Could sea-current generator be used here?
Bermuda could be a testing ground for a prototype technology that generates electricity from slow-moving water currents.
And in the long-run the Island might be able to harness a constant, renewable energy source to reduce or replace its reliance on fossil fuel to generate electricity.
The Waterotor device has undergone $14 million worth of development and has attracted purchase agreements worth $4 million even before any promotional campaign begins.
Now a suitable location is being sought where a working prototype can be demonstrated later this year. California is one possibility, however Canada-based inventor and company boss Fred Ferguson is open to the idea of bringing the device, and likely accompanying worldwide interest, to Bermuda.
What is needed is a serious expression of interest, and the pinpointing of an offshore location with a steady water current of two miles per hour or more.
Mr Ferguson has ties to the Island, which he has visited “hundreds of times”. He is a friend of businessman Kenny DeFontes, and his brother John Ferguson was news director with the Bermuda Broadcasting Company between 1968 and 1978.
A few years ago, at the invitation of Bacardi family member Carlos Bosch, he met with Belco’s then-president Vince Ingham to talk about the alternative energy technology, which at the time was still in the early stages of development.
“We looked at Bermuda a few years ago. When I met Vince (Ingham) he was intrigued and people seemed to be open to the idea,” Mr Ferguson said.
Since then things have moved on considerably. The technology has been trialed and tested and is now on the cusp of being promoted to the world.
The Waterotor uses a rolling drum-like system to generate power by capturing the push of water. Mechanical energy from the rotating drum is converted to electrical energy through on-board generators. The device can function anywhere that has a water current of two miles per hour or faster. The “sweet point” is in a current of around 4mph.
The invention is fully submersible and can be hung from buoys or anchored to the seafloor. It has no open propeller-like blades and rotates at the same speed as the water current, so it will not disturb fish, Mr Ferguson said.
In slow moving water currents the Waterotor can produce electricity costing as little as five cents per kilowatt hour.
Initial models of the device will generate between 5 kilowatts and 20KW, however greater levels of electricity output would be achieved by linking an array of the Waterotors together, with an underwater cable bringing the generated electricity ashore.
Mr Ferguson said scaled-up versions of the Waterotor will be able to generate one megawatt (MW) each.
“That’s something we may see in two or three years. They would obviously be for deep sea use, and we are talking about a lot of power that can be trunked back ashore,” he said.
Mr Ferguson has been involved in research and development of aerospace technologies for many decades, including development of the Magnus Spherical Airship.
He set up Waterotor Energy Technologies (WET) in 2010 to develop and promote the Waterotor technology.
Interest in the Waterotor devices has grown, and the company has been offered a joint venture to build up to 2,000 of the devices with a government group in the Philippines led by Manny Pacquiao, winner of multiple world boxing titles and a Philippine congressman.
The firm also has purchase agreements in place with the Federated States of Micronesia and a number of other Pacific Ocean jurisdictions.
Construction of the Waterotors will be undertaken by two large North American engineering firms.
Mr Ferguson said for small communities or resorts, having a number of the Waterotors in operation would give a reliable and cost-effective source of renewable energy.
As a benchmark, he said the devices would cost the equivalent of a fossil fuel generator together with a one-year supply of fuel. However, Waterotors are designed to last many years with minimal downtime. Any disruption from maintenance could be mitigated by running a number of the devices in tandem, giving some spare redundancy capacity.
Mr Ferguson said resorts and small communities could create and operate their own “micro grid” with electricity from an array of the devices.
The generation of electricity on a larger scale, allowing it to be plugged into a national power grid, is also envisaged.
When asked if Bermuda could make use of the technology, Mr Ferguson said he would be open to the opportunity of bringing a prototype device to the Island to demonstrate.
Now could be a fortuitous time to do so. In the House of Assembly last Friday, the Bermuda Government tabled its draft Electricity Bill, through which it hopes to encourage alternative power suppliers to enter the domestic market.
The vacant “finger” runway at LF Wade International Airport has been cited as a possible location for a solar farm, while energy company Belco is preparing to release to regulators its Integrated Resource Plan, which will feature natural gas and solar energy solutions.
Belco’s power plant in Pembroke burns heavy oil and diesel to generate electricity. The company reported that peak demand last year was 107MW, down from 123MW as recently as 2010.
Mr Ferguson said the Waterotor would be a perfect energy generating system for Bermuda if there is a constant water current that can be identified.
With the Waterotor at the prototype stage he said he would be happy, if asked to do so, to bring one of the devices to Bermuda to demonstrate its effectiveness.
Mr Ferguson would need someone to identify suitable locations where there is a constant water current of 2mph or more, which he feels is feasible as the Island is on the fringe of the Gulf Stream.
“Maybe there is someone in Bermuda who would like to get involved,” he said.
Further details about Waterotor technology can be found at the website: www.waterotor.com
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