An Australian inventor, Michael Perry, has built a device that generates substantial amounts of energy from underwater river and ocean currents. His Aquanator possesses rows of sail-like ‘aquafoils’, which turn silently powering an on-shore alternator.
Located some distance below the surface, the Aquanator avoids the risk of being a hazard for marine craft. As only one anchor point is required, environmental impact is minimised. A current of as little as 1.5 knots can generate usable power, and energy yield rises exponentially with increasing flow speed. While 2.5 knots produces around seven kilowatt hours (kWh), five knots creates an impressive sixty kWh.
The Aquanator has been developed in Maclean, a small town located on the banks of the wide Clarence River on Australia’s east coast. Following the testing and improvement of prototypes, the device is on the verge of commercialisation. A pilot unit is to be installed in the Clarence late this year, and the regional power utility has signed up to buy its output. This will be sold under the company’s Green Power renewable energy option.
Michael Perry sees river and ocean currents as the world’s largest untapped sources of renewable energy, and also the most economically viable. They are ideal for remote island locations that presently rely on expensive and polluting diesel generators. For many of the world’s cities, harnessing power from slow currents may also be an ideal solution. He would like to see submerged Aquanators being installed around the Australian coast. The Aquanator follows on the heels of Perry’s earlier groundbreaking invention known as Permo-Drive. This unit, which is also being commercialised, captures the braking energy of heavy vehicles, resulting in up to 37% lower fuel consumption.