Mississippi River to Be Tested for Use as New Hydroelectric Energy Source

Tue January 19, 2010 - Southeast Edition
CEG



VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) Vicksburg and Warren County officials have endorsed a project to test whether the waters of the Mississippi River can be used to produce hydroelectric power.

Free Flow Power Corp., based in Gloucester, Mass., has proposed sinking energy-generating turbines in the river near Vicksburg. It has applied for a $750,000 grant from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA).

The Vicksburg Post said the company is not seeking financial support from local governments as part of the MDA application.

Robert Crear, a retired brigadier general with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told city and county officials that the company was open to talking about selling portions of electricity to local governments, preferably later in the federal permitting process.

Free Flow is one of two turbine developers that have applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to use river currents to spin turbines and make about 20 kilowatts of electricity. Officials said that is not enough to serve an entire city but could supplement an existing power grid.

Crear, a member of Free Flow’s board of directors, said a pilot project in Vicksburg “would show the technology works.”

A grant should be awarded in March and would pay 75 percent of costs to sink a turbine near a riverside industry, with the company picking up 25 percent.

Crear said Free Flow is in talks with two companies with “riverside frontage” for access to the river. The company would expect construction to take six months.

“This is unique and exciting technology,” Mayor Paul Winfield said Jan. 4. “Most of us in the city of Vicksburg know that we haven’t utilized our river to its fullest potential. This is an excellent way to do it, through this type of green technology.”

Full licensing is expected by 2012 for turbines proposed at 55 sites on the Mississippi south of St. Louis. Two are situated in Warren County, near the Brunswick community and another south of Vicksburg near Davis Island.

Crear said turbines would be placed or suspended in the stream below the navigation channel to avoid interference from shipping, with the pilot project to be placed on a floatable mount.

Issaquena County has an agreement with Louisiana-based MARMC Enterprises to share power sales from a pair of 5-megawatt turbines proposed in the river near Fitler Bend and Addie.

A third turbine developer Hydro Green Energy, plans two turbines on the Tennessee-Tombigbee River after permits secured last year for Vicksburg and Vidalia, La., were surrendered and plans shifted.