June 22, 2011 - where are the inland hydrokinetic projects?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This week I’ve been looking at what it takes to test or develop a hydrokinetic power plant: technology that can generate electricity from moving water without a dam.  Today, let's look at the geographic pattern revealed by mapping out proposed projects.

Sand dunes on Hermit Island, Phippsburg, Maine.

A hydrokinetic project generates electricity from moving water without a dam: tides, waves, ocean currents, or unimpounded rivers.  Based on this definition, the hydrokinetic opportunity exists primarily 
near coasts or on major inland rivers.   

As of June 2011, FERC has issued 70 preliminary permits for hydrokinetic projects, totaling 9,306 MW.  Half of these preliminary permits are for inland projects on rivers, mostly on the lower Mississippi system below Cairo, Illinois.  Riverine hydrokinetic projects offer some of the benefits of conventional dam-based hydropower -- like generating renewable electricity from flowing water -- but do not involve the construction of a dam.  This can reduce both project costs and environmental impacts.  In a culture where more dams are being removed from our rivers than are being built, siting a riverine hydrokinetic project may be easier than permitting a new dam.

Beyond the lower Mississippi system, FERC has issued preliminary permits for inland hydrokinetic projects on the Tanana, Kvichak and Yukon Rivers in Alaska, the Colorado River in Arizona, and the St. Clair River in Michigan.

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