TECH
18/11/2013 06:14 GMT

Underwater Kite Power Generators Could Harness Ocean Currents And Provide Huge Amounts Of Electricity

An American scientist believes he can generate electricity equivalent to tens oo nuclear power station - with massive underwater kites.

David Olinger of Worcester Polytechnic Institute has just been given a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to harness ocean currents and tidal flows.

What he envisages are turbines with large fixed wings tethered to floating platforms similar to those used for oil and gas rigs.

kite

Look familiar?

He said: "Unseen under the waves, winding along coastlines and streaming through underwater channels, there are countless ocean currents and tidal flows that bristle with kinetic energy.

"And just as wind turbines can convert moving air into electricity, there is the potential to transform these virtually untapped liquid 'breezes' into vast amounts of power.

"For example, it has been estimated that the potential power from the Florida Current, which flows from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean, is 20 gigawatts—equivalent to about 10 nuclear power plants."

The kites are still in the design stage at the moment but Olinger hopes to build scale models soon for testing in huge water flumes at a special research facility.

By being tethered rather than fixed to the seabed, Olinger believes he will be able to harness more power.

He said: "For one, the generators can be smaller, since with the figure-eight motion the kite will move three- to five times faster than the current, greatly amplifying the power output— which could be as much as 64 times greater than the output of a comparably sized stationary turbine.

"And, since the kites will be attached to floating platforms, rather than located on the sea floor, they will be substantially less expensive to install and easier to retrieve for maintenance."

His work is similar to a project being developed by Minesto called Deep Green which is already being tested off the coast of Northern Ireland.