The metallic, wheel-shaped object looks like something taken off a spaceship from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a futuristic creation born from a 15-year labor of science and love.
However, Geoff Greene’s invention is anything but science fiction. It’s a water turbine, and its unusual approach to creating hydro-power is being seen as an example of how genuine “green” energy can be created in a time when cheap and renewable power sources are in high demand.
Only one working Greene Turbine exists so far, and it’s on display at the Agricenter east of Memphis. Greene and a Memphis renewable energy consulting company are working to prove his turbine can help satisfy the nation’s power needs in an inexpensive way– and make him some money in the process.
“It’s too simple. It has to work,” Greene said Wednesday.
The turbine was moored and halfway submerged in the Mississippi River in Memphis in April, in front of interested onlookers including the Tennessee Valley Authority. The 18-foot diameter turbine spun properly and generated small amount of power.
Since then, Greene and Pete Moss, president of consultant Frazier, Barnes and Associates, have developed a business plan and are beginning a search for investors to help raise $5 million to develop and build 34-foot hydrokinetic turbines at $150,000 each.
Using water movement to generate energy is not new. But Greene’s innovation is to produce clean energy more cheaply by using water currents and avoiding the costly and time-consuming effort of building a dam or power plant.
Greene and Moss want to start operating 1 megawatt facilities at Cates Landing and Memphis, to see if the turbines will work over an extended time period. Each river turbine would generate 135 kilowatts of power, enough to continually power 100 homes, Greene said.
Greene’s long-term vision is to install his turbines in oceans to add juice to the nation’s electrical grids. The ocean turbines would be 250 feet in diameter and generate enough power to run electricity in 1,000 homes.