PSFK Talks to NOLA’s Free Flow Power

PSFK Talks to NOLA’s Free Flow Power
Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 4 march 2009

When we were in New Orleans recently we learned about plans by an organization called Free Flow Power to generate electricity by harnessing the power in the deep Mississippi river close by. As part of our ongoing NOLA Changemakers interview series we talked to Jon Guidroz, Director of Project Development at Free Flow Power, about his clean energy project and the unique spirit of NOLA.

Can you tell us a little about what Free Flow Power does?

Free Flow Power Corporation was founded to produce clean renewable energy, using the force of rivers, streams, ocean currents, or tides, to generate electricity, without building new dams or diversions. We have developed a proprietary turbine generator technology that was tested at Alden Labs in March 2008 and we expect the next generation of our FFP Turbine Generator to be available for field-testing in the spring of 2009. This technology is applicable to a variety of variable speed and variable head environments. We have been issued preliminary permits by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) providing exclusive rights over approximately 100 hydrokinetic and low impact hydropower project sites on the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers.

You have personally returned to New Orleans to oversee a project in the Mississippi. Why there? What will you do?

The Mississippi River is our lead horse in the company. With 55 proposed project sites on the River (32 in Louisiana), we have more than 300 miles currently under preliminary permits issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The Mississippi isn’t really a river any longer. It’s the largest channelized structure in the world. The US Army Corps of Engineers has spent billions of dollars modifying the river for national interests like flood control and safe navigation. This has restricted and confined the flows in a concentrating fashion ideal for hydrokinetics. The deepest and most channelized portion of the River is in southeastern Louisiana. It’s a very attractive corridor. Add to that a workforce with loads of experience in maritime construction and maintenance, LA was a logical satellite office choice for the company. It wasn’t until we were contacted by Sean Cummings and Startup New Orleans that we were convinced New Orleans was the place for FFP’s project development office to call home.

The FERC licensing process is arduous and expensive. I’m often asked, “If this is such a great opportunity, why hasn’t someone already done it?” There are many parts to a complete answer but a major factor has been the regulatory barrier to entry. Hydropower licenses (issued by the FERC) are notoriously difficult to obtain. We’re looking at a 3-5 year process is all goes perfectly well. Hydrokinetics is a nascent, low margin business; not the kind of industry normally capable of tackling such an intimidating process. A commitment to all the regulatory and technical hoops one must navigate is a costly marathon to enter. I like to think our efforts are helping to trail blaze and refine this treacherous road for all future hydrokinetic projects. My role as Director of Project Development is mostly focused on obtaining the Hydropower License and ensuring we respond to and anticipate stakeholder issues. Since we’re still a startup, I wear a lot of hats including fundraising, media communications, and other fancy responsibilities like making copies.

Like yourself, there seems to be a number of creative minded professionals moving to NOLA right now. How has your return to New Orleans been? What can you say about the entrepreneurial community there?

I spent about a decade away from New Orleans with periodic visits to my hometown for highlight events like JazzFest. It’s always been a fun place to visit but it wasn’t until after Katrina that I began to notice an extraordinary entrepreneurial community taking root. I spent that 10 years working and living in other industrious US cities (Washington, DC and San Francisco) without encountering anything quite as efficient and genuine as what’s happening in New Orleans right now. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit; never has it been so widely nurtured as it is at this moment.

The entrepreneurial community is selfless, experienced, and focused. Its size is efficient enough for streamlined networking yet robust enough to leave no problem without a recommended solution. It transcends industry-specific interests by being based in a communal need to build a healthy, local economy. In a city with a clean slate, everyone is helping one another with issues large and small because your success is my success. I have a few theories how this community came to be but none is more simple than it directly reflecting the creative energy and optimism of our city. A place that’s managed to reinvent its style and take on an unsuspecting cosmopolitan edge without abandoning deep roots in its rich cultural history. This is a place where any new idea is a good idea and there’s a community building that will take those good ideas to the next level. The StartUp New Orleans support network is real and actionable. Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. Add this community to a city where people want to live and a very low cost of doing business and you’ve got an entrepreneur’s playground. Again, without Sean Cummings’ outreach and interest in bringing FFP to New Orleans, I don’t think our project development headquarters would be in New Orleans right now.

When will your project go ‘online’ – and how much power will it generate?

We anticipate bringing our first utility-scale projects online in 2013 or 2014. The Mississippi River projects alone would generate about enough electricity for 1 Million average American homes 8 months out of the year.

Thanks, Jon!

Free Flow Power


DIY Kit Lets You Build Your Own Wooden Bike, Boat Or Caravan

Design & Architecture
Culture Today

Messaging Add-On Helps You Correct Your Friends’ Bad Grammar

An iMessage sticker pack will help you copyedit text messages

Automotive Today

Mercedes-Benz Introduces A New Electric Mobility Brand

The separate entity aims to simplify the identification of Mercedes EV products to customers


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Mobile Today

Tinder’s New Feature Makes Swiping A Group Effort

The dating app wants to democratize its gestural interaction by buying in to the social polling trend pervasive among millennials

Related Expert

Sam Ewen

Experiential Marketing Expert

Syndicated Today

Autonomous Garbage Drone Prevents Trash From Reaching Deep Ocean

The solar-powered WasteShark collects refuse closer to the source: the harbor

Automotive Today

Aston Martin Reveals Its Own Luxury Powerboat

The sleek AM37 echoes styling elements from the British brand's sports cars

Advertising Today

An Escort Website Fights Violence Against Sex Workers

The advocacy campaign from McCann aims uncover the human toll of the exploitative industry


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 27, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Culture Today

LIFE Magazine Relaunches In Pure VR

The general interest periodical, which ceased publication in 2000, has turned into a portal for virtual reality content

Mobile Today

Reorder This Detox Drink With A Simple Text Message

Dirty Lemon is streamlining its communication by letting customers place orders, ask product questions and request help exclusively through chat

Op-Ed Today

The Future Of The American Workforce Requires Unbundling College Education

President of JetBlue Technology Ventures: developing corporate education programs for non-traditional students

Retail Today

Gilt’s Pop-Up House Is The Kind Of Store You’ll Want To Live In

The New York City townhouse plays host to the latest in retail inspiration, curation, and lifestyle activation (and some libations, too)


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Mobile Today

Registering To Vote Is Now Just A Text Away

A new bot aims to mobilize underrepresented groups this election season through SMS and Facebook Messenger

Africa Today

Virtual Reality Game Gives Lessons About Emergency Birth Care

LIFE is a serious tool that takes advantage of new technology to help save lives

Luxury Today

Shoe Repair Has Moved Onto Your Phone

Cobbler Concierge is an on-demand service to get your footwear fixed online

No search results found.