Modeling Hydrokinetic Turbine Performance in the Mississippi River

Patrick Karalekas, Gregory J. Kowalski, and Edward Lovelace – Marine Technology Society Journal, August 2013


Free Flow Power has developed a renewable energy technology that can convert the kinetic energy flowing in a river to electricity without the use of dams. The company plans to install a specially made turbine directly into the flowing stream. This process, known as hydrokinetics, is an innovative approach that provides energy at a reliable and predictable rate as opposed to other intermittent renewable energy sources. There are currently two dozen hydrokinetic projects in the licensing process along the Mississippi River, which will account for 4,000 MW of power-generating capacity. Hydrokinetics could develop into a $1 billion a year industry.This article describes the modeling tool developed for Free Flow Power’s hydrokinetic sites along the Mississippi River. The performance models compare river velocity, power generation, reliability, maintenance costs, and finance options to establish a likely performance profile for a proposed site.These models calculate the expected returns for Mississippi River projects and can be used to perform a sensitivity analysis on all of the major variables for hydrokinetics. The unique aspect of this performance model is the incorporation of a reliability calculator, which estimates the lost revenue resulting from component failures. It can be used to develop the maintenance strategy for the array and to evaluate the total cost of reliability for components. The modeling tool described provides Free Flow Power with the ability to compare different design scenarios and quickly gives an estimate of a site’s performance.



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