Active Research Projects
AHERC’s primary research goals are focused on understanding the interaction of hydrokinetic turbines with Alaskan river and marine waterways and to use this knowledge to optimize performance and reduce challenges to installation, operation, and maintenance.
AHERC will continue to work with industry, agency, research, and engineering partners to define research needs, identify potential funding sources and collaboratively build research teams tailor-made for specific multi-disciplinary solutions.
Role of Research
Currently, there are many external factors Alaska must address that present challenges to developing a hydrokinetic power generation industry. The primary goal (and challenge) is to determine where the most suitable locations to produce and supply hydrokinetic power are located. This requires determining the factors that affect the economic feasibility of hydrokinetic projects, for example:
1. Characterizing the hydrodynamic conditions of likely resource locations at various scales (regional, local, and site specific).
2. Determining the proximity of the resource to population centers and/or transmission grids.
3. Determining the factors that affect deployment, operation, and maintenance of hydrokinetic infrastructure.
Hydrodynamic conditions of interest include the hydrokinetic power density, turbulence, and sediment transport that affect turbine power production potential, the stress regime acting on a turbine, turbine component wear, river/ocean bed stability, and turbine anchor performance. Proximity to population centers and electrical grids affect the economics of transmitting power to users, but also introduce the need to consider community acceptance of this technology and integration of hydrokinetic turbine produced power with other power sources on electric grids. The ability to deploy, operate and maintain hydrokinetic infrastructure are influenced by varied and multifaceted physical and regulatory factors that are related to how turbines interact with aquatic environments (i.e., (1) how the aquatic environment affects the turbine and (2) how the turbine affects the aquatic environment).
To determine how turbines interact with aquatic environments it is first necessary to understand the baseline aquatic environmental conditions, such as hydrodynamic conditions, benthic environment, fish and mammals, sediment transport, debris and ice, and stakeholder usage and acceptance. Once baseline conditions are known then interactions between turbines and the aquatic environment can be observed to determine how debris, turbulence, ice, sediment, and other factors affect turbine performance (e.g., fatigue loading, component wear, debris pileup and impact loads, anchor performance). It also becomes possible to examine turbine effects on the aquatic environment (e.g., current flow regimes, fishes and mammals, sediment and erosion, and stakeholder usage, river and marine navigation impacts, benthic habitat modification).