Multnomah County Hydrokinetic Feasibility Study

S. Spain – Technical Report submitted to DOE EERE Wind & Water Power Program, March, 2012


HDR has completed a study of the technical, regulatory, and economic feasibility of installing hydrokinetic turbines under the Morrison, Broadway, and Sellwood bridges. The primary objective of installing hydrokinetic turbines is a demonstration of in-stream hydrokinetic technologies for public education and outreach. Due to the low gradient of the Lower Willamette and the effects of the tide, velocities in the area in consideration are simply not high enough to economically support a commercial installation. While the velocities in the river may at times provide enough energy for a commercial turbine to reach capacity, the frequency and duration of high flow events which provide suitable velocities is not sufficient to support a commercial hydrokinetic installation. We have observed that over an 11 year period, daily average velocities in the Lower Willamette exceeded a nominal cut-in speed of 0.75 m/s only 20% of the time, leaving net zero power production for the remaining 80% of days. The Sellwood Bridge site was estimated to have the best hydrokinetic resource, with an estimated average annual production of about 9,000 kWh. The estimated production could range from 2,500 kWh to 15,000 kWh. Based on these energy estimates, the amount of revenue generated through either a power purchase agreement (PPA) or recovered through net metering is not sufficient to repay the project costs within the life of the turbine. The hydrokinetic resource at the Morrison and Broadway Bridges is slightly smaller than at the Sellwood Bridge. While the Broadway and Morrison Bridges have existing infrastructure that could be utilized, the project is not expected to generate enough revenue to repay the investment. Despite low velocities and energy production, the sites themselves are favorable for installation of a demonstration or experimental project. With high public interest in renewable energy, the possibility exists to develop a hydrokinetic test site which could provide developers and scientists a location to temporarily deploy and test hydrokinetic devices, and also function as an educational tool for the general public. Bridge piers provide an excellent pre-existing anchor point for hydrokinetic devices, and existing infrastructure at the Morrison and Broadway Bridges may reduce installation costs. Opportunity exists to partner with local universities with engineering and environmental interest in renewable energy. A partnership with Portland State University’s engineering school could provide students with an opportunity to learn about hydrokinetics through senior design projects. Oregon State University and University of Washington, which are partnered through the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) to study and test hydrokinetic technology, are also relatively local to the site. In addition to providing an opportunity for both public and private entities to learn technically about in-stream kinetics, this approach will encourage grant funding for outreach, education, and product development, while also serving as a positive community relations opportunity for the County and its partners.



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