Big Canal Turbine Takes The Plunge In Washington

Hydrovolts, the Seattle startup that wants to mine manmade waterways for clean power, is putting the concept to the test in a significant new way. Working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the company this month deployed its “Big Canal Turbine” in Washington state. The company reports that the device is generating continuous power.

The turbine was plunked—carefully—into the Roza Canal, which moves water east from the Yakima River to irrigate crops in one of Washington’s most important agricultural regions. Hydrovolts said the device, capable of putting out up to 10 kilowatts (kW), was expected to produce 5 kilowatts (kW) in a flow of 2 meters per second. But with the water flow exceeding that speed, the turbine was steadily cranking out at least 6 kW, the company said.

hydrovolts canal turbine roza canal yakima

image via Hydrovolts

This actually isn’t the first time Hydrovolts has dropped a turbine into the Roza Canal; it did so last spring and summer with smaller turbines, demonstrating installation and mechanical operation, but with no generator installed. This Big Canal Turbine deployment is allowing the company to monitor generating capabilities as well as fine-tune the device’s positioning and operation. And the company is working to actually put the juice being produced to use, aiming to connect it soon to a nearby home with a grid-tie and net metering, allowing the homeowner to power her house and profit from any excess energy produced.

In an EarthTechling feature story last December, Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hamner said that when properly sited, the company’s turbine is priced to pay for itself within five years. “The [turbines] simply make inexpensive power,” Hamner said. “There are a million-plus miles of suitable canals out there. It’s like the world is covered in highways of water, and we just invented the first car.”

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.

1 Comment

  • Reply March 29, 2012

    Michael Rousseau

    Awesome idea.

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