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Small Businesses Key in Hydropower Tech Advancement

September 6, 2011 - 2:59pm

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Earlier today, the Department of Energy and the Department of Interior announced nearly $17 million in funding over the next three years to advance hydropower technology. 

The funding announced today will go to sixteen innovative projects around the country, including sustainable small hydro projects, like the ones from Hydro Green Energy, a small business that handles hydroelectric power generation and power and communication line construction. The company, which has eight employees currently, has been awarded funding for two projects. Near Space Systems, a Colorado Springs-based company, is a service-disabled veteran-owned business with a manufacturing focus that's been awarded $300,000 for an innovative project. Natel Energy, a turbine manufacturer in Alameda, California, received a $300,000 award, and Walker Wellington, a Maine small business, will receive just over $93,000 to advance hydropower. Weisenberger Mills, a family-run mill in southern Scott county, Kentucky, will get $56,000 to produce hydropower research from their mill.

Hydropower, or hydroelectric power, is the most common and least expensive source of renewable electricity in the United States today. According to theEnergy Information Administration, more than 6% of the country's electricity was produced from hydropower resources in 2008, and about 70% of all renewable electricity generated in the United States came from hydropower resources.

These small businesses are critical in this initiative. Hydro Green Energy's projects include $1.5 million for developing, installing and evaluating new low-head modular hydropower turbines at a constructed waterway in Austin, Texas. A second award for $300,000 will entail designing, building, testing and validating a stackable, modular low-head hydropower turbine that can be used for water projects such as existing locks and dams that aren’t currently equipped to produce hydropower. Near Space Systems will be using their funding to develop modular designs for new innovative hydropower turbines to harness energy from outlet pipes, incorporating a novel generator design. Over at Natel Energy, the funding will be used to develop and evaluate a new type of powertrain for the Schneider Linear hydroEngine, which is expected to decrease the cost of energy for low-head hydropower projects. Walker Wellington will validate the design of a direct-drive, modular turbine-generator for manmade water structures with various head and flow conditions. The project will support commercialization of the generator. Weisenberger Mills, operated by six generations of the Weisenberger family since 1865, will evaluate variable speed, permanent magnet generators for small low-head hydropower.

These are just a few of the small businesses that are using Department of Energy funding to innovate and advance our clean energy economy. We're looking forward to following their success.

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