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Are Underwater Turbines Part of the Solution to
Creating Clean Renewable Energy in Eastern Ontario?

An Artist's Concept of Verdant
Underwater Generating Turbines.

In Eastern Ontario there currently seems to be great emphasis to construct new green renewable energy sources.  On Wolfe Island south of Kingston there is a massive wind farm with 86 new 2.3 Megawatt wind turbines, outside of Prescott there is a brand new ethanol plant, in Brockville it was announced recently there will be a 550 solar panel solar farm. And the huge hydroelectric dams on the Ottawa and St Lawrence River sends power to Montreal and the high population densities along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

What is New to the clean sustainable energy mix is that there is an development process (Cornwall Ontario River Energy (CORE) Project) being carried out to place underwater turbines near Cornwall Ontario . When the project is completed it will be able to define the parameters for generating electricity from the river current of the St Lawrence river there using this technology. This is a joint effort between Verdant, St Lawrence College and the Government of Ontario.

It would seem that with the emphasis on green renewable energy that the concept of putting underwater generators into a current of running water would be a no-brainer...   It seems that this technology is slow to get out of the starting gate competing against such giants as nuclear, clean coal, solar and wind sourced generators.

Mean annual carbon dioxide ppm measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii.
1959 - 316 ppm, 2010 - 388 ppm & 2019 - 411 PPM

One is the greatest untapped energy resources in the world is the motion of the ocean and rivers. And while floating wind turbines and wave-powered generators are being explored throughout the world, there still remains one largely untapped power source, the underwater ocean, tidal and river currents. 

It started in Norway with the potential of using their deep fiords and tides to turn massive structures like land based wind turbines.  Now the world is focused on the success of Scottish Power Renewables who plan to build three tidal projects which would provide enough power of 40,000 homes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. (see Scotland to Pioneer Tidal “Farms”)

Right here in Eastern Ontario through the Cornwall Ontario River Energy (CORE) Project, Verdant Power Canada will generate renewable and reliable clean energy from the free-flowing waters of the St. Lawrence River near Cornwall, Ontario. The project also will feature the first operation of Verdant Power’s Free Flow system in a continuous-flow river setting—a renewable energy resource that could provide nearly ‘24-hour power’ without the use of dams or major civil work

According to Trey Taylor President of Verdant Power Canada UIC, their technology requires that the depth of the water source be at least 120 feet deep and a current of 2 meters per second to turn their turbines which can generate consistently between 58 - 68 kilowatts each.  They would like to develop underwater generating fields of turbines if the right locations could be found.  The beauty of the technology that they are developing is their generators are in groups of three.  Making it easy to remove and service each group as required. Each group when developed can be lowered into the water source without having to provide an underwater platform to secure them.  And each group can be safely and economically raised for servicing at any time.

Because there are concerns about environmental impact on the river, studies concerning the impact of the turbines on the fish stock will be carried out.  In an interview with Dr. John Casselman  PhD Adjunct Professor of Queen's University, Department of Biology who wrote; " I know of these in-river turbines but really don’t know much about their effects on fish. Obviously, they would not have the same direct effects as the turbines at Moses-Saunders because they do not entrain all of the water going down the St. Lawrence River and physical damage would seem less likely. But there is now increasing concern about the effects of electromagnetic fields created by hydro lines and hydroelectric generators. Also, turbines actually create vibrations, which in the case of Moses-Saunders, are considerable and can be sensed at great distances. So I don’t see why there wouldn’t be some vibrations given off by these, which could affect fish behavior, movement, distribution, and abundance. The electromagnetic fields are even more critical, I think, and I’m not sure they have been adequately studied. For example, a migratory species like the American eel must be very sensitive to these. Whether it would affect their migration, I don’t know. But unfortunately, little or no concern is being given to fish and fisheries in the headlong pursuit to acquire hydroelectric power quickly, which is being incorrectly touted as green power. A number of groups are now talking about blue power, where fish are taken into consideration."

Verdant Power is a company that is investigating a new technology for the Cornwall area that utilizes underwater turbines as an alternative source of hydro-electric power. The River Institute is involved in this initiative as environmental advisors, with particular interest in how the project will affect fish habitat. In 2008, Dr. Brian Hickey of the St Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Studies ( ) worked on identifying the affected fish species and mapping habitats in the proposed area.

There is also concern with whether or not debris in the current stream would harm the turbines.  Trey Taylor said that because of the depth that the turbines were installed that debris would easily pass over the turbine field and that if they were placed in the shipping lanes the undercurrent turbulence is expected to be minimal as the turbines would be under the ships by about at least 100 feet. 

During the early development stages it was found that , the shape, size and material used in the propeller blades were critical and they tended to break. For Verdant, these problems have been solved through a successful testing program of their turbines that have been placed in the East River near New York City.

The timeline for development in Eastern Ontario for the project is as follows:

The CORE Project will operate along the following timeline:

• Phase 1 (2007 - 2010): Pilot demonstration of the Free Flow system in a river setting;
• Phase 2 (2010 - 2012): Commercial build-out of the project, potentially

Specifically, they will be dropping a dummy generator into the river near Cornwall in September 2009 to determine some of the environmental impact on the river and fish. After that study is completed demonstration turbines will be placed in the river which will be generating electricity. (To see a diagram of the Verdant Turbine that is in the East River in .pdf format  Click Here )

From there, who knows - maybe a generating field under the shipping lane in the St Lawrence just west of Brockville Ontario at Fernbank where the water current is running at 2.2 meters per second and the depth there is 120 feet according to Brockville diver Deb Ring.

Verdant Power has promised to keep tdc's FarmGate in the news loop and we will be adding more information as this story develops.

Please e-Mail your comments about this article.

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