Ocean Renewable Power Company

Operational Excellence

RivGen® Power System Commercialization Project

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Summary

Ocean Renewable Power Company successfully deployed the RivGen® Power System, a submersible hydrokinetic system designed for river and shallow tidal applications. RivGen supplied one-third of the power for the remote Alaskan village of Igiugig – demonstrating the viability of the marine energy technology for rural communities worldwide.

Background and Challenge

The cost of generating electricity in Igiugig is nearly $0.80/kWh (the national average is $0.10/kWh) due to its reliance on diesel generation. This project was a critical and positive step forward in reducing the cost and environmental impacts of electricity generation in Igiugig and “islanded” rural river communities of millions of people worldwide. Finding affordable energy is often key to their sustainability.

By successfully installing and operating a submersible hydrokinetic system designed for river and shallow tidal applications in a remote, off-grid community and offsetting the community’s diesel fuel consumption by one-third with economical, clean, locally-produced, renewable energy source, ORPC met and accomplished the goals set forth in this project.

Innovation

ORPC’s RivGen® Power System was designed to facilitate installation and retrieval using local equipment, resources and personnel. The turbine generator unit (TGU) is connected to an innovative pontoon support structure which is submerged and raised to the river surface using ballasting. This process eliminates the need for significant marine assets and can be achieved with the use of a small support vessel and an air compression unit.

Results

2015 RivGen® project highlights include:
1. The successful “self-deployment” of the RivGen® device using only local vessels and labor;
2. Interconnection with the Igiugig distribution grid, through which the RivGen® System delivered about one-third of the community’s electricity needs;
3. Demonstration of the efficacy of ORPC’s latest technological enhancements;
4. The collection of significant environmental interaction data during the project, including approximately 1.35 million adult sockeye salmon passing by the device in a 3-day period. Through the project’s biological studies, no obvious physical injuries to fish were detected, and no altered behavior by wildlife near the RivGen® device observed.
5. The University of Washington, a partner in the Northwest National Marine Renewable EnergyCenter, participated in the project as part of a U.S. Dept. of Energy funded project to develop advanced control systems for marine hydrokinetic devices to improve performance of such
devices in turbulent current conditions.

Stakeholder Quotes

On July 1, ORPC hosted Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in Igiugig to show her the RivGen® device prior to deployment. Following her tour of the RivGen® Project, Sen. Murkowski remarked, “The system being tested at Igiugig offers tremendous promise for so many of Alaska’s nearly 100 villages located along rivers to finally be able to use the power of nature’s flowing water in an economic and environmentally sensitive way. This is an important project because it could provide a blueprint for how to reduce rural electricity costs in the future.”

“Igiugig Village has welcomed ORPC for another deployment season, and the community has participated in and watched each milestone with enthusiasm and support. The combination of the ORPC professionals with our local contractors has once again made an awesome team resulting in a very successful operation,” said AlexAnna Salmon, Igiugig Village Council President. “The Kvichak River is now putting clean power into our local grid without a glitch and the community is triumphant!”