Mary Tutwiler

Watching the river flow, and generate power

by Mary Tutwiler

Forget wind farms. Louisiana’s energy potential may be below the surface, and I’m not talking about oil and gas. The Teche News reports that four companies are working on a new hydrokinetic technology to capture energy sustainably beneath the waters of the Atchafalaya River. The project, overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will plant underwater turbine towers in the bed of the river. The force of the flowing water spins the turbines, generating energy. Free Flow Power Corporation of Gloucester, Mass., plans to have test turbines in place this year.

The company is looking mainly at the Mississippi River drainage as potential sites for the turbines. According to Free Flow Power’s Web site:
The largest grouping of sites that meet our highest standards are located on the Lower and Middle Mississippi River. The Mississippi is the largest available source of river energy in North America, and its importance as a navigational resource has limited the development of hydroelectric facilities in its lower reaches, preserving the opportunity for hydrokinetic development.
There are nearly 150 FERC-permitted hydrokinetic sites in the United States. Sixty of them are located along the Mississippi River, from below New Orleans up into Illinois, as well as two at the Old River Structure juncture of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Hundreds more are proposed, including 17 proposed sites in the Atchafalaya River.