Special Report: Innovative, hydrokinetic river turbines

Despite its large resource potential, hydrokinetic energy is still largely untapped, with only 5% exploited to date. Europe is rich in small and medium-sized rivers and straits between islands, and other viable river sites around the world have huge potential to help meet global power demands by exploiting the energy of moving water, or hydrokinetic energy. Tapping into this energy resource responds to severe environmental and climate requirements for increased renewable energy targets, pollution concerns and the rising costs of finite fossil fuels.

Existing technologies designed to output over 20kw require very fast flow speeds and large deployment spaces in order to make turbine outputs viable. This cuts off a large majority of the available market from having a feasible solution to use. Irish company DesignPro Ltd1 has recently secured Horizon 2020 Phase 2 funding for a €2.7m project to develop and commercialise its range of innovative hydrokinetic river turbines that aim to provide a solution to this problem and allow people to efficiently avail of this predictable, constant, renewable resource.

Fig. 2 10kw device undergoes four months of rigorous, operational testing at a custom facility set up in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Shannon Foynes Port Company, the National University of Galway, Windworks and Numerics Warehouse

Fig. 1 10kw device undergoes four months of rigorous, operational testing at a custom facility set up in conjunction with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Shannon Foynes Port Company, the National University of Galway, Windworks and Numerics Warehouse

DesignPro was previously successful in securing a H2020 Phase 1 project which ran from March to September 2016, during which they completed an extensive feasibility assessment and detailed business plan, proving beyond any doubt that there is significant demand and opportunity for a feasible, more compact, hydrokinetic design such as this one. The company has exclusive licensing rights to develop and commercialise a unique range of hydrokinetic devices for their Phase 2 project DP Renewables. The original concept was created by Vincent McCormack from GKinetic Energy Ltd, who is now further developing the design and applications of the turbine to larger-scale tidal deployments.

The device itself is based on a very simple, patented concept where the turbine’s floating deployment system also doubles up as an innovative water-accelerating ‘bluff-body’. The device has two vertical axis water turbines on either side of this patented flow-accelerating body. The bluff body is designed to exploit the natural phenomenon that occurs when fluid accelerates around and outside an obstacle: with the actual set-up, average water velocity crossing the turbine is doubled, which increases the hydrokinetic power available eightfold. The device also features a patented ‘dual cam blade pitch control system’. The combination of accelerated water, alongside blade pitch control, results in exceptionally high power outputs. A further feature is that, unlike many other hydrokinetic devices, the

Fig. 2 Diagram showing the basic concept that accelerates the water

Fig. 2 Diagram showing the basic concept that accelerates the water

DPR turbine can be lifted in and out of the water extremely easily. Due to its compact size it can be readily deployed in numerous sites and, if required, swiftly relocated.

The proposed system is a feasible solution for a wide range of communities, businesses and domestic users to harness the power from nearby waterways without the need for an artificial ‘head’ of water. DesignPro Renewables also addresses the under-electrified, offering a viable power solution to those who have no other options and giving users energy independence and control to improve their lives and wellbeing. Therefore, with its innovative design, fast deployment capacity and highly competitive cost, this device opens up the market for hydrokinetic energy generation from vast amounts of available natural resources that are for the most part yet to be exploited.

The next exciting project phase will see DesignPro develop 25kw and 60kw river turbines, for which the company is seeking a variety of resources, including river test sites, commercial deployment sites and subcontractors with relevant skills and experience, to support this ambitious project. In particular, testing and commercial river deployment sites are currently being sought and reviewed, so please contact the company if you feel you may have something suitable. Subcontractors in the area of CFD modelling, blade extrusion, blade manufacture, and fabrication of tanks, plates and frames are now also welcome to contact DesignPro to learn more about the project and turbine if they feel this work could be a good fit with their expertise and capacity.

1 DesignPro Ltd is a leading provider of precision automation and machine build services to a variety of industries such as renewables, automotive, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and aviation. Based in County Limerick, Ireland the company has developed a reputation as a creative and highly professional partner to some of the world’s largest multinationals. Providing a complete turnkey solution, our services include problem analysis, design, prototyping, build, installation and maintenance. Together we work with companies to reduce cost, improve efficiency and deliver return on investment – all within specified timeframes and budgets.