This looks like a pretty cool “green” design idea:

“This is a floating waterwheel that can generate electricity when suspended over a river or other flowing water regardless of the depth and speed of flow.

The unique chevron shaped paddle treads give the barrel the ability to rotate about its horizontal axis in fast flowing water, entering the water smoothly and re-surfacing without lifting water.

The merit of this design is the significant reduction of any down force and the elimination of the bow wave in front of the barrel as it rotates at the same speed as the flow of water, thus increasing the efficiency of the machine. This would be an ideal product for todays demands for cheap re-newable energy and would be a cost effective product for the pico hydroelectric or micro hydroelectric energy market.”


It also can work with tidal actions:

The HEB could be used to produce both wave energy and energy from tidal current at the same time. The barrel rolls on the waves, rising and falling to drive both hub and linear permanent magnet generators. Energy could be produced simultaneously by the tidal current rotating the barrel.
In this way the HEB would provide a more constant energy output being dormant only at slack tide when the surface is flat calm.

HEB tidal hydro-electric-barrel

from developer Hydro Electric Barrel Generator and Treehugger.

Hat tip Polizeros

Category: Weekend

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7 Responses to “Floating Hydro-Electric Barrel Generator”

  1. Greg0658 says:

    me thinks the mast needs a float too .. and the fact water and electricity don’t mix .. the design is a bit shy of stage 2 of development .. ie electrical connection bearings in water tight enclosures with elastic leads (rivers around here can rise 20 feet or more),1,1,1,1,1,1,0

  2. Simon says:

    I’m going to guess that it captures quite a small percentage of the energy in the water flowing under it. As such it’s bulk, the inherent navigation and the general obstruction problems it would cause on rivers and esturies would tend to out weigh the relatively small amount of power it generates.

    Simply put it power/footprint ratio looks to low.

  3. dsawy says:

    I doubt that the small amount of power this produces is worth the establishment of a navigation hazard in navigable waters. Put enough of these together to create a worthwhile generation capacity and you have no more navigable waterway – and you’re right back to one of the big problems with conventional hydro dams. The idea has advantages for fast-flowing rivers with high silt loads, like the Platte or upper reaches of the Missouri, but even then, the will be issues of recreational boaters who would fight these navigation hazards tooth and nail.

    This suffers from the same problem that almost all “alternative energy” ideas of the last 40 years possess: What I call “hippy-scale” power output. Everyone thinks that because they can put up some home-scale wind turbine, or their own hydro plant on the creek behind their yurt or solar panels on their roof, that this scales up to large power systems. It doesn’t. The first problem (and one that I never see alternative energy proponents addressing) that has to be addressed in large scale deployments of distributed power generation is grid frequency and voltage regulation.

    Almost everyone reading this who isn’t an EE just went “Whaaaa?” with a puzzled look on their faces, which is why we EE’s find conversations with so many alternative energy dreamers, trying to explain what REALLY happens in the grid, to be such a fruitless job.

    Frequency control is already becoming an issue with megawatt-sized wind turbine projects. With pipsqueak generation like this… if I were tasked with coming up with a way of regulating the local grid to 60hz, I’d have a Sisyphean task indeed.

  4. Greg0658 says:

    CBS 60Min just finshed a story on coal fired electrical generation and its byproduct, coal dust, centering on the TVA mishap. “hippy-scale power” good one. I understand where your coming from – I’ve worked in coal and nuke fired plants and understand 60Hz (50Hz in Euro) and the need to balance generation to draw and line loss.

    Point I wanted to express is this .. refrigerators, HVAC, washing machines, dryers would be the high draw items a hippy-scale generator would have issues with. Many other items are drifting lower on the draw scale. As an EE you would probably agree that homes subsidize the business in area they exist in. Homes purchasing power in droves for the few super drawing industries of an area. Thus if wind, solar, barrel generators took off – super draw business would need to adjust with fewer players on the grid. I’m with you that if the Hz and generation can’t be successfully integrated to the grid it should not be rewarded as such.

    I would think the barrel would be great for hippies living on house boats. Free from property taxes, add rain and filter systems for drinking, fish off the boat for food (well not in the TVA). Thats a simpleton pov. In reality we are all in this game together and there is no way out. NASA has plans, but I don’t think they involve me (except taxes).

  5. Seattle Chill says:

    For a number of reasons, the efficiency of a turbine/generator combination increases markedly with speed. That’s why you never see old-fashioned paddle-wheel installations anymore. Modern small-scale hydropower designs typically involve diverting water into a pipe and feeding it to a small, high-pressure turbine at a lower elevation.

  6. dsawy says:

    Industrial loads, with their higher demands and heavy use of induction motors (esp. 3-phase motors for HVAC, pumping, irrigation, machine tooling, etc) are better loads for power producers because the producers charge very differently for industrial loads than for residential loads. A residence pays for only the kWh on their bill. Industrial loads have to conform to several parameters – the kWh used, the power factor, the demand factor (ie, how big a load), whether or not they use soft-starts on their motor loads, etc. Business electrical service is paying their way, just not on the kWh rate. For example, many power companies charge a per-month and/or a annual rate for the mere size of your motors. I’ve seen rates anywhere from $5 to $8 per max kWh of load placed on the system. So, let’s take an example of a 100HP motor. A 100HP motor might draw, oh, about 75kW at rated load. The power company would charge the business (eg) $5/kW “maximum indicated” during the year – so if the highest load that motor placed on the system was 75kW (typically averaged over 15 minute sampling periods), the bill would have a charge of $375 – even if the motor was used for only a short time every month. The power company is charging for the infrastructure installed (ie, the “sunk costs”) that they had to invest to support these loads.

    The residential consumer gets no such charge. Yet. The industrial user has to correct their power factor, or pay a penalty. The residential power factor has been getting worse over the last 15 years, mostly due to the increased penetration of switching power supplies into the consumer market (eg, PC’s, game consoles, various TV’s and other consumer electronic equipment).

    While the per-device power draw in the residential portfolio has been trending downwards, the number of devices and the aggregate draw per residential customer has been trending up.

    And if plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles achieve any level of market penetration at all (let’s be wildly optimistic and project 10% market penetration for plug-in cars), the local distribution facilities in many residential areas will need serious upgrades to handle the increase in load.

    This is the irony that I think escapes far too many people: the alternative energy crowd talks of micro-generation and distributed generation, while the zero-emissions and global warming crowd talks of zero-emissions cars. They’re proposing tearing apart the North American grid from opposite ends – the former from the generation and transmission side, and the latter from the demand and local distribution side. It is absolutely nuts.

    If people want a viable substitute for coal, something that can feasible displace coal-fired power, meet the requirements of no CO2 emissions and load growth trends, there is only one choice: nuclear plants, coupled with fuel reprocessing – just as the French and Japanese do today. Every other proposal doesn’t even make it to the starting line. Wind and solar are ways to simply line the pockets of a very few cynical investors and utility execs with the tax monies from DC and increased rates laid upon ratepayers. Neither wind nor solar deliver base load power, and that’s what people want: base load power. Not ephemeral power. Power that is available whenever people flip a switch.

  7. benamery21 says:

    dsawy: I’m a distribution engineer at a big IOU in CA. While I agree with much of what you say, particularly the part about the fuzzy-wuzzy crowd having mutually contradictory demands (primarily due to a failure to consider the necessity of tradeoffs, anything with a downside is by definition forbidden which means nothing can ever be done) I think you may generalizing a bit too much from personal experience.

    Power factor:Take it from someone who works at a utility with non-punitive kvar rates (about a quarter per kvar demand -month only for customers over 200kw), whose customers consequently rarely have pf correction. It isn’t a big deal to put capacitors on the distribution system, or to beef up distribution transformers a bit. I have (stupid) industrial customers with 40% power factor.

    Residential customers can pay demand charges although this isn’t really necessary as non-demand TOU is good enough for this homogenous customer class (my parents were on a demand and time-of-use pilot 30 years ago and for most of the time I was growing up in AZ; this gets a lot easier to implement en-masse now that MOST utilities are moving to smart meters). Residential demand response (even in absence of demand meters) is no longer experimental and could easily be greatly expanded (a lot of winterpeaking co-ops in the Plains have been doing it for years with space/water heating due to the inflexibility of coal fleets), and CA utilities have done it for years with A/C.

    If electric vehicle charging requires an indivdual move to a TOU rate, then the requirements on the distribution grid investment (primarily driven by peak), though large, will likely be smaller than you seem to project, and given the probably slow market penetration of plug-in vehicles, will probably be easy to accomodate. With flatter load profiles, even a bigger distribution ratebase would probably result in reduced distribution contribution to kwh prices (unless you’re at a utility which hasn’t had growth in years). Not saying that high-end (early-adopter) residential neighborhoods on 1920′s 4kv primary systems with fossil heating and no A/C won’t require wholesale rebuilds, or that a flattening of the load profile won’t create problems with equipment (distribution transformer) overload ratings and difficulty getting subtransmission line outages

    DG flunks on economy-of-scale pretty much everywhere, even under rosy glasses scenarios. It makes sense in some mega-watt scale settings like places with free methane and no gas line (landfills and WWTP and feedlots/dairies and coal mines), or places with existing gravity irrigation facilities but no hydro, or a few other places with process heat requirements and good co-gen potential. It makes sense to do this at the margin (more than we’re doing, in fact) and would probably displace about 10% of generation, but it isn’t a comprehensive solution and never will replace coal’s 50% electric energy production and 30% capacity contribution on our ‘national grid.’ That said ‘hippie-scale’ power CAN make economic sense for an individual (usually rural) (think free natural gas in WV or a creek in the backyard in OR or 100kw wind for a rancher in ERCOT subject to an 80% gas generation fleet), and will never have the penetration to cause (non-local) grid problems without massive subsidies distorting WHERE and WHEN it makes sense.

    Why are we knocking down dams on the Klamath instead of doing some capitalized environmental remediation (doubling hydropower generation costs is still a cheap power source)? Why aren’t we adding the (cheaper than gas on capital terms, immeasurably cheaper in O&M) 20,000MW of hydro capacity not installed at existing irrigation/flood control dams in the West? Again, stuff at the margin, but not unimportant. Little stuff makes a difference.

    Why are we using electricity from coal and hydro plants for space/water heating in the PNW and the Great Plains? Because it’s cheap and we don’t have a national grid. Why are most clothes dryers sold in the U.S. electric? Ditto. There are large national benefits to a national grid, but there are definitely local losers in cheap electricity areas. There are ways (thru rates and taxes) to structure a transition to cushion this so the net benefit is the same but the winners and losers are less sharply separated. The effect of economic dispatch improvements and reduced creation of low-grade energy creation (heat) directly from high-grade (electric) sources due to higher kwh costs in low cost areas, would pay for this transmission expansion without any other changes in the grid.

    Why do most people who live in houses constructed before the oil crisis in the 70′s pay so much more in extra energy costs than the amortized cost of weatherizing their houses? They don’t know any better, and no policy is in place to make this a no brainer for the average non-technical type. Why do people use incandescents in non-vanity applications? Mostly because they’re innumerate. Even relatively sophisticated industrial customers tend not to make sound economic decisions with respect to energy efficiency. All utilities should be required to administer utility energy retrofit loan programs (federally guaranteed and/or funded) to fund ratepayer energy efficiency projects with positive cost-benefit.

    I agree that a massive rip-off of taxpayers and ratepayers in the form of wind and solar subsidies and over-market long term renewables contracts is currently going on. You could add BACT for NOX, SOX, and particulates to every existing coal plant AND probably sequester coal CO2 ouput for the next 50 years for less than current RPS and PTC, etc are going to cost us. My small electrical contractor father is currently installing a 120kw PV installation on an industrial customer’s roof. Due to a combination of federal, state and utility incentives and tax policies, the customer will break even the first year and get free power for the next 20-30 years, while affording my father a top 5% income if he does no other work this year.

    This is all about politics and market structure, however. Government-owned wind generation ala BPA/TVA/SRP hydro constructed at reasonable prices (about half of current wind development market prices which are distorted by GE’s market power and government incentive policy), would make sense even beyond 20% grid penetration if pumped hydro and transmission were constructed to allow that level of penetration. Can’t do it? Only for the same reason we ‘can’t’ do nuclear: public process and political requirements and bad PR raising cost of construction above market levels. BTW, my suggestion on making nuclear happen involves making it a national security issue and having DOD construct 25: 4000MW reactor complexes on military bases to avoid most of the public oppo. Yucca Mountain BTW, is a spectacularly bad idea, why bury perfectly good fuel instead of reprocessing it?

    Dispersed megawatt scale solar on commercial roofs (at a buck a watt installed–if it ever gets there) would be a perfect complement to A/C in the Desert Southwest, without any storage or significant additional regulation needed (power production is nearly perfectly matched with peak loads). We aren’t there yet, and the policies we are using to try to get there, admittedly, seem like a massive boondoggle to me. Base-load power is not all we need, although admittedly it has not received the attention it deserves for the last 25 years.

    Voltage regulation at the distribution level will be less of a problem as DG matures, if we continue down the DG road; it does require a mindset change, but given the typical generator ability to buck VARs to offset injecting watts(currently not widely commercialized for inverter-based generation but coming) such voltage regulation amounts to a simple need for additional power factor correction back at the distribution and subtransmission sources. This increases distribution losses but then, DG reduces losses somewhat thru reduced real power flow, so it balances out. Field voltage regulators will likely need added in a few places and controls changed on existing regulators to accomodate bi-directional flow.