With a growing interest in renewable energy and more businesses looking to convert to clean energy sources, why isn’t hydrokinetic power at the forefront of the discussion? A recent article by The Clean Energy States Alliance left this up-and-coming technology completely out of the picture. I can only assume the reason for this is due to hydrokinetic power still being a relatively new, and mostly small-scale, technology. But despite this, this article will highlight several reasons why businesses and renewable energy advocates should shift some of their focus to hydrokinetics.
The biggest obstacle facing almost all renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power, is their inconsistent output. Businesses and investors in general, are always reluctant to fund these weather dependent sources which produce fluctuating amounts of energy and are tough to accurately predict. These sources are risky for investors, and these concerns have hindered their growth in the energy market. Hydrokinetic power, on the other hand, is mostly installed in man-made irrigation canals which produce consistent, controllable, and measurable water flows. The only drought periods with hydrokinetic energy will take place when canals are shut down, often for a month at a time, but these periods will be anticipated and known well beforehand. This is a major advantage over other clean energy sources, as it makes hydrokinetic power much more appealing to investors and utilities, giving it more potential for substantial growth.
Reliable energy output is not hydrokinetic power’s only economic strength. Because of the vast amount of man-made canals worldwide, the necessary infrastructure for effective hydrokinetic power is already in place. Other energy sources, again including solar and wind power, present costly, time-consuming, and an overall daunting task of constructing the necessary infrastructure. Wind and solar farms require large plots of land and are incredibly expensive to construct, while their small-scale products are often unreliable depending on location. Infrastructure, its associated high costs, and finding the necessary land, are not obstacles for hydrokinetic power.
One reason why hydrokinetic power isn’t getting the attention it deserves is due to the large focus on hydropower. This is understandable considering that hydropower currently produces 7% of the United States’ energy, including roughly 68% in WA state. However, hydrokinetics pose a strong alternative to hydropower as they don’t present any of hydropower’s environmental problems, such as encroaching upon nature due to damming and/or lowering the water level, impacting water flow, and the health of fish stocks. It also, as stated earlier, doesn’t require the massive infrastructure hydropower does.
Hydrokinetic power also boasts an incredibly quick and easy installation process. Because the infrastructure is already in place, hydrokinetic turbines can create power within a day of installation. The ability to provide an instant output within already existing infrastructure makes hydrokinetic power a reliable, cost-effective, and adaptable clean energy source.
With these significant advantages over other energy sources, hopefully hydrokinetic power will receive more attention as a major player in the shift to clean energy. What do you think? Please feel free to comment below.