Very Low-head Modular Turbine with Advanced Hydrodynamics and Power Take-off

Period of Performance: 07/31/2017 - 07/30/2019


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Concepts NREC, LLC
217 Billings Farm Road Array
White River Junction, VT 05001
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


According to a 2014 study commissioned by the Department of Energy, hydropower from the more than 3 million untapped streams in the U.S. could potentially generate 65 gigawatts of electricity and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. However, the development of hydropower has been limited by several obstacles, as described by the U.S. Geological Survey: most of the prime locations have already been developed and the costs, time, and environmental impacts of constructing conventional hydroelectric facilities at relatively low power levels are untenable. A low-cost, low impact, high-performance hydropower turbine is needed to cost-effectively tap into the large amount of this available hydropower. The proposed work will create a low-cost, modular, very low-head hydroelectric turbine generator unit. This unit will have a small footprint and reduced environmental impact, and it will function in a broad range of operating conditions. By focusing on low- to very low-head applications many of the issues of free stream power generation can be avoided while still keeping site impact and foot print low. Several design technologies (hydrodynamic and structural) can be applied in this small, very low-head hydro turbine area. These technologies will address performance, cost, durability, and installation issues. Phase II tasks include: Detailed design of turbine generator unit conceptualized in Phase I, Manufacturing cost reduction and life-cycle cost evaluation to ensure lowest possible system costs, both upfront and operational, Manufacture of a full scale engineering prototype, Performance test of full-scale unit and generator set evaluating multiple rotor configurations. If this project is carried over into Phase III, the commercial applications are extensive. There are a very large number of existing sites in the United States, as well as outside of the United States, where this technology can be applied immediately.