Seattle Start Up Seeks Clean River Power

As far as renewable energy goes, hydropower is old news. Really old news. (In fact, the first known use of the water wheel, for milling grain, goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks in the 3rd and 1st century A.D.) Recently however, new innovations in small, scalable hydrokinetic devices have opened up new applications for hydropower, beyond dams and run-of-river generating facilities.

Hydrovolts is a Seattle-based start-up with a patented floating water turbine called the Flipwing. Recently, the company received an initial investment of $250,000 from DLZ Corp., a U.S.-based civil engineering firm that has obtained permits and a power purchase agreement to develop a 10 MW hydrokinetic power project on the 14-km Chilla Canal in northern India. This initial investment will fund the manufacture of a prototype 25 kW hydrokinetic turbine to be tested by DLZ.  Under a non-binding letter of intent between the parties, if this demonstration period should prove successful, DLZ could potentially order an additional 400 turbines, putting around $20 million in Hydrovolts’ pocket.

The Hydrovolts Flipwing floating turbine works like a submerged paddlewheel. The device is tethered and/or anchored, and electricity generated by the turbine is sent to shore by a power cable linked to the tether. No significant site preparation is needed and, according to Hydrovolts, the device is also fish-friendly, as its paddlewheel blades actually turn slower than the water current, allowing fish to swim around or through it.  Because this turbine generates electricity from water currents as slow as 1 m/sec (2 knots), Hydrovolts believes there is a “nearly limitless domestic and international market” for the device.

In order to get a feel for what the new deal with DLZ Corp. could mean for this up and coming Seattle cleantech company, we interviewed Burt Hammer, CEO of Hydrovolts.

Flipwing out of water

image via Hydrovolts

EarthTechling (ET): Hydrovolts has recently received investment funds to construct a 25 kW version of the Flipwing turbine for the DLZ Corp., which plans to develop hydrokinetic power in the Chilla Canal of India. Why did DLZ turn to you?

Burt Hammer (BH): At the same time that Hydrovolts was successfully demonstrating our prototype Flipwing turbine in a canal in the Yakima River Valley in July, DLZ was shopping the world for a turbine supplier to meet the needs of their Chilla Canal hydropower project. Fortunately, DLZ became aware of our prototype success and contacted us to learn more. We invited them to Seattle to meet the Hydrovolts team, spin the turbine, do a bit of salmon fishing, and ultimately decide the partnership is a good fit.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.