|According to the International Energy Agency and the US Department of Energy, renewable energy sources' share of the electricity market is expected to rise from 20% in 2009 to at least 50% by 2050.
|This prediction conceals an immense challenge – that 80% of renewable electricity currently comes from conventional hydropower – or dams - which entail high capital costs, long lead times and inevitably lead to irreparable social and environmental damage.
|Accordingly, more dams are currently being demolished than built.
|By contrast, marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies draw energy from the natural motion of water flows, precluding the necessity for dam construction. Sources of hydrokinetic power include rivers, tides and ocean currents, all of which are relatively constant, can be predicted with great certainty and are close to the large majority of electricity demand.
|While wind and solar power are making great strides, for all of their benefits they remain intermittent and unpredictable sources of power generation, often far from population centers.
HCR technology will be well positioned to make the most use of tidal, river and ocean flows to address large traditional markets, through utility companies seeking to purchase renewable power. There is significant variation in electricity prices among traditional markets, both within the US and abroad.Early Adopter Markets
Early adopter markets provide an excellent testing ground for new instream technology and allow for flexible siting. There are a number of incentives for communities to invest in renewable technology, including cost advantages, federally subsidized bonds, local job creation, and equity in a high-growth industry. We envision exploiting several early adopter markets, potentially before moving on to traditional markets with larger units.
|Water-based consumers - Bridges and tunnels located above or beneath bodies of flowing water represent attractive early adopting sites for instream hydro applications. The existing infrastructure minimizes mooring/anchoring costs, and the consumer can draw electricity directly from the unit, cutting back on transmission costs. Bridges and tunnels could use the generation to power lights, ventilation, and monitoring systems, while other consumers might include pipelines (pumping stations), undersea monitoring equipment (SONAR), or even lighthouses.
|Conduit hydro - Discharge channels, canals and flumes are widespread in urban and suburban areas and hold great potential for early adopter power production. For example, the New York City transit system operates a network of groundwater discharge tunnels that collectively pump between 20-25 million gallons of water per day.
|Rural areas without a grid connection - HCR technology is especially well-suited to small, isolated markets because of its broad range of operating velocities.
|US Navy and Marine bases - Executive Order 13423 states that US Navy and Marine bases must purchase half of their renewable power from newly developed sources. Since they are major energy consumers, they generally pay a premium rate for electricity when located outside of the US, and are located on coastlines, this is potentially a very large market.
More than 115 countries have either enacted a policy target or incentive program for the development of the renewable energy sector as of 2010, up from just 55 countries in 2005. Furthermore, these policies have continued to become more aggressive and have demonstrated tangible results, with renewable capacity being added more rapidly than conventional fossil fuels in both the US and Europe in the past three years.
In the US, the Marine and Hydrokinetic Renewable Energy Research and Development Act (part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007) was a watershed event as it, for the first time, made the regulatory distinction between advanced water power and conventional hydro. More recently, the proposed, bipartisan Renewable Energy Parity Act aims to provide Production Tax Credit (PTCs) parity between hydropower and other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Currently, hydropower and hydrokinetic technologies receive PTCs worth $10MWh which is only half the PTC as other renewables. Reaching PTC parity with wind and solar would make the HCR even more cost competitive.
New laws and reforms at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have begun to improve the process for advanced water-power licensing and permitting. FERC now allows the issuance of licenses to hydrokinetic energy projects even if other authorizations required under federal law are outstanding.
With these fiscal and political incentives in place, the regulatory climate for hydrokinetic technologies will play an important supporting role propelling our system onto the global stage.