Hydrokinetic innovation tested in Fraser River

Green energy company making waves with river-operated power option

The HydroKite resembles a small plane turned on its side

The HydroKite resembles a small plane turned on its side

In the mid-1700s, Benjamin Franklin famously used kites to advance science, proving that lightning was indeed an electrical force.

Now, kites are being used to prove that power doesn’t have to pulled from the ground, and they don’t have to rely on unstable wind. Instead, power is being harnessed from the motion of fast running water. A Vancouver-based clean technology startup company is developing a sustainable, consistent device that works just under the water surface, spinning and creating enough power to run 30 homes.

And they’re testing it in the Fraser River, near Laidlaw.

The HydroKite is a hydrokinetic device that resembles an airplane on its side. Created by HydroRun Technologies over the last two years, it’s making waves in the clean energy field. It was recently featured in an article in the Vancouver Sun and was popular at the Globe 2014 trade show in March.

“We need to find better ways to produce power,” said Joel Atwater, founder of HydroRun. “It has to be green going forward, for the environment but also economically.”

There are three classifications of hydrokinetic power, he said.

The first is large hydro, which is what most of the province is powered by through BC Hydro and other large providers. Large hydro is created by flooding valleys to create a reservoir.

Then there are run of river projects, such as those in the waterways at the north end of Harrison Lake, near Port Douglas. While generally promoted as greener alternatives to hydro dam projects, they change the watercourse as water flows through a power house.

Finally, there are hyperkinetic projects. These, like the HydroKite, sit in the water to produce power. Up until this point, Atwater said, debris in the river has made things difficult and there have been no commercial use. But that’s changing, and quickly.

Over the next few months, Atwater and his team will be testing the HydroKite. They chose this end of the Fraser River after searching for suitable launch and test sites.

“Ultimately it will be left by itself,” Atwater said. “What’s unique about this is not a turbine that sits in the river and acts as an obstruction.”

The HydroKite is outfitted with radar, sonar and something called machine vision, which is as way for computers to interpret what a camera is seeing. This is all designed to avoid debris.

“The kite monitors the areas it operates in,” Atwater said. “When river users come near, it changes its behavior to be a good neighbour.”

The kite is anchored in the river, and as the name suggests is on a string. It sweeps back and forth, generating lift, and that lift is used to generate electricity.

“We see these being put in rivers all over the country,” Atwater said. “In Canada, we create five times our (energy) needs.”

The really neat component to this invention is that it puts power into the hands of those connected to it. Atwater explained that homeowners connected to HydroKite power would be collecting energy that would “roll back” their smart meter. Because of the constant movement of the river, homes would collect more power than they used, potentially. In those cases, instead of receiving a bill from BC Hydro, homeowners would receive a cheque.

“We want to export the power and export the technology,” Atwater said. “We’re a B.C. company, and we’re committed to building them here.”

BC Hydro is moving away from generation of power, he added.

“What they care about is providing power to B.C., with as few headaches as possible. What they are resistant to is solar and wind, because they are intermittent. Utilities don’t want power to turn on and off, they need consistent base load power, that’s always on day and night.”

But is it safe for the fish?

Atwater, who studied mechanical engineering and naval architecture before becoming an entrepreneur, believes it is.

“It is absolutely benign to fish because of two reasons,” he said. “Fish want to be at the bottom and the sides of the river, where the flow is the lowest. They want to be in the slowest flow, we want to be in the fastest.”

But even fish that end up in the path of the HydroKite should be safeguarded, he added.

“The conventional turbine does kill fish, but it’s not the blades of the turbine hitting the fish that kills the fish,” he said, adding that they’re very good avoiding objects. It’s the water pressure changes as the fish go through the turbine that kills them, he said, when their swim bladders explode.

“We don’t get that pressure gradient because of the shape of the kite. They keep swimming merrily on their way,” he said, and they’ve had DFO officials review their work.

A single device would power 30 homes. One kilometer of space for HydroKites would produce one megawatt of electricty, enough to power 800 homes.

He underlined the fact that it’s still in development, but he’s confident that kites are the power source of the future.

news@ahobserver.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

/ Kevin Mills Photo
Hundreds participate in solidarity parade for transgender student who was bullied

Cars, horses and even planes passed by the Mission waterfront to show support

Kent Search and Rescue sent down three rescuers
UPDATE: Two people involved in ATV rollover 100 feet down ravine in Harrison, at least one injured

Incident happened shortly before 5 p.m. on Harrison East Forest Service Road

An amethyst rock was stolen from Swinstones Granite Shop’s showroom in Chilliwack on Yale Rd. West, and they are hoping it will be spotted and returned. They discovered their window smashed and the purple rock stolen on the morning of Jan. 17, 2020. Here a portion of it is pictured to the right. (Submitted image)
Amethyst stolen from Chilliwack stone shop’s showroom

Window smashed at business where purple rock has been on display for nearly 16 years

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

Two people on a paddleboard take advantage of a calm Cultus Lake on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Forecast calls for lots of sun in Fraser Valley this coming week

Most of next seven days will be sunny for eastern Fraser Valley, according to Environment Canada

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

Most Read