The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided to award a $15,000 grant to a student at the University of California, Riverside, for his idea to capture energy from ocean currents.
Raul Delga Delgadillo is planning to develop a small-scale turbine and buoy system and test it in a flow tank to determine the best possible way to extract maximum energy.
Delgadillo anticipates the system will provide the same amount of energy generated from an average wind turbine.
The US Department of Energy earlier said that wave and tidal energy, combined with other water-powered sources, may provide 15% of the total electricity in the US by 2030.
Delgadillo said, "The ocean remains an untapped frontier as a renewable energy source."
Delgadillo's project proposes several designs, which include a buoy to allow the device to move around until an optimum location is found.
The telescoping feature on the turbine will enable it to vary in height and remain stationary if waves are present.
The university said current proposals to harness energy from ocean currents require the turbine to be anchored to the ocean floor using cables or rigid supports.
The existing proposals are expected to add significant costs, disrupt the environment as the ocean floor needs to be excavated and limits the mobility of the turbine.
Delgadillo anticipates that challenges for his project include varying flow rates from ocean currents due to seasonal fluctuations, the fact that depth and contours of ocean floors can affect ocean currents, and avoiding harming marine life.
Delgadillo expects to perform experiments in a flow tank in the lab of Marco Princevac, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, in the coming months.
The information gathered from the experiments will be used to write a proposal for a second round of funding to secure $90,000 from the EPA.
Image: Raul Delga Delgadillo stands in front of the flow tank, which will be used in his research. Photo: courtesy of University of California, Riverside.