An associate professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, David Olinger, PhD, is investigating ways in which underwater kites could be used to generate power from ocean currents and tidal flows.
Olinger has received funding from the National Science Foundation to work on this surprising new technology. Oligner has said that under waves and near coastlines, “there are countless ocean currents and tidal flows that bristle with kinetic energy, and just as wind turbines can convert moving air to electricity, there is the potential to transform these virtually untapped liquid ‘breezes’ into vast amounts of power”.
The professor points out that because the generators can be smaller, and the kites will move 3-5 times faster than the current in a figure-8 motion, they could have as much as 64 times the energy output of comparably sized stationary turbines.
The kites will be attached to floating platforms, rather than fixed to the ocean floor. This means that they will be less expensive to install and easier to maintain than stationary turbines.
As an example of how much power is available to harness in the oceans, it has been estimated that the potential power for the Florida Current, flowing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, is 20 gigawatts, which is the equivalent of about 10 nuclear power plants! Do you think it might be a good idea to explore this new technology further?
Top image CC licensed by Jo Jakeman
Bottom image: Worcester Polytechnic Institute. One way to generate power with undersea kites is to have an electric generator attached to the kite, tethered to a floating platform.