RiverStar systems can be connected together.

Image courtesy of Bourne Energy

Limitations of RiverStar

RiverStar sounds like an ideal solution to the world's continually growing energy demands. The question is -- can it deliver? Bourne Energy is still a startup company. It doesn't yet have the funding or capacity to produce the number of RiverStar systems it envisions, and it has yet to install one of these systems, so it's impossible to know at this time whether RiverStar might have any serious limitations.

One of the problems in getting a new hydropower system implemented is securing governmental licensing approval, according to Chris Catlin. The company has to get permission to place its system in rivers where people live and work. RiverStar would also have to be tested to make sure it is leaving little or no environmental footprint. In the United States, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues licenses for companies to build and operate hydroelectric power projects. License applications usually take about two years to approve, and so far, Bourne Energy has not filed an application with the FERC to implement its RiverStar system in the United States.

Although Bourne Energy has not yet installed a RiverStar system, Catlin says that there has been some interest in the system internationally. The company has already signed a letter of intent with the Chinese government. Other countries have also indicated their interest.

RiverStar is not the only hydropower system of its kind. Other companies are also in the process of developing similar projects. Verdant Power, based in New York and Canada, is planning to test a kinetic hydropower system on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, Canada. This system also uses underwater turbines, which the company says could generate up to 15 megawatts of energy for the local area [source: Verdant Power].

For now, the question of whether a hydropower system like RiverStar will become a major new source of energy in the future remains unanswered.