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US DoE announces £26m for Hydrokinetic Turbine Development

Abundant renewable resource can boost grid resilience and reduce infrastructure vulnerability

Dominic Ellis
|Nov 25|magazine9 min read

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced £26.17 million in funding for 11 projects as part of the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Submarine Hydrokinetic and Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems (SHARKS) program.

The DoE says SHARKS teams will develop new economically competitive Hydrokinetic Turbines (HKT) designs for tidal and riverine currents.

"Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable resource that can boost grid resilience and reduce infrastructure vulnerability, but it is currently a cost prohibitive option compared to other energy generating sources," says ARPA-E Director Lane Genatowski. 

"SHARKS teams will address this barrier by designing new, efficient HKT systems that utilize America’s tidal, riverine, and ocean resources to develop economically attractive energy generation opportunities."

The SHARKS projects will address at least one of four generation areas: remote riverine energy, remote tidal energy, utility scale riverine energy, and utility scale tidal energy.

Genatowski says that the project teams are encouraged to apply concurrent (as opposed to sequential) design methodologies: control co-design, co-design, and designing for operation and maintenance. These methodologies will significantly decrease the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) of the final HKT design. 

Projects will work to reduce the LCOE through multiple approaches, including increasing generation efficiency, increasing rotor area per unit of equivalent mass, lowering operation and maintenance costs, minimising potential impacts on the surrounding environment, and maximising system reliability.

The multi-disciplinary nature and challenges of HKT design requires expertise from a range of scientific and engineering fields working together concurrently. SHARKS teams will reflect this multi-disciplinary scope. They will incorporate experts in hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, control systems, power electronics, grid connections, and performance optimisation.

Two SHARKS projects can be found below:

University of Alaska Fairbanks – Fairbanks, AK

Material and Cost Efficient Modular Riverine Hydrokinetic Energy System - £2,489,209

The University of Alaska Fairbanks' concept employs BladeRunner's floating generator housing and tethered turbine to create a Hydrokinetic Turbine (HKT) system that has low capital and operating costs and is well suited for community co-design. The turbine is coupled to the generator by a flexible torsion-cable that transmits mechanical power while allowing the turbine to deflect around debris. 

This technology combines three significant new and innovative solutions to reducing remote riverine HKT levelized cost of energy: 

1. Highly material-efficient BladeRunner architecture increases swept area per equivalent mass by 130 percent over the base case.

2. The implementation of C-Motive's novel electrostatic generator to efficiently convert low speed mechanical rotation into grid-voltage electricity.

3. The shore-based deployment and retrieval method enabled by the BladeRunner modular design.

Ocean Renewable Power Company, Inc. – Portland, ME

Optimised Hydrokinetic Systems - £2,747,286

Using control co-design methodologies and design for operation techniques, Ocean Renewable Power Company, Inc. (ORPC) proposes a novel hydrokinetic energy system that identifies dynamic couplings between turbine subsystems and components to optimise system mass and performance. The new systems will be deployed in arrays. 

The project includes hydrodynamic testing of model-scale turbines to guide and validate the new concepts and the construction of a larger-scale turbine, with sensors embedded during manufacture to validate structural design. 

The team will perform open water testing and measurements of performance and loads by mounting the turbine in an open water test frame, based on the ORPC RivGen® Power system. It will demonstrate prognostic health monitoring and active load control approaches.

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