USA: University of Minnesota and Verdant Power to Advance MHK Energy Technologies
The University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL) has announced the launch of new collaborative industry-academy project to advance research, innovation and training in marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technology, an emerging renewable energy that harnesses the power of rivers, tides and waves. The project is funded by a two-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, through its Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program.
Centered around the nation’s first federally licensed installation of a commercial MHK tidal power array—the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project in New York City’s East River—the effort combines SAFL’s cutting-edge computational modeling and experimental techniques with the industry expertise and unique field facilities of RITE project lead, Verdant Power, Inc. (New York, NY), and the materials science and manufacturing strengths of Energetx Composites, Inc. (Holland, MI). The overall goal of the project is to promote the growing MHK industry by enhancing the performance and resilience of MHK technologies while ensuring environmental compatibility. In addition, the project aims to build the MHK technology workforce through the development and pilot of technological and entrepreneurial curriculum in a four-year hydrology degree program at tribal college, Salish Kootenai College (Pablo, MT).
Researchers at SAFL will develop a high-performance computing (HPC) simulation toolbox to provide industry partners an in-depth understanding of how turbines perform in and interact with real-life aquatic environments. Combining high-resolution simulations of turbine interactions in complex flow environments and aquatic ecosystems with site-specific water flow, streambed and ecosystem data from the RITE installation, researchers will use massively parallel supercomputers to: 1) design and test the next generation of MHK turbine rotor blades for reliable and efficient operation; and 2) optimize the layout of Verdant’s pilot-scale 30-turbine, 1.05MW array at the East River site.
“This unique partnership brings together forward-thinking research and innovation around tidal and river current energy opportunities for the U.S.,” said Dean Corren, Director of Technology, Verdant Power, Inc. “The tools produced at SAFL allow us to make significant strides toward enhancing the technology for widespread commercial application.”
Outcomes from the project support the pilot RITE deployment and help to promote industry development, expand the U.S. renewable energy portfolio, and accelerate the deployment of MHK technologies throughout the nation and world. The educational component of the project is anticipated to serve as a model for implementation in other communities to enhance educational opportunities and produce the next generation of professionals for the MHK industry.
The project is led by Fotis Sotiropoulos, director of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and James L. Record professor of civil engineering in the University’s College of Science and Engineering.
“This project will enable St. Anthony Falls Laboratory research to help industry partners succeed in developing a very high-profile MHK resource, one that will supply renewable electricity to New York City. This partnership strategically positions SAFL to spearhead the development and growth of MHK renewable energy technology to support the national goal of 80 percent of U.S. electricity produced from clean energy sources by 2035,” said Sotiropoulos. “Ultimately, this is about putting the most advanced computational and experimental research tools to work to build innovation capacity in the nascent MHK industry and help strengthen the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.”
University faculty members Michele Guala (St. Anthony Falls Laboratory and Department of Civil Engineering) and Henryk Stolarski (Department of Civil Engineering) are also lead researchers on this project.
Press release, August 15, 2013; Image: Verdant Power