Micro Hydro-Turbine Puts Spin On Tidal Power

An Australian company is winning praise for its uniquely designed micro hydro-turbine system aimed at providing power mainly in remote communities, where expensive, high-emissions diesel is often the fuel of necessity.

Sundermann Water Power, located in Hamilton South in New South Wales, Australia, earned a spot as a finalist in the recent Australian Cleantech Ideas Competition (and some love from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where we happened upon the story) for its Sundermann Turbine. What’s so special about it? It’s all in the blade configuration, the company says.

micro hydro-turbine, Sundermann Water Power

image via Sundermann Water Power

Instead of being fixed, the turbine’s blades tilt during the rotating cycle, turning half a revolution for each full revolution of the central shaft. “This configuration allows each blade to contribute a unidirectional force to the central shaft, for virtually the entire rotational cycle,” the company says. “In this way they can efficiently utilize the kinetic energy of the moving water.”

micro hydro-turbine Sundermann Water Power

image via Sundermann Water Power

Sundermann says its turbine is 90 percent more efficient that traditional tidal power devices, where water hits the blade and flows past or around it. This allows the turbine to function in low-flow situations, reaching maximum operational efficiency in rivers or ocean currents moving at just 6 to 12 knots.

The company says that the turbine can work solo to deliver up to 100 kilowatts (kW) of power, or production scaled up to 1 megawatt using multiple turbines. As for environmental impact, it generates clean energy, and the company says impact on marine life is minimized by the slow rotational speed of the turbine along with protective barriers.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Anonymous

    As a former researcher of wave/tidal/water-current generator system designs fifteen years ago, I came to theu00a0conclusion that thisu00a0source of clean energy has so many drawbacksu00a0that could leadu00a0tou00a0a net minus energy savings due to losses related to energy sent over long lines tou00a0grid input points (local use is a different matter), maintenance issues such as clogging/damming of system water inlet feed paths, frequent offline service due to corrosiveu00a0salt water environments,u00a0variable energy output affecting grid compatibility and energy use, damage/destruction of the technologyu00a0resulting from floods and severe coastal storms and the potential hazard the technology may pose tou00a0recreational watercraft and shipping navigation for which the liability issues are very high–just to name a few.u00a0 Still, for those who believe they may overcomeu00a0such obstacles and others, more power to them (no pun intended).