Turbulent Hydro

Turbulent Hydro: Hydropower, inspired by nature

Hasselt, BelgiumSantiago de Chile, Chile
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Hydropower, inspired by nature. We provide an ecofriendly and socially inclusive source of energy that can help communities create a profit using their rivers.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

Everyone everywhere could become an energy producer for their community?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Having renewable energy or energy in the first place is not a certainty in large parts of the world. Hydropower is identified as one of the cheapest ways of providing the energy to communities, but it has some drawbacks. The technology mostly needs larger infrastructure and often floods valleys, disrupting the local ecosystem and the lives of those it should be helping. Hydropower is also not scalable, making it more expensive than it needs to be

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We are bringing the solution to the people. By utilizing the natural principle of a vortex, you get a turbine that's ecofriendly, easy to produce and to install. Moreover we are doing geographical scans to identify enough similar sites to allow serial production and thus lower prices. Using the grid of distributed plants, whole regions will be provided with energy, thus allowing faster local development. These turbines are being built for a power of 5 to 100 kW, are as easy to install as a jacuzzi and DO NOT require a dam. Local manufacturing hubs and local installers will be able to gain profit from it, and local entrepreneurs will get the option to operate and maintain the network of plants, thus providing permanent jobs.

Awards

First place in at The Pitch from Startup nations, @Clean tech challenge Belgium, Hello tomorrow finalist, additive design Challenge
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

At Turbulent we believe in learning from nature and simple solutions. Easy to manufacture turbines allow locals to build and learn while building the turbines, easy installation allows local workers to become contract installers. The bundled vortex turbine system requires only a small investment up front and after 3 years the turbines produce enough energy to pay for the further expansion of the grid. This creates local businesses that provide long term employment and the river becomes a network of small turbines that can provide up to 60% of the power of the large dam, and bring the value to the people.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

As a startup we are now focusing on small turbine projects. We have already taken one customer in Belgium off the grid and made him into an energy producer for himself and his neighbors with a turbine of 3 kW that provides energy for 6 households. In the short term future we are planning to place bundled vortex turbines in Chile by using GIS-analysis to identify suitable sites, design and serial produce the turbines with local partners and install them with local contractors. A small grid of 90 turbines can be used to provide a stable energy supply to a region, such as Bio bío, and provide long term employment to 14 people and save 40.000 tons of CO2, while delivering clean and reliable energy to 10.000 people, without harming the local ecosystem. People..Planet..Profit!

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Right now we will help SME's and farmers become self-sufficient. And in the short term we will start building the distributed turbines as an easy and ecofriendly way to create energy for small towns. For this we are bringing third part financier together with plant operators to be able to have a reliable grid. Regions can be provided with energy and will become exporters of energy for the other regions of the country. Optimization and Automation of the business in Chile will allow us to replicate the results in the rest of South-America, South East Asia and Africa.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

If the end customer cannot carry the total investment, Turbulent will look for a 3rd party investor to contribute. The hydropower technology enables the project owner to become energy independent and have his investment paid back within a few years (without grants, subventions,…). This way with organic growth every few years the power plant’s energy turnover enables building a new turbine increasing the local economic and environmental impact.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Distributed hydropower is a trending topic with similar companies like: Zotloeterer, Kouris power, JAG Seabell,… Our vortex solution is special in the way that our system approach included from the start: small & standard, lightness, ease of installation and maintenance. With an improved rotor design, and the adding of control software, the Turbulent hydropower plant is the smallest in its sort while maintaining a high efficiency. Included are also design freedoms to cope with the available materials and production methods in a local community to build the fixed structures themselves.
Team

Founding Story

The story started with curiosity towards vortices. I didn't know what a whirlpool was, scientifically, when I saw it in rivers. I started researching and found out that it is the most efficient way nature has to get excess energy from water. With my equally passionate co-founder, we found funding and started to develop the idea. The possible impact for this nature-inspired turbine brought us to Chile, where we learned about the dislike towards large hydropower. We had designed the turbine from the beginning to be easy to manufacture, but in Chile I got my Aha moment when we saw the excitement about our project and being able to build a grid of turbines and including the local community.

Team

There are the two co-founders Geert and Jasper. Geert is the engineer with experience in building social and ecological businesses, such as CORE and The Blue Academy. Jasper has experience in finance and law with a keen interest in climate, politics and strategy. With opposite personalities and backgrounds, Jasper and Geert, are very complementary to each other. We have previously worked together with success and are surrounded by a network of experienced advisors. To cover the missing knowledge, we built a nice team of colleagues. Bernard an Florian are the mechanical engineering team, Luc is a pioneer in 3D printing IT with vast experience in electronical development, Maarten, who is simply a young genius in electronics, Donica with experience in intercultural communication and marketing and Prakriteesh, who is a wizard on complex CFD simulations. In 2016 the team strategy is to commit the current team to a long term future with the company while introducing more project and business development profiles.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Friend from Start-up Chile told me

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-founder, innovation manager

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Affordable and Clean Energy.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I previously cofounded CORE CVBA-so, where we gave sustainable engineering consultancy to SME that can't afford the normal expensive consultancy. I also cofounded The Blue Academy together with Maarten Arits and several other innovators. With this organizations we introduced the students of the KUL to the principles of biomimicry and how these could be used for ecofriendly innovations. Together with Jasper, I was previously working on another startup, called SubC, to provide an novel anchor for wave energy devices. This would bring down the costs of wave energy with 30%, but it proved to be to expensive to build for a startup. Jasper himself has been awarded as winner of the Belgian Battle of Talents in 2014 with their businessplan on Greenwater. Luc Berben worked for over 25 years for Materialise and pioneered in building most of their ICT infrastructure for the first 3D printing technology.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Turbulent is being supported by the following mentors: Maarten Laga (VAP Vlaanderen), Stefan Smets (KIC Innoenergy), Jan Caris, Dirk Lievens (KBC), VITO, Luc Sterckx, Sven de Cleyn (Iminds), Startup Chile.

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