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Innovation News

kW Hydroelectric works to harness the future of hydroelectricity

 Fred Williams stands with his design, the Williams Cross-Flow Turbine.

 A detailed description of how the turbine works.


Hamilton-based kW River Hydroelectric joined the water accelerator program Pipeline H2O to develop technology that could transform the future of hydroelectric power generation.

“Our module allows significant amounts of power to be extracted from the fall of water over a low-level dam,” says Paul R. Kling, chief operating officer. “This will have a significant worldwide impact in the energy industry, as well as substantial implications for humanitarian efforts supplying power to underdeveloped regions.”

At the center of the module is the Williams Cross-Flow Turbine, which was developed by retired Air Force officer Fred Williams. While working at Cintrifuse, Williams met Kling, who had recently retired from Duke Energy. Together they formed kW Hydroelectric to turn Williams’s invention into a system to generate electricity.

The turbine is designed specifically for low-head dams, weir-like structures that span the width of a river or stream, creating a drop of 1-15 feet in water level. Thousands of these dams were built in the 19th and 20th centuries to power mills, feed canals and improve municipal water supplies. Unfortunately, the dams also create dangerous currents for swimmers and boaters. In addition to generating electricity, the turbine also improves safety for recreational water users.

“The turbine is installed on the downstream side of the dam and the top of the device creates a slope from the top of the dam to the water surface,” Kling says. “The energy we’re taking out is the backflow that made the dams so dangerous. The water not going through the turbine flows over the top, allowing fish, debris and even canoes to travel safely downstream.”

Because most dams are owned by local, state or federal agencies, kW Hydroelectric has developed flexible models for deploying its system. The dam owner may purchase the equipment outright and install it themselves, or have kW Hydroelectric install the system. King and Williams are also working on agreements with dam owners where kW Hydroelectric builds, owns, operates and maintains the system directly. Each system is anticipated to last 30 years and generate enough revenue to cover costs within the first eight years.

This technology will require EPA approval, and less than a month into the Pipeline program, kW Hydroelectric has already started setting up those meetings, as well as meetings with the Department of Commerce and Small Business Administration.

“We need to get more exposure to State of Ohio officials to have them recognize how significant the development of our technology could be for the state as a renewable energy source and a source of new manufacturing jobs,” Kling says. “This is also a great example of academic and industry collaboration within the state, and can further put the state at the center of water resource development.”

kW Hydroelectric tested a laboratory-scale version of the turbine at Central State University and is completing computational fluid dynamics testing there as well. In the coming months, the team plans to implement a fully functional field test with the City of Hamilton.

“Pipeline will force a very high quality ‘investment grade’ focus as our business models and financial projections are further refined and developed,” Kling says. “We will get fantastic exposure to actual investors who will be able to assess the value of our companies using their rigorous tools and comparisons. It’s tough work, but in reality, it's exactly what needs to happen.”

Read profiles of other Pipeline members Searen and ANDalyze.
 

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter is a jack-of-all-trades with a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums and nonprofit organizations. She's a bit obsessed with the built environment and irregularly shares her musings on architecture, urban planning and city life on Facebook and Twitter (@StrawStickBrick).
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