Graham Sustainability Institute

Harnessing Marine Hydrokinetic Energy in Brazil

U-M Investigators

Michael Bernitsas – Naval & Marine Architecture Engineering


Celso Pesce – University of Sao Paulo
Belmiro Castro – University of Sao Paulo

Project Summary

Marine hydrokinetic (MHK) energy is clean, renewable, and available worldwide. It has two forms: (1) vertical, from ocean waves, and (2) horizontal, from currents, tides, and rivers. The horizontal form can be harnessed using submerged devices such as turbines and watermills, if currents are moving quickly enough (> 3 knots). The University of Michigan’s (U-M) Marine Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed a VIVACE Converter, which is able to generate energy from the slower flows that are more typically observed in rivers and deep ocean currents.

Brazil has access to abundant offshore oil and gas resources, but recognizes the value of harnessing MHK energy from rivers and oceans in an environmentally compatible way.  Collaborators from U-M and the University of Sao Paulo (USP) established a joint effort to test the VIVACE in Brazil and determine its suitability as an alternative energy technology. The team designed a MHK energy converter suitable for Brazilian rivers, identified three locations near facilities of USP where this laboratory could be launched, and is currently working to construct the VIVACE lab.

This project received a $8950 UM-Brazil Sustainability Cooperation Grant in 2013.