UAF Hydrokinetic technology research bolstered by $3.3 million grant

Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 4:19 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) has received a $3.3 million federal grant from the Department of Energy and Power to develop new devices to produce hydrokinetic energy in rural Alaska.

Ben Loeffler, research manager at ACEP gave us an overview of the project. “Hydrokinetics is just trying to extract energy from the river without damming it, or diverting it, or doing any major infrastructure.”

This grant program from the Department of Energy and Power is focused on producing economically competitive costs for energy in rural parts of Alaska. Loeffler said, “We’re developing devices that can just be installed in the river from a floating platform, or on the bottom, and generate power just from the water as it’s flowing by.”

This project is possible due to a collaboration between the university and two technology developers. “The turbine design comes from a company called BladeRunner Energy, and then the generator that were integrating with that turbine comes from a company called C-Motive. Then what UAF and ASEP are doing is really bringing those technologies together and providing a means to really test in a real world environment at our test site in Nenana,” said Loeffler.

The plan is for the system to be tested over the next three years, and will include research from the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences to study how fish species respond to the turbines in the water. Loeffler told us “If you go back 20 or 30 years in wind power there were all sorts of different architectures for wind turbines that were being explored, but over the years all the wind turbines kind of look the same now because that is the design that’s proven to be the most cost effective, most efficient, most economical. That hasn’t happened in hydrokinetics yet.”

Loeffler said this testing will help produce a low cost, high reliability design that can withstand river debris, while being environmentally friendly, easy to deploy and retrieve, and compatible with the local environment.

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