Hydrovolts, Inc. has been going at clean hydrokinetic power hammer and tongs with a mini-turbine called the Flipwing. The company is specializing in drawing sustainable energy in the form of hydropower from existing canals and other waterways where the current is predictable. The Flipwing is a self-contained device similar in concept to the paddlewheel on a steamboat, but it is submerged in the water and tethered to a site. Depending on the site it can generate from one and 20 kilowatts, enough to fill small scale power needs.
The key to the Flipwing and other hydrokinetic turbines is simple. Instead of relying on water pressure, hydrokinetic turbines operate on the energy of the available current. That means no need to construct dams, weirs, or other infrastructure that disrupts waterways and habitat. We’ve covered Hydrovolts before in this site before and now it seems the company is poised to explore new territory.
The Long and Short of Hydrokinetic Power
Some of the companies that specialize in hydrokinetic power, such as Verdant Power and Hydro Green Energy, have been going long with projects on major rivers including the Mississippi River and New York City’s East River (which is actually a tidal waterway but who’s counting). Hydrovolts has been taking the short approach with the Flipwing, which lends itself to small scale hydropower. Canals are one obvious point of focus, as are irrigation networks. Ditto for the thousands of abandoned mill sites that dot New England and other parts of the U.S. The company is also looking into unusual new territory including water flowing in and out of industrial sites (which could include power plants and food processors), and even the outflow from sewage treatment plants – an idea that’s right in line with the trend toward reimagining the neighborhood wastewater treatment plant as a sustainable energy and resource recovery center.
Flipwing on the Move
Hydrovolts and its Flipwing have been garnering recognition for sustainable technology and entrepreneurship from the ZINO Society and the Clean Tech Open among others. This fall the company earned a commitment from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to build and test a Flipwing, and it’s also working on an R&D agreement with the U.S. Navy. If the technology proves cost effective, it could join onsite solar power in the sustainable energy toolkit of numerous facilities including military and government as well as commercial enterprises and non-profit institutions.
Image: Canal by joiseyshowaa on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.