January 28, 2012
What is an Underwater Turbine?
An underwater turbine is a device that generates electricity from moving water currents or ocean tides. Strong water currents and ocean tides are a great source of kinetic energy. An underwater turbine exploits the kinetic energy from water using turbine blades that rotate with an attached turbine generator that can generate electricity.
An underwater turbine closely resembles a wind turbine but instead of passing air molecules, the water is what spins the blade of the turbine. Underwater turbines can be strategically located in areas with consistently strong currents which will provide ample water flow needed for electric generation.
The Advantages of Underwater Turbines
An important advantage of underwater turbines is that water is more dense than air, which means that an underwater turbine can reach the necessary rotating speeds for electrical generation from slowly moving water. A wind turbine needs much higher wind speeds to operate efficiently than the water current speed needed to operate an underwater turbine.
These turbines also require no land space, only underwater space for construction. Another advantage is that they release no carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere while being operated.
Disadvantages of Underwater Turbines
Underwater turbines can disrupt natural underwater environments. They can be hazardous to fish or other mammals that used the ocean current for migration, feeding, or breeding. The construction of underwater turbines can release harmful pollutants into the water and the atmosphere.
There are also theories about how underwater turbines could potentially disrupt other ocean currents and the general water flow of different areas of the ocean. There is little data to support the potential changes underwater turbines could support in the ocean, but these underwater energy exchanges could eventually have drastic effects in natural ocean environments.
Underwater Turbines in the East River
There will be 30 underwater turbines mounted in the East River in New York off the coast of Roosevelt Island. The total electric capacity will be around 1 megawatt, which could be enough to power 1,000 homes with electricity.