Fluid Mechanical Energy Recovery

A massive amount of energy is wasted in water distribution systems, and HydroLinq, a new company, has come along to make recovery of that energy a reality. It looks like a big opportunity.

The idea is similar to a common practice in the gas pipeline industry, where turbines or expanders are used to reduce pressure from long haul pipelines as the gas enters distribution systems. This not only solves a problem of severe cooling of the gas in expansion valves, it also generates a considerable amount of electricity in the process.

As one water company person said, “we’ve been burning head here forever.” But power generation isn’t usually on the minds of water companies (except at the dams that hold their reservoirs, or when they build their own fossil plants), even though they’re big power users themselves. As far as we can find, the opportunity has never been exploited to any significant degree.

Major hydro-engineering firms have looked at this before, but have chosen not to pursue it, preferring their traditional large-scale projects over lots of little ones. They’ve even expressed interest in supporting HydroLinq in their endeavors. HydroLinq is focusing on units ranging from 100KW to 2 MW.

In most water systems, water arrives in large pipes and at high pressure. This pressure is let down through a pressure release valve, or simply dropped into a regulating basin (reservoir). The idea is to install a mini-hydro turbine and power plant in parallel with the valve or at the end of the pipe to the reservoir, and generate power.

– Huge quantities, sites widely distributed in 1000’s of cities, towns and facilities. A feasibility study for the water district in San Jose CA identified 6 cost-effective sites, totaling 1.6 MW. There are over 2500 water utilities in the US.

– Truly “renewable” (at a time when suppliers are unable to find enough renewable power at any price to meet mandates, e.g. portfolio standards)

– A truly renewable distributed generation technology that can be deployed in urban and industrial settings

– High availability (80-100%)

– Very cost-effective (4-6 ¢/kWh – easily competitive with the grid)

– Rapid payback (18 – 36 months)

– Short leadtime (8-12 months max. Simple infrastructure, and no “earth moving”)

– No environmental or siting issues (except perhaps utility interconnection)

– Built-in likely customer for power (the water company itself)

HydroLinq is rapidly establishing itself as the creator and leader of this new industry, with a complete solution approach which provides feasibility analysis, planning, engineering, installation, and operation. While the idea is simple, implementation is not–no two sites will be exactly alike. HydroLinq has the first-mover advantage, having assembled the key partnerships, know-how, and technology packages (some of it patented) that will enable them to deliver systems faster and cheaper than any new entrant could hope for.

Going further, HydroLinq sees more big opportunities in wastewater systems and many process industries–wherever large quantities of liquids –not just water — undergo pressure drops.

The scope is huge–nationally and internationally. Preliminary estimates put the total available resource just for municipal water systems in the US alone at over 12 GW. HydroLinq recognizes the need to license, partner and joint-venture to establish a presence quickly in as many markets as possible, and is actively seeking both partners and equity investors. One joint venture is already poised to begin the installation this summer of two systems in Australia. Several other projects are in the formative stages, and require working capital. This is not “just” project development; it is the start of an entirely new industry.

A business plan and other materials are available under an NDA.

Contact: Thomas Cripe, President
HydroLinq Energy Corp., Issaquah, WA
425-557-7921, thomas.cripe@hydrolinq.com

2001 IEEE T&D Expo

Atlanta, 30 Oct – 2Nov 2001

This was a large event, with over 9,000 attendees, 500 exhibitors, and 150 technical papers. Sponsored by the IEEE Power Engineering Society, it focuses strictly on T&D technology, though a number of special panel sessions dealt with big picture questions.

A great deal of information is still available online at:
Using the buttons on the left side, “Conference” goes to a complete program listing, and “Exposition” to the exhibitor list, complete with urls for most companies. The technical papers were published on a CD.

–Opening Session

Teddy Püttgen, PES President Elect, opened the conference with the comment that electric utilities continue to be “technology enabled” rather than “technology driven”, but that is changing. Allen Franklin, CEO of the Southern Co, explained that the spinoff of Mirant enables SoCo to focus specifically on the southeast. with its vertically integrated companies, competitive generation, and new services. He sees transmission as the hottest issue, e.g. in Congress. John Rice of GE Power sees big promise in digital networking of generation and T&D. David Stump of ABB expressed a similar vision, applying ABB’s corporate-wide “Industrial IT” strategy to the utility industry. Based on the experience in the UK, Ian Davis of National Grid talked about the need for incentives for T&D investment, efficiency and performance, leading to an emphasis on asset management. Franklin came across as a very traditional utility executive, when he dismissed fuel cells, quoting “30 years ago fuel cells were almost ready. They still are.”

–SuperSession- Deregulation

The presentions were far ranging and exhaustive, and it would take many pages to give the full flavor. Charles Stalone (former FERC commissioner) took a long time to explain the issues before Congress, to strike the right balance between free markets and protections against market power abuse. David Jermain, Anderson Consulting, gave an entertaining review of the history of California’s debacle– based on a very faulty design, state officials made it much worse once things began to unravel. (I have his powerpoint presentation which he kindly sent, along with an ok to share it selectively.) Mark Rossi (Barker, Dunn & Rossi) reviewed utility deregulation around the world. Many countries are doing it, some quite successfully, though no-one gets it right at first. Richard Tabors (Tabors, Caramanis & Assoc) discussed regulation of generators, and pointed out that price volatility is intrinsic to any commodity market–it’s the journalists who renamed it “spikes” in the case of electricity. Finally Paul Addison (SolomonSmith Barney) said that customers really care about total price, not the profits of individual players. Service penalties and bonuses are needed if there is to be any incentive for investment in T&D.

–“How to Become a 3rd World Utility”
In a panel session on T&D Reliability, Jim Burke of ABB outlined 10 steps to reducing reliability.
1. Eliminate experienced engineers; replace with young ones who won’t stay.
2. Don’t participate in standards setting.
3. Lose control over generation and transmission
4. Replace things only when they fail; keep for 50 years or more til there are no spare parts.
5. Buy on price (first cost). Don’t pay for quality.
6. Eliminate R&D
7. Reduce manpower and budgets
8. Overload equipment thus increasing failure rates.
9. Lose control over daily activities–overdo outsourcing.
10. NIMBY – no new T&D but not no growth
[ I can supply a pdf of this paper, from the conference CD]


I visited a number of exhibitors. Here are some highlights.

– Arbiter Systems Inc. http://www.arbiter.com
High precision meters, traceable to NIST.
Can error-correct any meter to be much more accurate.
GPS clocks. Other interesting innovations..used by NxtPhase

– Cannon Technologies http://www.cannontech.com
Monitoring and control of loads and devices
Yukon modular software for distrib autom and demand mgt
eSubstation…low cost ($25K per substn)
Impressive customer list Sell only to utilities.
Started in ’87 w/ purch of a wireless subsidiary of ABB.
Announcing marketing deal with Honeywell soon. (load control thermostats)

– DTE Energy Technologies–“CableWise”
The “only” insitu inservice live cable test capability–uses partial discharge
[[ Is it really true? Has this “holy grail” finally been found?]]

– IFD Corporation http://www.ifdcorporation.com
Clever little mechanical popout device the goes inside distribution transformer to indicate an overpressure has occurred- which means that a fault has occurred inside. Visible from the street. [Sort of like the gadget that tells you your turkey is cooked.]

– IMCORP http://imcorp.uconn.edu
Cable testing products and services. Experts in partial discharge. Company is on campus at Univ Connecticut, led by prominent professor. Took back license from UltraPower (Minn, MN) which closed.

– NxtPhase http://www.nxtphase.com
Optical PT/CT. Looking very strong. {See UFTO Note 22 Jun 2000}

– Power Line Systems http://www.powline.com
T-Line design/management software to 500 utilities worldwide.

– Power Measurement Ltd. http://www.pml.com/
Hi end meters for revenue and PQ monitoring. for large customers. OEM to ABB and Siemens. Sev. new simpler cheaper products.

– Serveron Corp. http://www.serveron.com
Monitoring transformer gas in oil, and battery systems. Received a lot of attention at their booth, and appear to be progressing rapidly. [See UFTO Note 14 May 2001}

=====Substation monitoring=====
(Besides GE, Serveron, Cannon, etc.)

– DoubleTree Systems http://www.dsius.com
comprehensive solution..have installations in China. Systems Control Inc. alumni

– Doble http://www.doble.com/
Has abandoned development of “InSite”. Doing individual modules instead, for later “integration” at IP level. First is for bushings. Will announce a transformer pkg very soon

=====Power Switching=====

ABB – AX1 Air insulated Medium Voltage Switchgear.
1/2 the footprint, cheaper, arcing eliminated, simple installation, low/no maintenance.
http//:www.abb.com — search for AX1


Pole Plus http://www.poleplus.com
N Amer lic for EdF developed wood pole testing technology and management system. Acceptance is growing. [See UFTO Note 11 Jun 1999]

MiniMax Software Corp. http://www.minimax.net
Video surveillance specifically for substation monitoring, Also a distribution system “stakeout” pen-based computing solution.

The Valley Group. http://www.cat-1.com
Device measures trans. line cable tension directly; Plus nearby measurement of temperature the cable would be if unloaded — gives direct realtime reading of maximum possible loading.

NEETRAC R&D Focused on Power Delivery

While at the IEEE T&D Expo last November, I had the opportunity to meet folks from the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center, a not-for-profit at Georgia Tech which focuses exclusively on power delivery technology, including (the integration of) storage and distributed generation. (See below* for a list of services provided–clearly a very practical “nuts and bolts” approach.)

NEETRAC grew out of the R&D Center that Georgia Power transferred to Georgia Tech in 1996, with all its staff and large facilities. Since then, the program scope and constituency have been broadened. The fulltime staff now exceeds 30, in addition to faculty and students who work with them. NEETRAC has access to all kinds of expertise and facilities across the entire school. They are ISO-9001 certified.

Sometimes it’s easier to start with an explanation of what something is not. NEETRAC is not a research management organization. Work is done in-house, and almost nothing is subcontracted out. They are not a funding agency. There is no technology watch function, except as part of scoping studies at the front end of projects. As the name says, they do testing, research, and applications.

Membership includes 23 major utilities (including 3 current UFTO participants, TXU, Xcel, and Exelon) and manufacturers. This number is expected to rise to 25 this year; they will stop at 30. Most pay $105K/year (much larger companies pay more).

Half of this money goes into “baseline projects”, which are selected and overseen by the Management Board. Forty-seven such projects have already been done, for a total cost of $4.2 million — on or below budget. Each project has a technical advisory committee, which usually meets by teleconference. There is a total commitment to the idea that members are to determine project content and program direction.

The other half of the money is placed directly into individual proprietary projects for the individual members (IP is very carefully protected). There is also about $1 million/year in contract research performed for other (nonmember) clients.

A new program of “Focused Initiatives” will offer non-members the chance to participate, though at 2.5 times the member cost. The proposal for the first such Initiative will appear in July, for Cable Diagnostics. NEETRAC already is doing a lot of work (for its members only) on Cables, including a test facility with cables with known defects. Vendors are invited to test and demonstrate their equipment. There are similar programs for other components.

Hans (Teddy) Püttgen, Director*
404-894-2927 hans.puttgen@ee.gatech.edu


(*Dr. Püttgen is also the new President-Elect of the IEEE Power Engineering Society.)


*Services provided by NEETRAC:

-Transmission and Distribution Component Failure Investigation
-Incoming Material Inspection for Quality Control Program
-High Voltager Testing of Transmission and Distribution Components
-Connector Evaluation
-Insulator Testing
-Testing of Aerial Personnel Devices
-Soil Thermal Property Measurements
-Lighting Fixture Evaluation
-Testing of Routine Utility Devices
-Frequency Characterization
-Transfer Functions
-Line Hardware Evaluation
-Thermal Evaluation
-Electric/Hybrid vehicle testing & research
-Mechanical Testing
-Underground Cable Pulling
-Fault Current Testing
-Performance Evaluation of Overhead Conductor and Accessories
-Vibration-damper Testing HV 60Hz Watts Loss
-Measurements Power Cable and Accessory Evaluation
-Weathering and Corrosion Evaluation