Performance Enhancement of Hydrokinetic Arrays Using Reliable, Low-Cost Dynamic Components

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Project Term:
09/13/2021 - 09/12/2024

Critical Need:

Significant technical and environmental barriers make current Hydrokinetic Turbines (HKT) systems prohibitively expensive. Hydrokinetic energy systems’ low technical readiness calls for a system-level approach that will include hydrodynamics, structural dynamics, control systems, power electronics, grid connections, and performance optimization, while minimizing potential negative environmental effects and maximizing system reliability. The challenging, multi-disciplinary nature of this design space means many systems haven’t moved beyond the theoretical design phase. Submarine Hydrokinetic And Riverine Kilo-megawatt Systems (SHARKS) aims to use control co-design (CCD), co-design (CD), and designing for operation and maintenance (DFO) methodologies to develop radically new HKTs for tidal and riverine applications that drastically reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE). This program aims to address industry-wide limitations to provide economical hydrokinetic power at micro-grid and utility scale.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Emrgy, Inc., and its partners are implementing “dynamic tuning” of the HKT system to optimize performance across variable water flow conditions and implement new control algorithms at the system level to optimize array performance. Successful implementation may deliver LCOE of $0.07-0.10/kWh depending on deployment location. Broad deployment of the technology platform in riverine, tidal, and manmade canal resources may displace 1-2 Quads/year of traditional carbon-based generation and 150-300 gigatons of carbon production. Phase I will focus on the impacts of water depth and velocity on turbine performance. Phase II will focus on the design of dynamic tuning elements in the rotor and flume sub-systems, new materials development for substitution of stainless steel and/or traditional concrete, power system development to improve utility or microgrid operation, and module-level and cloud-based system-level controls development. Ultimately a full-scale 20-30kW twin-turbine will be fabricated and tested in a riverine environment.

Potential Impact:

Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable energy source that presents unique opportunities and benefits.


Diverse renewable energy resources can boost grid resiliency and reduce infrastructure vulnerabilities.


HKTs, used to capture energy from tides, rivers, canals, and ocean currents, optimize a clean, renewable power source that could help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


Hydrokinetic energy has applications beyond solely providing power to electrical grids. It is ideally suited to the emerging technologies and markets built upon ocean- and riverine-based infrastructure, including climatological observation, aquaculture, desalination, ocean floor and seawater mining, disaster recovery, powering isolated communities, and autonomous underwater vehicle support.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Mario Garcia-Sanz
Project Contact:
Tom Cuthbert
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