Energy Turbines May Be Spinning in New York’s East River by 2013

Tidal-Energy Project in New Yorks East River Wins License
Free Flow System turbines being transported to RITE Project site in New York, Sept. 2008. Source: Verdant Power Inc via Bloomberg

The currents of New York City’s East River may soon be harnessed to produce electricity that can be sold to Consolidated Edison Inc. or the New York Power Authority.

The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday awarded closely held Verdant Power Inc. of New York the agency’s first license for a tidal-energy project, which will generate power from turbines to be installed on the river’s floor.

Verdant, which develops marine clean-energy technologies, plans to use the 10-year contract to “demonstrate the commercial viability” of the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy Project, Trey Taylor, the company’s co-founder and president, said in a phone interview.

The 1,050-kilowatt project will use the river’s tidal flow without dams to produce electricity and has been under development since 2002, according to Verdant’s website. It’s designed to provide power to more than 9,500 residents on an island between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens as the city’s population expands by almost a million by 2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said when the project was inaugurated in 2007. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg News.

The license “is a major step in the effort to help our country meet our renewable-energy goals,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said in a statement. It allows “for exploration of new renewable technologies while protecting the environment,” he said.

Pilot License

Verdant received FERC’s first license for a tidal project, which will be a pilot license, Celeste Miller, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Pilot licenses give developers an opportunity to test hydro-energy projects, letting them determine potential environmental effects. FERC started the process in 2008, and eligible projects must be removable and located in areas that aren’t environmentally sensitive, according to the statement.

The project will be built in stages, with five turbines in place by the fourth quarter of 2013, Taylor said. A total of 30 generators will be installed by 2015, he said.

Verdant plans to use the pilot period to demonstrate the technology and to study the environmental impact on fish and the river’s sediment, according to Taylor. Power produced by the turbines eventually may be sold at wholesale rates to Consolidated Edison or to the New York Power Authority, he said.

The Roosevelt Island project isn’t subject to further regulatory review, Taylor said. If the process is successful, Verdant plans to apply for a commercial license, which may be for longer than 10 years, he said.

FERC has issued 100 preliminary permits to study potential hydro-energy projects that use water’s natural flow to produce electricity, the agency said.

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