By Crystal Britt
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Plans are in the works to potentially bring cheaper, cleaner electricity to the Cape Girardeau area by producing hydrokinetic generation through the power of the Mississippi River.
A company called Free Flow Power is working on getting a massive project going from St. Louis to New Orleans all along the river.
Cape Girardeau happens to be on the list.
"In the Cape Girardeau area we're looking at about 5,500 turbines in this area," said Cape Girardeau Interim City Manager Ken Eftink.
Eftink's learning a lot about the potential project. He says Free Flow Power is looking at two sites along the river at Cape.
"The first from the Bill Emerson Bridge up to Cape Rock Park," said Eftink. "The other site is the Cape bend site which basically flows around the Marquette Island."
Here's how it would work. The company would install what looks like underwater jet engines. Those turbines would function like windmills.
"The current of the river flows through and turns the turbines," said Eftink. "There would be power lines running from the turbines up to the bank and feeding that electric into the electrical grid system we have here in place."
They would either go on the bed of the river, or Eftink says "They could put them on floating devices and they could drop down in the river. I'm sure their engineers are still looking at that."
"It's an exciting project, but we have questions that need to be answered," Eftink said.
There are some environmental concerns, like could this endanger wildlife?
"We also are concerned about our industries along the river. We have the Semo Port," said Eftink. "We want to (be) sure there's no negative impact on them."
Those are all issues Free Flow Power's Director of Project Development, Jon Guidroz, says the company's looking into as well.
This would be the first time Free Flow Power's taken on a river project.
"If this works the way we intend it to, the United States is going to have a really big leap forward in clean renewable generation," said Jon Guidroz.
Guidroz says the turbines would require a lot of maintenance, so we're also talking new jobs.
"We're looking at about 4000 jobs on the Mississippi River if we develop all our projects at the fullest extreme,"said Guidroz.
No word yet on whether companies like Ameren would get on board.
This is still in the planning stages, and there are a lot of questions for the company to answer from various agencies.
Guidroz with Free Flow Power says there's a five year licensing process, so if all goes as planned they'd get started in 2013.
Heartland News is also told there will be public hearings in the future. Watch Heartland News for further announcements.