US DOE announces marine energy grants
Two Alaska projects to receive funding assistance for systems can use river flows to generate power for remote rural communities
On June 8 the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it is awarding grants to six projects for generating electricity from moving water, including two Alaska projects researching energy production from the water flow in rivers. The agency is awarding $2.3 million to the Igiugig Village Council and Ocean Renewable Power Co. of Maine for the test of an in-current power generation system at Igiugig. And a grant of $1.3 million is going to the Alaska Center for Energy and Power at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and to Renerge Inc. for work on the development of the “water horse,” a machine for harvesting hydrokinetic energy
“Marine energy technologies have the potential to provide millions of Americans with locally sourced, affordable, and reliable energy,” said Daniel Simmons, principal deputy assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “This is why DOE’s research and development is critical to advancing American economic growth and energy security, especially for rural communities that have high energy costs but abundant marine energy resources.”
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, lauded the DOE decision.
“I am so pleased that these projects have been selected to receive funding from the Department of Energy,” Murkowski said. “The innovation happening in Alaska is real, and the people advancing technologies in our state are helping address not only the significant energy challenges facing many of our remote communities, like Igiugig, but also paving the way for microgrid solutions around the world. Once you prove these technologies can work in rural Alaska, you prove they can work just about anywhere.”
Testing since 2014Since 2014 Ocean Renewable Power Co. has been testing the use of a hydrokinetic device with helical shaped turbine blades submerged in the Kvichak River at Igiugig for power generation for the village. Power cables connect the device to the village power distribution system. The company has been testing design changes that can make the device more durable, and easier to deploy and retrieve. Murkowski said the new DOE grant will enable the permanent installation of an in-river turbine system at Igiugig, in a move toward relegating the village’s diesel power generation system to becoming an emergency backup facility rather than a prime power source.
The water horse device being developed by UAF’s Alaska Center for Energy and Power uses an oscillating system that can deployed in small rivers, too shallow for the installation of large turbines.
These in-water power generation systems have much potential for use in remote Alaska communities. Challenges include dealing with debris and sediment being carried in fast-flowing river water.