CWU Leads Groundbreaking Green Energy Project Professor Charles Pringle
When people think about hydropower, they think of Grand Coulee Dam, or Hoover Dam. Seattle-based Hydrovolts has teamed up with CWU and the Central Washington Resource Energy Collaborative on an ingenious project to boost the nation’s renewable energy resources. The company’s new, patented hydrokinetic turbine technology taps an overlooked source of renewable energy—currents in the more than 1,400 miles of irrigation canals and channels in central Washington. The project has the potential to generate local, reliable, and economical clean power throughout the world. “There are huge regions of the world that are irrigated, where they’ve built these highways of water,” said Burt Hamner, founder and CEO of Hydrovolts. “We’ve found a way to make a little power off it without any environmental impact.” Hydrovolts has contracted with CWU to design a new generator to produce electricity from its turbines. The stackable generator allows the power output of the turbine to increase if the volume of water current is increased. The initial $50,000 contract is supporting research by CWU Professor Charles Pringle and two students. Holly Johnson, dean of Graduate Studies and Research, said, “This contract forms the basis of a long-term partnership between Hydrovolts and CWU—a partnership that could lead to the development of a Center for Hydrokinetic Research in Ellensburg.” Hamner added, “We’re delighted to have CWU inventing clean tech for us. We’re also fortunate that the state’s Innovate Washington will help us manage the intellectual property that is invented.” Hydrovolts turbines can be installed in irrigation canals and run on the steady, uninterrupted flow of irrigation water. The devices are neutrally buoyant; they can generate power floating on the water’s surface or sitting on the bottom of an irrigation canal without impeding the flow or affecting water quality. Depending on the rate of water flow, each device can produce up to 12 kilowatts of energy—enough to light nearby homes. And turbines can be installed in a series down the length of a canal to generate more power. The US Bureau of Reclamation has initiated a pilot test program of the Hydrovolts turbines in the Roza Canal, which runs from Yakima to Benton City. If successful, the bureau may begin installing turbines along its 47,000 miles of canals, which could produce megawatts of hydropower without construction of dams and with no environmental impact.
Each turbine converts water power in irrigation canels into as much as 12 kilowatts of energy.
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