A New Jersey company is seeking to capitalize on an invention that could utilize ocean and river water currents to generate electricity, and wants federal government loan guarantees to build a prototype plant.
The ocean turbine was invented by Pro. William J. Mouton Jr., a civil engineer at Turbane University, and David F. Thompson, of Prospect Park, Pa., head of a firm that designs and manufacturers propellers and rotors.
F. G. Walton Cmith, president of the International Oceanographic Foundation and director of the Planet Ocean Museum in Miami, has hailed the turbine as one of the most feasible new energy proposals.
And S. David Freeman, senior aide to White House energy adviser James Schlesinger, said that while he lacks "sufficient technical expertise" to offer a judgement to the ocean turbine's potential contribution to the growing energy crisis. "It is intriguing to me . . . it did look like an interesting technological option."
Stanley M. Baron, head of the developer, a Pennsauken. N.J., firm called Hydro-Energy Associates, recently met with Freeman to discuss the turbine system. Baron recently met also with an Energy Research and Development Administration group to explain the concept further.
Hydro-Energy has spent about $500,000 to date to develop the invention and build and test a model. The company holds patients on the turbine in the U.S. and 23 other nations.
Baron said in an interview that the ocean turbines would be submerged approximately 95 feet below the water surface, where they could not interfere with shipping and where they would be unaffected by storms.
An initial turbine location has been proposed off Florida in the powerful Gulf Stream. Baron said the turbines could be used in other major water currents throughout the world.
Water flowing through a turbine would turn blades; generators would produced electricity form the rotating rim of the turbine, and underground cables would transmit power to the shore, where it would be sold to local utility companies.
Other variations and sizes of turbines could be built for use in rivers or tidal areas with a string flow of water.
Baron said the water turbines would cost less to construct and operate than generating plants that use oil, coal or nuclear power. In addition, no fuel would be consumed to generate electricity: the source of energy, water currents, cannot be depleted; and there would be no pollution or danger to animal life.
Big fish, for example, would be funneled away from the turbine by special netting, while small fish would simply flow through the turbine and not be affected, Baron said.
A full-scale ocean turbine would measure 400 feet in diameter and would cost $55 million, producing up to 100,000 kilowatts of power (one tenth the output of a modern nuclear plant).
A larger ocean turbine would be 600 feet in diameter and could produce up to 165,000 kilowatts at a cost $80 million, Baron said. The cost of less than $500 for each kilowatt of capacity compares with more than $1,200 for nuclear power, and $1,50 for oil or coal, according to energy industry data.
Water power plants have undergone centuries of development.Hydroelectric power produced by damming rivers of using available waterfalls is one of the most efficient methods of production relatively cheap electricity.
Baron said he is not seeking a "gift" or "handout" to begin construction on an initial ocean turbine. But, in view of looming energy shortages, the government should consider some form of loan guarantees to help initial financing, he said.
Specifically, Baron noted that the Maritime Administration makes loan guarantees for construction of ships to carry liquified natural gas and for offshore oil rigs.
The Ford administration's approval of $730 million in loan guarantees for seven LNG tankers does nothing to solve energy shortages, Baron stated. But an $80 million guarantee for the ocean turbine could be the start of a major national effort to rival construction of Liberty ships in the war years, he asserted.
"The concept's been around a long time, but it never has been achieved in an efficient manner," Baron said. One hour of generation from the proposed ocean turbine would exceed all of the output per hour of windmill and solar projects now being funded by federal research dollars, according to the Hydro-Energy Associates data.