Insights · November 5th, 2009

You have a chance to vote for the new entrepreneur of the year in the next 24 hours, and here is why I suggest you vote for a Seattle, Washington based company called Hydrovolts.

Last week co-founders Chris Leyerle, COO, and Burt Hamner, President, sat down for an hour with me, and explained their technology and business plan – I had seen them earlier at entrepreneur events this year.

The idea is simple, elegant. The world is laced with irrigation canals, both ancient and modern. Many are completely lined with concrete or stone. Many have access roads and power lines along them, in part to service pumps. Into these canals, not to mention free flowing streams, Hydrovolts proposes to drop rotating drums using what they call a “flip-wing” design. The rotation will spin magnets over a coil, and thus you have a simple electric generator.

You can see tests of the prototypes at the Hydrovolts YouTube channel.

This is such a good idea, it is surprising that it has not been done. It is simpler and less expensive than tidal power, or low-head hydro, and by targeting canal systems first, Hydrovolts avoids most of the environmental issues faced when using free flowing streams (though ultimately there is more capacity in streams and rivers). There are good prospects for development partners, for example the thousands of public and private irrigation districts in the U.S. alone.

Most surprising to me was the electricity potential – Hydrovolts drum generator, suspended approximately 10 per mile of canal or stream could generate 5-10 kilowatts each, (an average home uses about 1.5 a day), and when you then imagine canals many miles long, the total capacity is quite large. The potential energy increases as the stream speed increases, and even greater efficiencies can be gained by placing the flip-wing generators in the falling water of low-head spillways typically of many canal systems.

Hydrovolts was selected last week at the Pacific Northwest Cleantech Open as one of three finalists to be sent to compete for the national prize.

Check out Hydrovolts, and go to to vote for them as new entrepreneur of the year.

Environment & Energy

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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