Power from the water

Workers lower a Verdant turbine into the East River.

Looks like it’s a go for a tidal turbine system in New York City’s East River.

Earlier this week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the commercial license for the project — the first of its kind in the U.S.

Verdant Power will install perhaps 30 underwater turbines along a 21-acre stretch of the river, where strong tidal currents will generate power and send it to the grid.

More such projects are sure to be on the way.

Earlier this month, the Department of Energy released two nationwide assessments showing that tidal currents and coastal ocean waves could “contribute significantly to the country’s annual electricity production, further diversify the nation's energy portfolio, and provide clean, renewable energy to coastal cities and communities.”

It concluded that water power — which includes these newer technologies as well as conventional hydropower from dams — could provide as much as 15 percent of the nation’s electricity needs by 2030.

A Princeton company, Ocean Power Technologies, is one of the leaders in exploring the potential of power from waves.

It has deployed a “PowerBuoy” about 20 miles off the New Jersey coast as a demonstration project, and the company happily reported last fall that it withstood Hurricane Irene just fine — including wave heights of nearly 50 feet.