OE at it again
OE at it again
FAU plan would turn ocean current to electrical current
By Kimberly Miller
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
The Gulf Stream soon could be lighting your home and lessening your electric bill, if a new collaboration between FAU and a Miami company proves the warm water current to be an efficient energy source.
The project between researchers at Florida Atlantic University's Department of Ocean Engineering and the Ocean Renewable Power Co. will place a tractor-trailer-size turbine in the Gulf Stream for one year to see how much energy is produced. The stream is a warm ocean current that flows from the Gulf of Mexico northward through the Atlantic Ocean.
Operating much like a windmill, one turbine placed in a 5-knot current is expected to generate enough power for 20 to 30 households.
Hundreds of turbines could power small cities.
"This is a wide open field right now," said Christopher Sauer, president and CEO of Ocean Renewable Power. "In 10 years, if this all works out, we hope to have literally hundreds of these strung from the Keys to the Central and North Florida coast."
The design for the turbine being used in the project has been around for a decade, but Sauer's company created a special generator and submersible module to use with the turbine. The system floats underwater, anchored to the seabed and staying connected to a utility company on shore.
The system, technically called "ocean current generation module," is designed to be environmentally friendly and has no fuel, gas or oil discharges that could harm sea life, Sauer said.
FAU scientists at the school's ocean engineering research facility in Dania Beach will design a mooring system for the module. They also will build a buoy that will stay connected to the module and hold electronic monitoring devices that track currents and environmental effects.
Manhar Dhanak, chairman of FAU's ocean engineering department, said he hopes the project will lead to other energy-related studies, including harnessing wave energy.
Dhanak would even like to set up a Center of Excellence for renewable energy in the ocean engineering department. Centers of Excellence compete for state money to work on projects with private industry.
"This project with the Ocean Renewable Power Company could be one of several of these types of endeavors," Dhanak said.
The turbine project, however, still has hurdles to clear before a module can be placed in the Gulf Stream.
Sauer needs to raise about $5 million in grants, private money, or venture capital dollars. Environmental permits are also necessary.
"If we can build the size projects we plan to build, we will be very competitive with any other source of energy," Sauer said.