A first array of clean-energy turbines tapping the fast-flowing US Gulf Stream could be turning next year following trials of three ocean current energy technologies off Florida by developer OceanBased Perpetual Energy (OPE).

The three-day tests of the turbines, carried out with the Florida Atlantic University’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Centre (SNMREC) at a location some 20 miles (32km) off the coast, represents the first time energy has been harnessed from the Gulf Stream for a full 24 hours using “only the water’s perpetual flow”.

“This historic demonstration shows the world that the Gulf Stream can produce clean, renewable perpetual power on a 24-hour-a-day basis using a variety of turbine concepts,” said OPE chairman Nasser Alshemaimry.

“It is the starting point for commercialising ocean current energy in the Gulf Stream, thus reducing fossil fuel dependency and benefiting our climate and the planet for generations to come.”

He told Recharge: “The process to install 3-5MW next year [starts now]. We are in the process of licensing by the federal and state governments. Stakeholders’ outreach will start next week and will take few months. Bottom line, from now on, all it needs is licensing and permits."

Data collection for an in-stream energy project at the site off Florida has been underway for over nine years.

The US Department of Energy estimates that the Gulf Stream could flow a total of up to 45TWh/year of electricity to the state grid, equal “to 2-3 of Florida’s nuclear generation plants”, noted Alshemaimry.

The seatrials, carried out from the research vessel Go America, “bode well” for future development of commercial ocean current power plants “to harness and distribute” the Gulf Stream’s energy in Florida, he added.

As part of the project, OPE engineers have mapped out use of a seabed-based power substation to receive incoming electricity from the Gulf Stream, which flows at 3.5-5.5 miles per hour (5.5-9kph), relay the power down a seabed cable running 15-20 miles back to landfall.

OPE envisions the land-based substation connect to the national electricity grid would be part of a larger facility that powered hydrogen fuel plants, blockchain mining or server and data storage centres .

OceanBased formed its strategic partnership with FAU’s SNMREC in 2019 to advance the company’s hydrokinetic research into responsible marine-based power generation.