Vortex Hydro Energy, a spinout of renewable power research at the University of Michigan, is installilng its first major “hydrokinetic” power generating device in the St. Clair River off Port Huron Monday.

Vortex has commercial rights to the research of Michael Bernitsas, a professor of naval architecture and marine engineering at UM. He’s been studying the technology, called VIVACE — for Vortex Induced Vibration Aquatic Clean Energy — since 2005.

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Vortex induced vibration is a well-known problem for bridge and hydropower engineers — the famous film footage of the 1940 Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in Washington state was caused by it. But rather than try to suppress its effects, Bernitsas decided to maximize it and harvest its power. VIVACE can be placed in a river or ocean current to extract energy from moving water. This converter is unlike any existing technology, as it does not use turbines, propellers, or dams.

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For a look at how VIVACE works, see www.vortexhydroenergy.com/technology.

The St. Clair River was identified as an ideal location to launch the VIVACE converter and the community has come together to host Vortex Hydro Energy. Several local St. Clair County based businesses have stepped up to provide support for this project. Specifically, Dunn Paper, a manufacturer of specialty papers has donated facilities and resources, including access to the river as a launch space for the VIVACE.

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