Heading (slowly) toward commercialization
Verdant Power's six prototypes tested in the East River encountered some of these problems when strong currents broke off parts of turbine blades. But power was successfully delivered to businesses on Roosevelt Island, launching what the company calls the first grid-connected system of tidal turbines in the world. Indeed, the achievement is significant, because the company sees itself competing on a global scale.
"Right now, it's a race between the U.S. and the U.K., and in that race, we feel confident that Verdant Power has the lead," said co-founder and President Trey Taylor.
Verdant is also trying to move into the Chinese market with the sale of its Gen5 turbine. As a member of the Department of Commerce's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee, Taylor says it's the current administration's goal to double its renewables exports in the next five years. China has taken the lead in wind and solar energy, said Taylor, but hydrokinetic power is an emerging industry that could still be led by the United States.
"We've been building relationships and have signed a memorandum of understanding with China's largest renewable company," said Taylor. "In future, we could be exporting our rotor blades and other component parts, and that would be a job creator in the U.S. based on a commercially viable operation going on in New York."
Verdant is still waiting for final approval on a commercial license to start installing its 30-turbine system that could see three turbines in the East River by next year. Others will have to wait longer, although they see that the need for stable sources of future energy is increasing.
"It's not just an issue of renewable energy; it's an issue of energy security," said Meffert regarding the uncertainty of the Southern climate. "We could have a hurricane wipe out our traditional energy grid, yet that river is still flowing. So if we're tapping into that, we'd be a much more resilient and robust region in terms of our energy facilities."
"But that's in the 20-year range, and I'm sick of waiting," he said. "I just hope I'm alive to see it."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500