May 31 2010

A “Fish-Friendly” Tidal Turbine

Published by under Student blog entries

I got home today and was leafing through a Popular Science magazine when I got really excited at their “Invention Awards” section. I was very happy to see:

Invention Awards: A Fish-Friendly Tidal Turbine. An underwater energy extractor that doesn’t harm sea life.

Can I just start out by saying that I was surprised to see something so related to what I had just been studying for two weeks in a popular magazine. My first reaction was <yessssssssss!>, then surprise that anyone else actually cares about this other than us environment nerds. A few fish running through turbines may seem trifling compared to the oil spill going on or global climate change, but I was happy to see it under the spotlight for once.

W. Scott Anderson invented this turbine, called the “ECO-Auger” when he was 77 years old. Not only is his age remarkable, but also the fact that his idea was rejected by manufacturers. However, that didn’t stop him!

The design for this is very versatile. Water turns a drill-shaped “auger” tha drives hydraulic pumps, pumping high-pressure oil to a generator outside of the water. The hydraulic pump setup seems very similar to the way the Pelamis generates mechanical energy. There are many advantages of this ECO-Auger. First of all, it could provide a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to tidal barrages, by capturing the power of the tides without being a complete obstruction, or any fish mortality. Another big advantage is that it can be put in waters much more shallow than a conventional tidal/current turbine since it is smaller, therefore it have a greater range of location. It can be tethered to a bridge or other structure as well. A huge advantage is that it can just be pulled up out of the water for maintenance. No noisy disturbances needed!

It is 14% efficient, but that will only go up the bigger the auger gets. It is in its prototype stages and has much potential for bigger-scale projects. The capacity for one of these is 5-7 kW, similar to a small wind turbine. One can power about 4-6 homes.

From the article:

The most trouble Anderson is having is the complexity of the parts. Most manufacturers don’t even want to try and make prototypes, and most companies are convinced they can’t be mass produced. Again, this product is mostly in the prototype phase. Anderson has made models by moulding them himself and is trying to get companies on board.

Personally, this is very appealing to me. It seems very portable and eco-friendly. Installation and decommissioning seem like they would have little to no impacts. The only real thing I could think of was oil leaking from the hydraulic pump, and I’m sure they could find a way to contain that. The fact that it can be put in much shallower waters than other turbines means that they could be all along the shoreline providing power to coastal homes. Sure, they are more small-scale in how much energy they produce, but it could definitely help in the long run, especially if these could be mass-produced cheaply. There could even be farms of these. Plus, if they were bigger they would have a greater capacity, so that is always something to look forward to. I would definitely encourage companies to look into this technology. I hope that now that it has been in Popular Science magazine, more companies can begin to see how popular it could be. With more research and design fine-tuning, this could be a viable small-scale energy source with minimal impacts.

Note: Matt already posted the link in the comments. See below.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “A “Fish-Friendly” Tidal Turbine”

  1.   Matt Rosson 01 Jun 2010 at 1:42 am

    I stumbled on this while we were on the obx. Small world

  2.   aparadektoon 25 Oct 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Hey, I can’t view your site properly within Opera, I actually hope you look into fixing this.

  3.   ldubbson 25 Oct 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I will check in to it for you.


  4.   ldubbson 25 Oct 2010 at 2:42 pm

    It seems that Opera is indeed incompatible with WordPress. My only advice is to open the page, and any other WordPress page, in another browser.
    Good luck!