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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Geothermal and Water Alternative Energy Sources

VIVACE converters produce energy in slow streams and ocean waves

Renewable energy generation is a big question today with the shared challenges of fresh water conservation, ocean habitat survival for the world's food supply, and cost. We have waves, we have river currents...and now we have a potential solution to harness those resources in a less-invasive way than dams.

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"Necessity is the mother of invention," my mother used to tell her inquisitive children. I'm fascinated by simpler solutions....hence my website focused on solutions.

I've puzzled over the pros and cons of hydroelectric power generation. On one hand it provides lakes -- with all their benefits for preserving fresh water, generating electricity, etc. On the other hand those rivers and gulfs downstream are greatly affected and sometimes to the detriment of the habitats that depended on that fresh flow of water. Today, it appears that "natural systems" are better ... so preserving the natural flow of water is important.

So how do we generate renewable energy in the form of electricity and preserve the natural flow of a river? Act like a "rock"! A rock placed strategically in a flowing river, that is. Here are the specfics on a new renewable energy generation innovation that generates that renewable energy from ocean and river currents.

VIVACE - Vortex Induced Vibration for Aquatic Clean Energy

Unlike other forms of hydropower technologies, such as turbines and water mills, a new device in prototype stage and called the VIVACE (vortex induced vibration for aquatic clean energy) converter, can generate electricity from slow moving water, typically found in ocean and river currents. The device is thought to be the first that can harness energy from flows moving slower than 2 knots (about 3.7 km per hour). Most currents are slower than 3 knots.

The designers project (and hope) that renewable energy produced by the device will be cheaper than the renewable energy from either solar or wind power and offer distinct advantages over standard hydropower technologies.

Dr. Michael M. Bernitsas, the inventor of VIVACE, says, "VIVACE is based on the extensively studied phenomenon of Vortex Induced Vibrations (VIV), which was first observed 500 years ago by Leonardo DaVinci in the form of “Aeolian Tones.” For decades, engineers have been trying to prevent VIV from damaging offshore equipment and structures. By maximizing and exploiting VIV rather than spoiling and preventing it, VIVACE takes this ‘problem’ and transforms it into a valuable resource for mankind." Dr. Bernitsas is a renowned expert in the study of underwater structures, and a tenured faculty member in the University of Michigan’s Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (NA&ME) Department.

Rock...or fish? Biomimicry is at work!

The VIVACE converter exploits the turbulent effects of vortices (swirling currents) that form around an obstacle in flowing water. It was partly inspired by the way fish swim. Fish propel themselves forward by generating vortices or by taking advantage of naturally occurring vortices in the turbulent trail of other fish.

In its simplest form, a VIVACE converter consists of one module. The researchers suggest a number of modules could be combined in a flexible manner to create large-scale configurations, including the development of offshore power plants, potentially producing electricity with an output from a few kilowatts to about 1 gigawatt.

The costs of the renewable energy generated should be competitive due to low maintenance costs and the wide range of conditions under which the system could operate.

Another cost that must be tested in the impact on the natural habitats in which this device is operated. One "rock" in a stream is okay...many such objects COULD be another story. This is why thorough research is needed when new solutions come along. What looks great on the surface...or at the dam...might prove to have unintended, and monumental unintended or unimagined results.

And then there's that concept of conservation. Using less energy - renewable or otherwise -- still means we must generate less energy which results in bottom line sustainability!

Vortex Hydro Energy LLC
2512 Carpenter Road, Suite #101-C
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 223-4223

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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