.

    The radial support members attach both sets of the paddles to the hub and provide the integrity and structural strength of the turbine.

    The first set of paddles with floatable blades is located above the radial support members, as the second set of paddles with sinkable blades is located below the support members.
    A plurality of stops, built into the hub and support members, allow the free rotation of the paddles in the 90 degrees angle range.

    Please visit us at http://www.optimset.com for more information.

  8. Stewart December 31, 2007 at 6:48 am

    Interesting concept! Does this not bear considerable similarities to SMD Hydrovision’s TideL device and is there shared IPR?
    Another concept which would use a traditional tension mooring system, but in tandem rather than mono point would be the tide trawl, which could potentially reduce the installation costs and ease the launch and recovery proceedure. See patent WO03083292 – 2003-10-09.

  9. Thomas Plum December 16, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    It appears there are some other ocean-current projects that have been deployed, or are already in detailed planning: e.g. please see

    http://sustainability-info.blogspot.com/2007/09/taiwan-mulls-current-power-generation.html

    This reference also suggests that “Countries like Britain, Canada, Norway, and Australia all have experience in deploying offshore marine turbines with capacities ranging from one megawatt to eight megawatts …”

    Could the university possibly use some of its grant money to create a web-based reference resource to provide pointers to existing projects, as well as to its own research?

  10. camerin December 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    nice. whale decimators.

  11. Kat December 12, 2007 at 5:03 am

    it’s an interesting idea, no doubt. but Todd Barber mentioned a verrry interesting fact.

  12. Dave Nofmeister December 11, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Very cool. I certainly hope that this really works out as a power source.

  13. wind turbine December 11, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    I a big fan of wind turbines and I think putting them underwater is a good idea too. The real goal though should be to reduce energy consumption in combination with finding new sources of energy.

    http://www.ecobeater.com

  14. Repellemblog December 11, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I love this idea!! This is a classic example of why I check you guys out everyday. Can’t wait to see these things in action someday.

  15. jwp December 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    i love the idea of using the oceans as an energy source…it’s a massive store of energy, however i agree with many of the comments concerning the impact.

    -what kind of infrastructure is needed to be installed? (can these things leech pollutants into the water?)
    -how can you protect fish, etc from the ‘machines’?
    -how can you protect the ‘machines’ from the wildlife in a safe way? (have you seen a sunk boat before?…these things will be covered in about a month)

    anyway…good that someone is at least thinking about it…

  16. Annie December 11, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Doesn’t this just look like another university funding/Big Power boondoggle? Surely we humans have already done enough to the oceans!
    Points to ponder:
    (1) the current (pardon the pun) uncertainty about what is going on with the Gulf Stream,
    (2) the unavoidable impact on ecosystems (Ben — a barrier? Think about it!),
    (3) the wasted energy and resources going into the investigation — never mind the production — of such a FORESEEABLE disaster,
    (4) the built-in obsolescence and maintenance millions this will generate for “Big Power” (oh, think of the contracts!!),
    (5) the ease with which any damage being done (or costs being created) can be concealed by ” Big Power” and the government (Florida, folks) it’s gotten to buy into this scheme– the downside to your having your clear ocean view, Laura.

    One final point, when we hide the means of production of energy, we allow ourselves the luxury of ignoring its impact. Since we cannot, as a species, trust ourselves to act in the best interests of the planet upon which we depend, we should be designing systems that are absolutely “in our faces”, NOT hidden away. Perhaps, then, we would resort to the ultimate (albeit non-”design”) solution: drastically reducing consumption of power, and limiting our own numbers.

  17. L.L. Beanie December 11, 2007 at 11:05 am

    How fast do you think these props will be moving? They’ll be positioned in the Gulf Stream, not a wind tunnel. As for the wind turbine comments, yeah, they do kill a few thousand birds every year, but ordinary house cats kill tens of millions every year. Get your priorities straight.

  18. Todd Barber December 11, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Actually, the Army Corp of Engineers studied this in the 50s and 60s and found that if you slow down the gulf stream, you not only disturb marine life but the entire climate! The gulf stream brings warmer weather all the way to Europe. Sorry guys, this is not our solution for energy.

    -Todd Barber
    Chairman,
    Reef Ball Foundation

  19. clinton collins December 11, 2007 at 10:29 am

    i would imagine that these are low velocity turbines(similar to river based turbines that are being testing in new york or etc) that don’t turn fast enough to “slice and dice” animals. most small animals would be swept asisde by the motion of turbine, while larger animals will most likely avoid them anywho

  20. guest December 11, 2007 at 9:47 am

    um…we need the power. if sea animals get in the way…then too damn bad.

  21. mark p.s. December 11, 2007 at 6:57 am

    “doesn’t work out with the creatures who were there first.”
    we already captured and ate them all, or poisoned them all. Whats left isn’t going to take us to court.

  22. pilgrim December 11, 2007 at 6:21 am

    The turbines would probably not need to move fast enough to hurt any of the creatures. The bigger concern is how to build a turbine that won’t get destroyed the first time a whale wants to scratch his back on it.
    Remember, swimming around objects in the water is what these animals do every day to stay alive!

    Also, take a look at the big picture for just a second…. If we can generate significant amounts of energy this way it will reduce our dependency on land and oil generated power. The reduction in pollution alone will more than offset any impact to the environment from installation or contact with animals.

    If they can make this work and be cost effective there is only upside for this technology. How about thinking for innovative ways to make things work for a change?

  23. vic silverfish December 11, 2007 at 6:13 am

    My Gods! are you kidding me? I’ve never seen such an innane comment…

    Extension cords? Are you kidding?

    Damage the ocean floor? Do you have any idea how HUGE the ocean is? The ocean floor is a barran abyss. There’s not a lot living at depth to damage.

    Will these create a bigger or smaller disaster than a coal mine? Better or worse than an oil rig? Hell, these things will have less of an impact than a wind turbine, and those barely cause any damage at all.

    dope.

    There are huge technical hurdles to overcome. I think marine life (primarily mollosks) living on the turbines will be ahuge problem, but not insurmountable. If this can make a dent in our carbon footprint, too good!

    /vic

  24. Sim Car December 11, 2007 at 6:03 am

    i seriously doubt a 100 foot -thats a building 7 story+ wide and 7 story+ high- rotating underwater will not have any impact on its surroundings…

  25. Jeff December 11, 2007 at 5:32 am

    I say if it takes care of power needs go for it. Animals shouldn’t be so dumb. If they run into these huge rotating turbines then they were probably a weak link in their species.

  26. pablo December 11, 2007 at 4:21 am

    most of the ocean is barren
    these are deep water turbines. think over 500m in depth
    its is very very easy to make sure they dont get tangled. space them out far apart.
    more than twice the length of the the cable length
    how to erect these? you put them on the sea floor and they are anchored with weight.
    ever wonder how trans-oceanic cables are layed?
    protecting cables from boat anchors, this as been solved, rock nets.
    im going to trust oceanographers and engineers any day over couch engineers
    im sure through after years of research they have done,
    of all the issue the above posters are concerned about have been mentioned atleast once.
    instead of bashing the idea, oh i dont know, lets wait and see how the test go?
    i think they have a bigger issue about the things getting stuck on the floor,
    but they have elevators to maintain height from ocean floor
    ocean current are not that fast but they are strong. so the props wont spin fast.
    if you look at the pic, the props are not sharp. no prop ever is, except in residential deiling fans.
    but those are just angled brackets and wood. not actual props.
    if a prop did hit an animal it would just be bumped. any animals that will be at those depts
    will be super small (krill, jelly fish, angler fish, etc) or huge (sperm wales). the whale will be fine.
    the smaller ones but get badly hurt
    more birds die from cats then from wind turbines, and yet people must complain about it.
    these people have an idea for renewable energy and they are going to test their concept.
    unless you have a super fantastic idea, and your serious about it, why not provide
    constructive criticism and support?

    side note, AWESOME WORK!!! I hope this works out great. This would be great for coastal communities and island nations! that and creat jobs for people making the systems and maintaining them

  27. Tom December 11, 2007 at 4:02 am

    If we adopt too manu of these systems to supply our electricity, won’t we eventually stop the Earth from rotating?

  28. Kat December 11, 2007 at 3:59 am

    it really does look invasive. not that we haven’t been invasive on land as well.

  29. silvestre herrera December 11, 2007 at 3:54 am

    @Frank Lloyd Wright: But it’s underwater… no one will care…

    /sarcasm

  30. Nate December 11, 2007 at 3:27 am

    Yeah, or they might spin slower than you think, generating trickles of energy that add up, and NOT destroy the ocean. Pretty big leap from this one pic to a monstrocity destroying all that is good beneath the sea. Like these oil tankers are so much better? Ask Korea!

  31. Andrew December 11, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Well, the turbines only move due to the water current flowing past them, so the idea of them “chopping” up sea life is not as much of an issue as some seem to imagine it is. This isn’t a high speed engine driven propeller. Creatures swimming into them head on could hurt them, just like swimming into a rigid coral structure would. My main concern is if we would have to replace the turbines every few years due to corrosion, or the cost of regular maintenance in this environment.

  32. Dave December 11, 2007 at 2:54 am

    You generally don’t need a protective shroud, nor do you need to worry about sushi on the go with underwater turbines due to the slow speed at which they rotate….not even close to wind turbines.

  33. andrew December 11, 2007 at 2:27 am

    destroy the ocean floor? you realize earth has 361 million square kilometers of ocean floor… are you seriously under the impression that they are considering covering all 361 million square kilometers? I’m guessing its more like 10 square k’s. the impact of Killing every sea creature in the 10 square k’s would be nothing in comparison to the animals killed on land due to global warming. plus, who cares about sea-creatures? they don’t even have feet.

  34. Nathan December 11, 2007 at 2:23 am

    In response to the cord tangling, i think the diagram shows some sort of metal support structure to hold the turbines in place. true story it looks that the “power plants/converters” and piping on the ocean floor could disrupt bottom dwelling life.

  35. Frank Lloyd Wright December 10, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    I foresee a few problems to overcome using the Underwater Ocean Turbines.

    1. Will these mobile turbines get dangled into each other by their extension cords?
    2. Will these mobile turbines “slice and dice” the sea creatures ? (dolphins, fish, whales, etc…)
    3. Will these mobile turbines destroy and displace the delicate oceanic eco-system?

    In my humble opinion it looks like that the installation of these underwater turbine will create an ecological disaster!
    Based on the 3D rendering above it looks like one would have to destroy the ocean floor to build and erect these
    monstrosities.

  36. Ben December 10, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Hate to be the bringer of common sense here, but why don’t they build a protective barrier around the prop?

  37. Laura December 10, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    It’s nice to see some of the hard lessons from the wind turbine industry have been heeded by these researchers. If they can assure us conclusively that ocean turbines won’t harm sealife it will be far easier getting support to install them. Especially since they won’t block that ocean view ;)

  38. sylrayj December 10, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    I’m glad they’re investigating the impact on sea life. I strongly suspect they’ll find this doesn’t work out with the creatures who were there first.

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