This micro hydro power plant — inspired by nature’s whirlpools — could deliver clean and decentralised energy to everyone, at a low cost and without harming the local environment.
Turbulent: Decentralised Hydropower Inspired by Nature
Belgian startup TURBULENT develops reliable mini- and micro-hydro power plants capable of delivering clean and local energy. By mimicking nature, these power plants do no harm to local ecosystems and operate at a high efficiency on water streams with a very low height difference. They are even fish-friendly!
Hydropower — inspired by nature
Belgian startup, Turbulent, say their system can provide an ecofriendly and socially inclusive source of energy that can help communities create a profit using their rivers.
Having renewable energy or energy in the first place is not a certainty in large parts of the world, and while Hydropower is identified as one of the cheapest ways of providing the energy to communities, it has some drawbacks. The technology mostly needs larger infrastructure and often floods valleys, disrupting the local ecosystem and the lives of those it should be helping. Hydropower is also not scalable, making it more expensive than it needs to be.
Turbulent say they are bringing the solution to the people:
‘By utilizing the natural principle of a vortex, you get a turbine that’s ecofriendly, easy to produce and to install. Moreover we are doing geographical scans to identify enough similar sites to allow serial production and thus lower prices. Using the grid of distributed plants, whole regions will be provided with energy, thus allowing faster local development. These turbines are being built for a power of 5 to 100 kW, are as easy to install as a jacuzzi and DO NOT require a dam. Local manufacturing hubs and local installers will be able to gain profit from it, and local entrepreneurs will get the option to operate and maintain the network of plants, thus providing permanent jobs.’
Below: Turbulent founder, Geert Slachmuylders, introduces the new hydropower technology that he says is going to make hydropower Green again!
Founding story: Geert Slachmuylders
Turbulent founder, Geert Slachmuylders, told Changemakers — ‘The story started with curiosity towards vortices. I didn’t know what a whirlpool was, scientifically, when I saw it in rivers. I started researching and found out that it is the most efficient way nature has to get excess energy from water.
With my equally passionate co-founder (Jasper Verreydt), we found funding and started to develop the idea. The possible impact for this nature-inspired turbine brought us to Chile, where we learned about the dislike towards large hydropower. We had designed the turbine from the beginning to be easy to manufacture, but in Chile I got my Aha! moment when we saw the excitement about our project and being able to build a grid of turbines and including the local community.’
The installation has a payback time of 5 years, say Turbulent, so it doesn’t need subsidies
The smart hydro-power plant from Turbulent generates renewable electricity and operates highly efficiently on rivers with a very low height difference. Therefore, they say, they create clean, reliable and affordable energy for even the most remote communities, without harming local ecosystems.
- The installation causes no harm to fish and has a minimal impact on the environment
- The energy production is constant and can thus provide base load electricity, which is an advantage compared to other renewable energy sources like wind and sun
- It has a long operating life due to a sturdy design (up to 20 years of continuous production) and there are very low maintenance requirements because of the good quality components and a self-cleaning trash rack.
This technology can contribute to the lowering of CO2 emissions, help prevent global warming and contribute to the European goals of 20% renewable energy by 2020.
What’s the cost?
An installation of 2.200 W turbine that produces 12.000-15.000 kWh per year (electricity for 3–4 families) costs about €15.000 ($18,400/£13,280)
Turbulent say the installation has a payback time of 5 years, and therefore doesn’t need subsidies.
Click to find out more and calculate your potential
On the TURBULENT website there is a calculator where you can enter the drop and flow of your local stream or river and check the suitability of this system for your own needs. Perhaps you know of a community this would be suitable for?