In late august, Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Phil Moller inaugurated the nation’s first federally licensed hydrokinetic power project in Hastings, Minn. Driven by the flow of the Mississippi River, a 100-kilowatt (kW) hydrokinetic turbine made by Hydro Green Energy is now generating electricity day and night, every day of the year except for periodic maintenance, and sending power to the grid. This is a major milestone for hydrokinetic power and for U.S. renewable energy by the very fact that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved this first commercial project by a 5–0 vote in December 2008, and the installation was fast-tracked.

Hydrokinetic power is different than a conventional hydroelectric. A turbine captures energy from water moving at low speeds without requiring a dam or diversionary structure to direct the flow. Hydrokinetic turbines also can be installed in tidal flows, ocean currents or manmade channels. Opponents claim it adversely affects marine life, so the Hastings project had to pass a stringent environmental test before it could be commissioned.

The city of Hastings had been operating 4.4 megawatt run-of-river hydropower plant on the Mississippi at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lock and Dam No. 2, which was built in 1930. The new hydrokinetic turbine is mounted under a barge anchored just downstream from the dam. Hydro Green Energy tested and calibrated the turbine for several months before it was officially commissioned.

“This stakeholder education will allow the industry to grow and to better contribute to achieving the energy, economic and environmental goals laid out by the Obama administration,” said Wayne F. Krouse, chairman and CEO of Hydro Green Energy.

A second turbine, with increased power and efficiency is scheduled to be installed at Hastings next spring. Hydro Green Energy holds U.S. and international patents on its turbine technology that operates in open rivers, existing hydropower facilities, locks and dams and in cooling water systems at thermal power plants. The company is developing waterpower projects in 14 states with estimated generation of nearly 500 megawatts of renewable energy.