Those concerned with global warming and greenhouse gasses embrace a vision in which fields of solar panels and forests of windmills supply our world’s energy needs.
These are certainly sources of clean, renewable energy, but they’re not without high cost in terms of infrastructure and land use. Imad Hamad, CEO of RER Hydro Ltd. in Quebec has a better vision, one where power is generated by unobtrusive and environmentally friendly devices that are simple to install, easy to operate, and reliable. “We can drop one of our machines into the middle of a river, connect it to the grid, and the power is in your toaster.”
RER Hydro, or Renewable Energy Research, has developed the TREK (Kinetic Energy Recovery Turbine), a first-generation, hydrokinetic turbine that harvests the power of river currents without the need for a dam or other structures that would otherwise impede the river’s natural flow and habitat. Picture a tube 3.0 meters in diameter and twice that long, inside of which sits a series of fan blades – you can think of it as a monstrous jet engine, but the similarity ends there. This turbine makes no noise, and uses no fuel.
The TREK can be placed on the bed of nearly any river, provided it carries a minimum depth of 5.5 m and water velocity at least 1.5 m/sec. This is sufficient to spin the turbine blades at a nominal rate of 90 rpm and generate up to 340 kW of emission-free power. “Compare that to coal-burning plants,” Hamad says. “These produce 1,024 kilotons of carbon dioxide per terawatt/hour of electricity. Diesel produces 787 kilotons, and natural gas 422. The total CO2 footprint of my machine, including manufacturing and transportation, is 12 kilotons. Which would you prefer?”
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