UEK Delaware, L.P. a Frankford based tidal energy company, recently received notice of a grant approval from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC) Green Energy Office.
The grant will be for the company to install a three foot twin turbine at the power plant in Millsboro. Once that is tested, they will be able to add four more for a total of five, and that will be able to generate 442 kilowatt hours a year of kinetic energy at the Indian River Power Plant to aid in the outflow for their cooling towers. The project will reduce the cost of running the cooling tower by about 17 percent and acts as a way to reduce the total pollution per kilowatt without a total system upgrade.
Tidal power, or tidal energy, produced by tidal stream generators, is produced much like wind turbines except the source of the power is the movement of the water caused by tidal currents or the fluctuation of the sea level due to the tide. Because water is much denser than air, the generators can produce a significant amount of power.
David Rickards, General Partner of UEK Delaware said that the company tried to get started in 2004 with a project in the Indian River Inlet. The goal then was to generate about 10 mw of power at the inlet. He brought the inventor and his partner, Philippe Vauthier in to talk with local fisherman in the area but the project was “shut down before it got going.” The company plans to try that project again once the new administration is in place.
Currently, the company builds their prototypes in a small building in Annapolis but has plans to build an assembly plant for all small units for the country in the Seaford Industrial Park, with plans to eventually bring the entire manufacturing segment of UEK Corporation to Delaware. “We have been swamped for requests,” said Rickards. “Since the rate increase in May people have been coming out of the woodwork.”
Rickards said one company out of Ireland, Open Hydro, is the first company in operation generating electricity connected to the grid. UEK Delaware is one of three companies worldwide selected for a project in the Fundy Bay in Nova Scotia, along with Open Hydro and a Canadian company. Right now they have requests from Mississippi for units to be installed along the Mississippi River, from North Dakota, and from Japan among others. Rickards said Old Dominion out of Virginia has already offered to buy all the power they can generate.
Rickards got involved with the now-defunct Inland Bays Advisory Group in 1999 to study ways to reduce pollution and according to him, natural alternative energy stood out. After going online researching underwater turbines using tidal power, Rickards came upon UEK Corporation, an Annapolis-based company that had been in operation since 1981.
After educating himself and meeting with the founder, Philippe Vauthier, he asked if they had ever looked at the Indian River Inlet.
“They came down and did a preliminary test and found that the current is immense, which we here all know, and they asked if I could help get permits and they drew me in and it morphed from there. After that initial 2003 meeting, I ended up the marketing manager and partner,” he explained.
Rickards said the thing that sets tidal energy apart from other renewable energy sources is cost.
“For a 10-megawatt system, it’s about $1,100-1,400 per kilowatt hour which is just as cheap as coal, damn near half the cost of wind and solar is even higher than that,” he said. “It’s inexpensive and super-efficient.”
In addition to the production and manufacturing, the company is pursuing becoming an Independent Power Producer (IPP) with several of their other projects. According to Rickards, the collection of the energy from proposed sites will produce energy that will be competitively priced with current energy pricing and UEK Delaware will have an open market in which to sell and distribute the accumulated energy.
UEK Delaware is a privately-held company energy specializing in the manufacturing of UEK Corporation designed and patented Hydro-kinetic turbines. Hydro-kinetic turbines harvest the kinetic energy created by river currents, outward flow of industrial spillways, and the incoming and outgoing tidal currents.
“Our goal is to begin the developmental stages of tidal turbine production as soon as possible,” said Rickards. “In the final analysis, the deployment of tidal turbines in local communities will go a long way to move our area to energy independence.”
And for the grant from the Green Energy Fund, Rickards is hopeful of what that stands for.
“I love it,” he said of receiving notification about the grant. “It shows that the energy department of DNREC sees the potential benefits we can generate for Delaware and are supportive of us. They are doing all they can and I’m quite proud of that. And any money you don’t have to pay back is that much better.”
The grant from the Delaware Green Energy Office can cover about 25% of the project at the power plant, or about $62,400. Rickards says they are doing all they can to secure other funding and the company will be holding an informative investors meeting on Thursday, Aug. 7, at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Express on Route 1 in Bethany Beach.