Confinement-Exploiting Cross-Flow Turbine Arrays

Default ARPA-E Project Image

Seattle, Washington
Project Term:
08/23/2021 - 08/22/2024

Technology Description:

The bottom, sides, and surface of rivers and tidal channels confine water flow, which significantly alters the operation of river and tidal turbines. As turbines harness the momentum of the moving water, they alter the flow around them—water passing through the blades of the turbine is slowed while water passing around the blades speeds up. When the area that a turbine array presents to the flow is an appreciable fraction of the channel cross-sectional area, changes to the flow increase array power output and efficiency. When the array turbines are in close proximity, mutual interactions can further increase power output. The University of Washington proposes a control co-design process that combines advances in turbine control strategies, hydrodynamic configurations, and blade geometry optimization to capitalize on unsteady non-linear fluid dynamics. Experimentally optimized designs will be scaled up through validated simulations to evaluate the structural requirements for turbine blades. The team will focus on cross-flow current turbines, which are well-suited to achieving high confinement in river and tidal channels. The project aims to demonstrate a significant step-change up in efficiency with a step-change down in cost of energy.

Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable energy source that presents unique opportunities and benefits.

Potential Impact:

Hydrokinetic energy is an abundant renewable energy source that presents unique opportunities and benefits.


Diverse renewable energy resources can boost grid resiliency and reduce infrastructure vulnerabilities.


HKTs, used to capture energy from tides, rivers, canals, and ocean currents, optimize a clean, renewable power source that could help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


Hydrokinetic energy has applications beyond solely providing power to electrical grids. It is ideally suited to the emerging technologies and markets built upon ocean- and riverine-based infrastructure, including climatological observation, aquaculture, desalination, ocean floor and seawater mining, disaster recovery, powering isolated communities, and autonomous underwater vehicle support.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Mario Garcia-Sanz
Project Contact:
Dr. Brian Polagye
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

Related Projects

Release Date: