Idea of water as renewable energy powers up again 

But now the focus is turbines and barges tapping rivers, not concrete dams

By Alan Sayre, AP, July 19, 2011

NEW ORLEANS — The powerful flow of the Mississippi River, which brought destruction to scores living near its flooded banks this spring, is viewed by a new generation of energy entrepreneurs as a reliable alternative way of generating electricity.

These developers aren’t planning giant concrete dam projects that brought electric lights to many Americans for the first time. Instead, their idea is to put turbines on the bottoms of rivers and mount them from barges to spin generators.

It’s all part of the emerging technology of hydrokinetics — using flowing water to generate power without dams.

“If we’re going to control the cost of converting to new forms of energy, hydro has to be part of that equation,” said Jon Guidroz, project development director for Boston-based Free Flow Power, which wants to generate energy from the Mississippi River.

Hydrokinetic generation isn’t a new idea — but only in recent years has technology made it feasible.

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