Design underwater turbines to harvest the kinetic energy in river and estuary currents and generate electricity.
Underwater turbines have the capacity to provide clean energy and turn a profit, making them a perfect candidate for tomorrow’s energy mix. The global river and estuary turbine market—expected to reach E12 billion by 2025—is considered a niche market inFrance, but offers substantial opportunities in other countries, where projects are large enough to generate economies of scale.
The Harvest project set out to develop a new type of turbine that revolves around a vertical axis perpendicular to the current. The idea for the turbine was inspired by an innovation patented in 2004, which consisted of stacking multiple turbines to form counterrotating towers to take advantage of the full depth of the water at a given location.
This project’s innovation lies in the system’s unique architecture, which involves stacking several turbines on a single vertical axis to form a tower capable of taking advantage of the full depth of water at a given location. The system, which consists of several transverse-flow turbines stacked vertically on a single rotation axis, offers a unique set of benefits:
- Power from 10 kW to 100 kW
- Lightweight structure for efficient operation
- Limited environmental impact
- Dimensions can be adapted to the depth of water at a given location
- Flexible to install and use; can be anchored directly on river or estuary bed or installed on floating barges
- Ease-of-maintenance: no civil engineering work required
- Fast ramp-up to industrial production
In 2010 the Harvest project spun off a start-up, HydroQuest, to sell river and estuary turbine farms to electricity producers worldwide. HydroQuest has won a number of awards attesting to both the company’s strong positioning on a high-growth segment and the effectiveness of the equipment it sells:
- Derbi/Ernst&Young Innovation Award
- French Ministry of Higher Education and Research Innovative Business Award
- Tenerrdis “Innovative Company” Certification
- Grenoble Chamber of Commerce and Industry “Espoirs de l’Economie” Award
Industrial-scale manufacturing began in 2012. The construction of two turbine farms in France is planned for 2014, one on the Gironde River and the other on the Loire River. HydroQuest counted ten employees in 2013.
HydroQuest’s CEO Jean-François Simon forecasts the company’s production at 300 to 500 machines within the next five years, mainly for export. He expects the company to start turning a profit by 2015. HydroQuest plans to take full advantage of strong international growth prospects, especially in Africa, where remote villages located along major rivers make local electricity production a logical choice. The company spearheaded a new R&D project, Hydrofluv (backed by the French Single Interministerial Fund), which will introduce further innovations that should position HydroQuest to offer a new turnkey turbine farm solution to global hydroelectricity producers. Vertical underwater turbines could also potentially be used to harness the energy in ocean currents, which would constitute an additional market for HydroQuest.