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Denver Water showcases its latest hydrokinetic electric power generators

A 30 kW array of hydrokinetic power generators that are placed in a water supply channel serving the Denver Water system in Colorado has entered service.

A 30 kW array of hydrokinetic power generators that are placed in a water supply channel serving the Denver Water system in Colorado has entered service.

The ribbon cutting took place as part of a tech tour offered during HYDROVISION International. The ribbon cutting included officials from Denver Water and the Atlanta-based technology provider Emrgy.

Four vertical-shaft rotors were placed in the water supply channel that connects Gross Reservoir with Ralston Reservoir, both in the foothills west of Denver. During the supply channel’s peak season, generally May through October, the flow drives four 7.5 kW generators providing a small–but reliably baseloaded–source of power.

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The hydrokinetic turbines use the velocity of the moving water, rather than a gravity drop, to spin its rotors. As a result, the supply channel wall are modified to bow into the channel just upstream of the three-blade rotors to accelerate the flow. The entire array is connected to a nearby control panel that includes an inverter, identical to those used to connect solar modules to the larger utility grid.

Using a standard solar inverter, Emrgy said, can help utilities understand what is being connected to the grid. Also seeing that the resource can be a baseload source of electricity is an added bonus for utilities.

Emrgy’s technology uses a frictionless, low-maintenance magnetic gearing system, which it sourced through a federal Office of Naval Research project.

In announcing its hydrokinetic initiative back in 2017, Denver Water said that thousands of miles of canals exist in the U.S., particularly in the Southwest, that could host similar distributed energy resources.

Denver Water initially earmarked $330,000 to deploy 10 hydrokinetic projects across its system. The initiative also received $270,000 from the Bureau of Reclamation and $240,000 from Oak Ridge National Lab.

Denver Water has about 25 MW of generating capacityat some of its dams and diversions.

In 2019, Emrgy signed an agreement with GE Renewable Energy. Through the deal, Emrgy’s hydropower turbines would be provided by GE Renewable Energy and GE would offer Emrgy’s product among its suite of hydropower solutions in select markets worldwide.

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