Beginning in 2013, the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust funded UAF-NNMREC to transform a modular pontoon barge into a mobile research platform suitable for testing and monitoring river energy converters (REC). The barge was donated to UAF by Alaska Power and Telephone (AP&T) at the conclusion of a Denali Commission/Alaska Energy Authority funded REC demonstration project carried out in Eagle, AK. As part of the AP&T project, the barge served as the platform for deploying a 25 kW New Energy “Encurrent” hydrokinetic turbine. In the course of the UAF Murdock Trust project the pontoon width was increased in order to increase the barge’s carrying capacity and stability. Numerous winches, davit wells and a hydraulic capstan were added to the barge as well. The modified barge was first deployed in Fall 2014 in support of testing of an Oceana Energy, Inc. turbine in Nenana, AK.

During winter 2014/15 the barge is being outfitted with reinforcements for handling nets for fisheries studies as well as with multiple hydraulic winches to increase the flexibility of the barge to serve as a hydrokinetic test and monitoring platform. A separate “pusher” boat is being outfitted to maneuver the barge on Alaska’s numerous large, swift rivers. The pusher boat will also serve as a stable survey vessel for carrying hydrographic surveys with Murdock Trust funded instrumentation such as a Reson Seabat multibeam bathymetric survey system (with Applanix IMU and dual RTK GPS antennae), Nortek ADVs or a Sequoia Scientific LISST. The pusher boat will also be able to accommodate existing UAF-NNMREC survey instrumentation such as ADCPs, a Teledyne Blueview imaging sonar, a Simrad split beam sonar and Trimble RTK GPS receivers. Upon completion of the Murdock Trust project in 2015, the barge and pusher boat system will comprise a unique platform for carrying out in-river hydrokinetic research studies including monitoring of fisheries/turbine interactions, characterizing river borne debris and its potential for impacting hydrokinetic energy converter operations or for flow and turbulence studies in river environments.

Pictured here: Photo courtesy of Paul Duvoy, UAF-NNMREC. The Murdock Trust funded pontoon research platform near Nenana, AK during Sept. 2014. The Oceana REC is shown on-deck on the downstream side of the instrument tent.