DOE Approves New York City's Tidal Energy Project

After a successful five-year test trial, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) just issued a commercial license for Verdant Power's Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project in New York City's East River, located only five or six blocks from the busy heart of Manhattan. It is the first commercial tidal power license in the United States. Check out the video below highlighting the contributions made by it's engineers; they make up, what they like to call, a "virtual company." 

The project began nine years ago

The video hints at the future of US manufacturing. Verdant Power, a small startup in New York City, reduces costs by keeping in touch with its far-flung staff by cell phone, Internet FTP site and webcasts during the planning and fabrication phases. The video, which recorded the 2007 installation, felt like a reunion as everyone gathered to help supervise the final phase, carefully submerging the test turbines into the the East River as press and city government officials looked on.

(Watch part two, following the installation moment by moment, and three, the development and satisfaction). This project began over 9 years ago. During the five-year demonstration period, which was conducted during 2006-09, the company operated six full-scale turbines (company CGI), making it the world's first grid-connected tidal turbine array. Late last year, Verdant Power achieved a major milestone by successfully completing the demonstration.

Verdant had one early setback, which was when several turbine rotor blades broke, unable to withstand the river's unexpectedly strong currents. With the DOE's financial and technical assistance, Verdant redesigned and tested the blades, successfully enabling the turbines to capture even more energy at a lower cost.

Now the entire 30 turbine array will be installed in stages along the East River, which connects the Long Island Sound with the Atlantic Ocean in the New York Harbor. The turbines are scheduled to be fully installed by 2015 and generate 1,050 kilowatts of electricity - enough to power 9,500 New York homes on nearby Roosevelt Island. (Verdant Power's CEO interviewed.) Verdant Power has recently signed an MOU with the China Energy Conservation Environment Protection Group (CECEP) (formerly CECIC), China's leading renewable energy company, to develop tidal power projects in China. The MOU is the first of its kind between China and the U.S. involving marine and hydrokinetic power projects. Check out the DOE's new interactive tidal power map.

Is out-of-sight-out-of-mind tidal energy better than offshore wind power?

Photos: Tidal turbine, Verdant Power website Graphic: Tidal Turbine, Verdant Power via Hydropower website