With an elevation of less than 15 feet, low-head dams have a tendency to be ignored. There are more than 72,000 of these dams across the United States, but their potential for the generation of hydroelectric power has been overlooked – at least, until now. 

Hamilton, Ohio-based KWRiver Hydroelectric aims to change all that with its new innovation, Principal Paul Kling says. The power of the flow of water over the weir of a low-head dam can be captured through the use of the company’s Williams Cross-Flow Turbine, developed by Partner Fred E. Williams Jr.

“It’s about how much water you can get through there per second,” Kling says, adding that the turbine can fit into dams “with little or no structural modification whatsoever.”

The use of water as a source of energy is almost as old as human civilization, but even today there is still untapped potential in the idea. Tapping that potential has become more crucial than ever as worries about the stability of energy derived from non-renewable resources increase, and the hydroelectric world is in need of forward-thinking organizations that can drive the development of technology that utilizes hydrokinetic power in the most effective and efficient means. Enter Vancouver-based Instream Energy Systems, a start-up that has been developing a better type of hydrokinetic turbine for the better part of the last decade. 

Founder and President Ken Miller says the company, through the help of partnerships with utilities such as BC Hydro, has created a proprietary new type of turbine technology that not only produces electricity with greater efficiency than existing models, but does so with minimal impact to water sources and greater ease of installation and maintenance. As the company works to spread the word about its technology through pilot projects in North America and Europe, Miller says Instream Energy Systems is on the verge of making a major breakthrough in the marketplace. 

Innergex has become a leading Canadian independent renewable power producer by placing people, planet and profit at the top of its priorities. The company has been active in developing, owning and operating run-of-river hydroelectric facilities (HEF), wind farms and solar photovoltaic farms since 1990.

Innergex currently operates 26 run-of-river power plants, six wind farms and one solar farm for a total net installed capacity of 687 MW. It carries out operations in Québec, Ontario, and British Columbia, as well as in Idaho.

This year, Idaho Falls Power has paid off 30-year bonds to build hydropower plants locally and it is poised to do something few utilities can claim: lower its rates. The municipal-owned power utility currently charges residents 6.25 cents per kWh – approximately half the national average – but that could fall thanks to decades of investment and local leaders’ commitment to local electrical generation. “Those decisions really did secure for us an affordable, stable rate for electricity,” Idaho Fall Power Manager Jackie Flowers says.

The utility first generated electricity in 1900 with an electric generator on an irrigation canal. On nights when the moon was dim, residents in the town of Idaho Falls would fire up the generator to illuminate the streetlights. Today, the utility has four active generation sites with capacity to meet 25 percent of the electricity demand for 27,000 customers. The Bonneville Power Administration supplies much of the remaining power and the community enjoys an energy supply that is derived from 95 percent environmentally clean sources.

Building a battery big enough to support the upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest will take all of the engineering and regulatory know-how that HDR’s experts can provide. Within the context of the region’s grid, HDR supports the the Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project in Meagher County, Mont., a proposed facility that could help stabilize the grid and turn intermittent power resources like solar and wind into consistent sources.

Pumped storage projects like the one planned at the Gordon Butte could be a critical part of the nation’s future energy infrastructure, according to Rick Miller, senior vice president and director of hydropower for HDR. Pumped storage is a variation of hydroelectric power that turns water into a massive battery. The system utilizes two reservoirs, one located at a higher elevation and another at a lower height. During periods of energy production on the electrical grid from renewable resources, water from the lower reservoir is pumped into the upper reservoir where it is stored. During peak periods when energy demand outpaces the renewable resource production, the pumps are reversed and act as a turbine to generate electricity. Water flows through a powerhouse at the base of the lower reservoir, generating electric power similar to a traditional hydroelectric plant.

Craig Energy provides end-to-end integrated services intended to save its clients time and money. Its services include transportation, logistics, water management, construction and drilling. With its head office in Denver, Craig Energy has operations across the main domestic shale plays, serving a wide variety of customers, including major exploration and production companies and independent operators.

“Our commitment is to do what we say we are going to do, meaning we will deliver on time, on budget and exceed safety regulations,” the company pledges. CEO Danny Jimenez says: “Our success is and will always be a consequence of our safety culture.” 

With the creation of a new research and development group, Cowan Dynamics wants to build better mousetraps for the energy infrastructure industry in the form of new actuator and control solutions. “These days, capital projects are very competitive and more than ever cost is very critical,” says Vice President Jean Behara. “We pride ourselves on making high-quality actuators but we realize we need to be innovative in order to improve process efficiencies and save our customers money.”

A reputation for innovation and willingness to change have defined Cowan Dynamics since the Montreal-based company was formed in 1957. The initial market sector was the pulp and paper industry, but over the course of nearly 60 years Cowan has grown and diversified to serve the mining, aerospace, oil, gas and electric power generation markets. Cowan  has customers throughout the world, but the bulk of its business remains in Canada and the United States.

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