A new hydroelectric device, the Hydro-Electric Barrel (HEB) could bring renewable power generation as close as the nearest flowing water, making micro-hydro a reality for many who live near streams and rivers. The inventors claim it to be both efficient and cost-effective, as well as being less intrusive to the environment than other hydroelectric solutions.
The HEB can be suspended over any river or stream, and possibly implemented in the ocean to take advantage of wave energy as well. The design is deceptively simple: a one-piece large plastic wheel within a frame, spinning with the flow of water. What’s not so obvious is the internal design: a set of two integral planet gear driven permanent magnet generators turning the motion into usable power.
According to the inventors, the advantages of the HEB are many: compared to conventional waterwheels, it operates quietly and is easy to transport and install. The machine is also environmentally friendly because of its shallow draft in the water and has a low capital outlay per kilowatt. The HEB doesn’t interrupt the flow of the water and can adjust to changing water levels while rolling over any debris in the flow.
The HEB could also be modular, so for more power, another generator can be installed either in parallel or in a series in the river. The hydroelectric device is also being developed with a tidal estuary variant which can be powered by both tides and waves.
Mike Lowery and Paul Price, the team behind the HEB, say they have a US manufacturer interested, and welcome inquiries for other possible producers of the product. For more information see the Hydro Electric Barrel website.