Marine engineers have been trying to reduce or eliminate the vortex-induced vibrations caused by water flowing over cylindrical rods for years. The oscillations damage offshore oil rigs and other marine structures relying on cylindrical posts. Vortex Hydro Energy CTO and Professor of Marine Engineering at the University of Michigan Michael Bernitsas was among the engineers trying to reduce this effect when he realized it might be possible to enhance the vibrations and use them to generate clean, inexpensive power. This lead Bernitsas and fellow researchers at the University of Michigan’s Marine Renewal Energy Laboratory to the VIVACE converter.
In addition to their configurability and modular design, VIVACE converters can effectively generate power from much slower currents than most turbines and other water-based power generators. Turbines typically require at least five knot currents but the majority of water flows at less than three knots. VIVACE works without problems in these flows. In addition, turbines can negatively impact marine life, but VIVACE takes advantage of natural phenomenon that fish encounter regularly and should not interfere with their habitat at all.