The RivGen Power System is a shallow water river turbine with a 25 kW capacity that has been developed by Ocean Renewable Power Co. (ORPC). It has been built with backing from the Alaska Energy Authority and the Denali Commission and will be installed in the Kvichak River in July 2014.
The turbine will be generating power for the community of Igiugig which is located around 250 miles southwest of Anchorage. This particular model will be a prototype that will be operating under test conditions.
With the blades capable of turning at 49 revolutions per minute in a 6 knot current it has been estimated that the turbine will be capable of generating about half the village’s electricity. It will be used as a clean power alternative to the diesel that is currently in use.
“The good news is, sustainable river energy has now arrived in Alaska,” said Christopher Sauer, ORPC chief executive officer.
To get the turbine into place it will be barged in from Homer and fitted to a pontoon support structure. The pontoon has been built in Alaska and it will be floating the device into place. When it has been properly positioned the pontoons will be filled with water to lower the turbine to the floor of the river.
Permits have been obtained by the company to continue to operate the turbine through September. Critical factors that will be observed will include the ease with which the turbine hooks into the village power grid as well as its effect on fish.
There will be underwater cameras in place to monitor the fish movement. ORPC director of business development Doug Johnson has pointed out that larger fish seem to sense the turbine and avoid the blades while smaller fish simply swim through it.
The cost of the tidal device is a large factor in whether it will be successfully accepted by small communities. Natural gas is still a cheap alternative and is still preferred over the renewable option.
It is estimated that the 25kW RivGen turbine that is installed would cost a village around $500,000.
The RivGen Turbine is one of the 3 devices developed by ORPC that comprise the ambitious Maine Tidal Energy Project.