Hydrovolts: Harnessing the Energy of Currents

Wave powered-energy has become a splashy topic in the cleantech world, with several companies emerging to harness the power of the oceans to make clean energy. It’s less often that we hear about tapping smaller bodies of water (without damming them up). But we recently met a startup called Hydrovolts (formerly Puget Sound Tidal Power, or PSTP) which is taking the tidal turbine technology down a notch to generate electricity from the currents found in rivers, and canals.

Hydrovolts founder Burt Hamner tells us that the company has invented three types of turbines designed specifically to capture the power of the current and reduce the amount of debris that gets caught in the turbine. Hamner founded the company in 2006 in Washington state to help local utilities evaluate energy opportunities from rivers and canals.

In December 2007, Hydrovolts (as PSTP) finished a feasibility study for local utility Tacoma Power, and currently the company has a turbine under construction in the Seattle-area, which it has been testing in the water for several months now. Hamner says the best rivers and canals for generating energy are the places where the current runs fast enough. Artificial channels are also ideal because they are less environmentally sensitive.

Beyond rivers and canals, Hydrovolts is also working on combining wind and wave power to harness offshore energy in the ocean, too. The company is proposing a potential project in Grays Harbor, Wash., that they say could power western Washington with 15,000 MW of renewable energy. The company has applied for a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory; public hearings started this month.

Hamner tells us that the company is looking to raise capital, and is particularly interested in investors that can help with international development. While the company has a small staff now, HydroVolts is looking to hire more people in the Seattle area.