Major U.S. rivers could soon feed several underwater turbine arrays with their massive power potential if some of the more than 100 projects that a Houston-based alternative energy firm hasfiled with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are approved. Free Flow Power Corp. (FFP) has developed a hydrokinetic turbinegenerator system that extracts energy from moving water without requiring the construction of new dams or diversion. The company wants to ubmerge the system, which can be installed in an array of different configurations to suit site conditions, in the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Niagara, and Detroit Rivers (Figure 4)

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Free Flow Power Corp., a hydrokinetic energy firm, has filed more than 100 projects with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to install its turbine generation system in major U.S. rivers. The turbines can be arranged in arrays to suit site conditions

FFP’s turbine uses a rim-mounted, permanent magnet, direct-drive generator with front and rear diffusers and a moving rotor to maximize efficiency. So far, the company’s prototype has undergone land testing and subjection to Alden Labs’ newest test flume, which mimics the flows found in river, tidal, and ocean current environments. Its two-meter version, which is expected to generate 10 kW in flows of 4.5 miles per hour is currently being deployed in a Massachusetts canal test.Meanwhile, FFP is planning big: In the Mississippi River it plans to place about 150 such generators in a linked system on the riverbed and transmit the hydropower through an onshore converter.

And it reportedly proposed installing 875 submerged turbines along a corridor in the Niagara River. Each of the U.S. projects planned would consist of between 900 and 5,000 turbines configured in a series of matrices, the company said on its web site. Before it can begin mass-producing power, however, the company must garner regulatory approval for a majority of its projects, a process that could take up to five years. Although FERC recognizes that hydrokinetic technologies, if fully developed, could double the amount of hydropower production in the U.S.—bringing it from under 10% to 20% of the national electrical supply—regulatory hurdles continue to be complex.

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