Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Aug 18

Hydrokinetic Power Barges

Posted in Energy Inventions | Future Technology | Hydro Power

Hydrokinetic Power Barge Interest in hydrokinetic energy — which generates power by using submerged or partially submerged turbines that harness the energy from flowing water — is on the rise throughout the world. Renewable energy advocates, governments and investors are increasingly becoming aware of river currents and the huge associated energy potential. Because hydrokinetic power generation relies simply on the extraction of energy from the natural velocity of water, these power systems can be placed into sources of flowing water with minimal infrastructure or environmental impacts.

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Hydrokinetic energy is not a new application of the concept of using the energy from moving water to create electricity – “dam-less” as opposed to conventional dam wall hydropower or other manmade barricading structures behind which potential energy in the water is stored – water wheels of various types have been used in numerous applications for centuries.

The ideal location for a hydrokinetic turbine is to be located in deep strong flowing rivers or immediately downstream from an existing conventional hydropower plant where electric transmission wires and interconnection facilities are located, and where the energy remaining in the water current exiting from the turbines in the dam can be reused.

How the Hydrokinetic Power Barge Works

Our hydrokinetic technology is designed for use in river and ocean currents with a horizontal axis turbine. Almost like mounting several Pelton wheels on the same shaft but better, as the advantages of a vertically submerged blade has similar performance characteristics to a horizontally mounted Cross flow turbine. The core of our patented technology is in the concave design of the turbine blades. The leading edge offers reduced resistance, while the trailing edge is aerodynamically optimized to reduce the Flat Dynamic Effect. The turbine is horizontally mounted on a catamaran type hull or barge and partially submerged into the water flowing beneath the barge.

In an open-river setting, hydrokinetic power projects will have a capacity factor (CF) of better than 98% because power will be generated by using a constant water current to the effect that it would be considered a “base load” plant.

The rotational speed of the turbine is very low, and can be stopped from spinning in a matter of seconds through automated fault sensing equipment and the turbine can be lifted out of the water and placed in service mode in under 2 minutes.

The barge on which the turbines are mounted (and the turbines themselves) is able to cope with fluctuations in water levels, substantial velocity increases, and direct impacts from large and fast-moving debris, (the turbine is self-cleaning for small debris and floating plant material) and the only flow parameter that would decrease power output would be a decrease in the flow rate of the water underneath the barge. During extraordinary adverse conditions or flood events, the barge could be removed from the river if necessary.

Our first barge is projected to generate 1 MW and produce 8,760 MWh electricity annually at a maximum rating through a synchronous AC induction generator.

Since the power is proportional to the cube of velocity and density of the water, a slower flow rate of (say) 1 meter per second will yield less energy than a flow rate of (say) 3 meters per second, and depending on location and other factors such as depth, our turbine blade size would be engineered for optimal performance given specific site conditions. For instance, the turbine blade could be long and broad for slow moving deep currents, or shorter and thinner for fast moving shallow currents.

The power barge is designed to last for at least 20 years lifespan, and because of very few moving parts, will have very low maintenance costs and downtime.

Project Location

Not all rivers have suitable annual flow rates due to seasonal rainfall variations, or flow deep enough to sustain the flotation requirements due to the weight of the barge. In many parts of the world river beds are exposed during dry seasons, and would be much less practical for the installation of a power barge.

The barge will theoretically operate much more efficiently in the middle of a straight section of a river, or closer to a bank in a winding river where the water flow speed is higher, and in either case, the location needs to allow river traffic to pass unimpeded and at a safe distance.

Tying into the electric power grid should ideally be at a location close to distribution lines, or alternatively, close to an agriculture, industrial or commercial end user in order to avoid the major expense of lengthy overhead power lines.

Technical Innovations

Our patented concave design of the blade reduces aerodynamic resistance against the leading edge, and also reduces the Flat Dynamic Effect of the trailing edge. The turbine blades and turbines are easy to repair, modify or upgrade. If we improve our blade design or use other materials such as graphite, composites, metal alloys or industrial grade high strength plastics or make technical advances that achieve a higher power output, for example, we can lift the turbine from the water and modify the existing turbine in about a day.

Licensing and Permitting

Many countries and governments around the world are proactively encouraging renewable energy and environmentally friendly projects, and are streamlining permitting and creating fast track incentives for such developments.

In South Africa, NERSA has recently published renewable energy tariffs, and guidelines for renewable energy projects.

Aquatic Life and Environment

Some wildlife advocates may be concerned that hydrokinetic turbines may harm fish and other types of wildlife. This is generally a valid concern where traditional hydro turbines work at several hundred rpm which could cut and kill fish.

Our turbine spins, or the blades move, at the same speed or less as the water flows, and in the same direction of the water flow.

We compared our turbine with published reports by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ for fish mortality equations in order to look at potential mortality to fish and predict less than 1% mortality. We believe that there will be no material adverse impact to marine life, and, and we expect zero impact on water quality as pertains to temperature, dissolved oxygen, or turbidity.

Going Forward

Our plan is to build, own and operate a limited number of power barges in Southern Africa in partnership with our small group of structured limited partnerships / investors who may participate selectively on a per project basis.

We will also offer licenses in other countries to selected established hydro electric companies and utilities, but plan on building and assembling our turbines in South Africa for export. We envisage that our licensing parameters will entail full barge design on a client provided data on a site specific basis. The client can then build the barge locally according to our design plans and drawings.

In order to be a “good neighbour” we will also provide very small micro turbines at deeply discounted prices on a royalty free basis to qualified NGO’s engaged in rural poverty stricken areas throughout the world where the turbine could be mounted over small mountain or other streams, irrigation channels etc, sufficient for a few basic necessities such as few light bulbs, computer, cell phone charge etc.

Bold Moves

We believe that our technology makes it unnecessary to build dams with the associated environmental and socio economic impacts.

Vessels and barges of the catamaran hull type today exceed 1,400 tons load capacities, meaning that our turbine could be engineered and built to exceed a hundred tons, delivering hundreds of Mega Watts per turbine. It can be deployed on rivers like the Rein, Mississippi, Congo, Nile, and Amazon to name a few, where several Power Barges could be strung out, or in ocean currents.

Hydro Power Barges

Top View

Hydro Power Barge - Top View

Front View

Hydro Power Barge - Front View


Hydro Power Barge Blades

The inventor can be contacted at hf0157[AT]

  • Mark

    If you want to see a barged-mounted hydrokinetic turbine that is built, licensed, working and selling power, check out the U.S.’s Hydro Green Energy and the Hastings, MN project

  • Jos Conil

    This is a simple, cost effective technology for small scale applications.

    But the claim that this can match the production capability of a dam is not valid simply because the kinetic energy of flowing water in rivers cannot match the immense potential energy created by walling up a river.

    Definitely this has got much lesser ecological impact than dams which are no longer considered a good power source the world over.

  • treehugger

    I can see two, three or twenty of these barges strung along a river one behind the other without environmental impact. Maybe not produce as much power as a dam wall, but better and cheaper for sure.

  • Michael Major\

    Clearly this generator barge approach is not intended for powering concentrated industrial centres but it may be capable of low environmental impact and culturally appropriate technology for generation of electricity particularly in tropical regions. As is evidently necessary in much of the third world, this approach is appropriate for local off grid applications rather than as a method for centralizing power or feeding a national energy grid. Perhaps however, the cool shade created by the barge will attract fish towards the rotors? If so, it may be possible to suspend the rotors from cranes stationed along a river bank in order to minimize shading and debris aggregation.
    Thanks for the thoughtful article. Michael\

  • Thomas Murphy

    Water-based energy seems to be the (oh, help!) “wave” of the future, whether it’s retrofitted dams or barges or whatever: no carbon worries! What could be cleaner? What with all the questionable sources of energy that keep being touted, we know that we can trust water: let’s work on funding for it, and we’ll all be better off in the future.

  • Johneric Leach

    I would be interested to know an estimates a cost for such a system in order to compare it to other forms of renewable energy. If any can oblige with a ball park figure I would appreciate it.

    In consideration of placing several barges in series is there any hydrodynamic effects that determine a minimum spacing between barges.

    Presumably the unused surface area of the barge could also be utilized for solar energy production by placing a frame over the barge to support a PV platform?

  • Boneheaded1

    Good idea and somewhat practical. So many of these types of ideas get the same response, “good for small village but not practical for large power projects” That is the type of thinking that stops us from having a majority of our power from renewables. If we take all those 50 little things that aren’t good enough on their own to replace the one big thing and do them all, they just might be better than the one big thing. Of course it would be more expensive than the one big thing, but the environmental impact wouldn’t be as large and it’s better for redundancy, when the big thing fails, that’s it. When one of the 50 little things fail there is still the other 49 little things making their little contribution to the whole.

  • Charles

    This kind of futuristic, outside the box thinking is what inspired television programs like “Engineering Marvels” and “Extreme Engineering” on Discovery Channel.

    Comment No 4 is just plain silly, but could be overcome by using the massive Marmaray immersion/suspension barge which is probably for sale now that the immersed rail tunnel project is completed. (BTW, a successfully completed Engineering Marvel, the concept of which was also initially ridiculed by nay sayers and lenders.)

    There are very valid reasons for many governments (like Norway)putting dam projects on hold.

    Happy Planet’s 2nd report, page 42, “Access to Energy and Appropriate Technology”

    “Rather than relying exclusively on the construction of huge hydro-electric dams, however, it is becoming increasingly clear that small-to-medium scale projects may provide greater benefits, especially when they are owned and run locally. With relatively little initial investment required, they can quickly produce economic benefits, creating jobs, reducing economic dependency and ensuring a reliable and sustainable energy future. Cutting energy costs and reducing uncertainty frees up local and public resources to invest towards other development targets. There are also considerable social benefits as community ownership provides local people with more control over their day-to-day lives and engages them in decision-making processes. Shared ownership can enhance community cohesion, whilst providing a forum to promote further pro-environmental behavior. In short, as well as supplying power, locally owned renewable energy schemes can also empower marginalized communities.”

    The implementation and impact of this technology on a river in a rural village in Africa, Mekong, South America, or a commercial/industrial complex like Rotterdam or New York is huge. A simple, low tech, yet tectonic mindset shift.

    The inventor is deserving of, and gets my nomination for, a Nobel Prize.

  • Siddharth

    The concept is good but implementation of such a thing on a large scale might be highly uneconomical. May be some carbon-trading can help to popularize it by generating finances.

  • Ray

    Look at this Archimedes screw river generator:

  • Old Nick

    I don’t know if anyone will read this, but for what it is worth, I have a copy of a patent lodged in Vienna Austria by my grand father, dated 1927, which details a large vessel with an articulate catamarange hull configuration. The movement of the articulated hull on the ocean swell would move large pistons and generate vast amounts of compressed air that would then be fed into a system of turbines to generate electricity. The upper deck surface contained an airfield or airport, and the idea was to have these vessels anchored in the middle of the oceans like man made self sufficient island, so that aircraft of the day could effectively hop across the vast oceans enabling intercontinental travel. Perhaps the idea and concept could be resurrected and redesigned for the 21st century. Anybody interested please contact me at ‘anysailer [AT]’.

  • Matlhare Bodibe

    I went through the article that you wrote about hydrokinetic power barges. I’m very much interested in the Technology as I noticed that it should be cost effective rather than building a dam to produce Hydro Electricity. I need to know the different sizes of hydro kinetic barges? How much does it cost to build 1 MW unit and 100 MW unit. I’m very keen to know more about this technology or maybe run a pilot project in Democratic Republic of Congo as they have several rivers that passes next to the villages. The technology may be able to help electrify those villages.

  • A. Mc Court

    Would be very interested in this technology but I would need to know the different sizes of hydro kinetic barges? How much does it cost to build 1 MW unit and 100 MW unit etc

  • hf

    A. Mc Court:
    send the author an email at hf0157[at] so he can answer your question.

  • Jim C.

    I think that the spillways at every Corp of Engineers lake should have one or more of the power barges placed in the exit water stream from the dam. There is more than a thousand corp lakes in the U.S.

  • Rashid Rehman

    I think this is a pretty good idea and it can also work quite successfully in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India as they have huge network of water channels in the form of canals.

  • william forster

    i think that power barge principle is good.
    would it simpler to have a floating platform lego style which you can add to widen or lengthen with a series of generators powered with paddles in the water flow underneath

  • Bwalya

    I cant figure out who the manufacturer is or their contact details of this equipment from the article. I am very interested in the technology and doing a proposal for a pilot on the Zambezi River. I have come across a number of manufacturers but they are all USA based.

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