The complete hydro package
Ontario-based Galt Green Energy produces a packaged in-stream hydropower system designed to generate electricity from low-head water drops with minimal civil works required.
Established in 1980 as Rapid-Eau Technologies, Galt Green Energy (‘Galt’) has been in the small and micro hydro business for a long time – and it shows. So brilliant was its ‘L’ turbine, developed in 1984 and recognised in the Innovation category of the Canada Awards for Excellence in 1986, that an updated version still forms the basis of its product offering today. The L turbine’s innovative inverted siphon system was a breakthrough in small hydro-electric technology and helped ensure Galt’s success throughout the 80s, 90s and 00s.
“The L turbine was a very large development in hydropower, in that it reduced the complexity of a turbine casing by removing the guide veins that are required to monitor the flows through the turbine,” says Galt Vice President of Business Development Will Rogers.
“The process for developing hydropower here in Ontario throughout the 80s, 90s and 00s leant very well to the type of turbine we had designed, so we focused on the traditional type of hydropower development: installing the systems in existing dams and doing independent projects. We completed 18 projects in Ontario over that time.”
A few years ago, Rapid-Eau Technologies span off a new company called Rapid-Eau Automation. This spin-off specialised in the design and implementation of electrical control technology, and created programmable control systems that are now in use throughout parts of Canada and the US. In June 2012, however, in response to trends and opportunities the Rapid-Eau team had observed worldwide, the two companies were recombined to form Galt Green Energy.
“We realised that the market was leaning towards low-head hydropower installations, which utilise drops between 2-6m high, because a lot of the large hydropower developments, in Canada especially, have been exploited already,” says Rogers.
“So we brought together our patented water turbine technology developed in the 80s, and our industry-leading automation technology from the 90s, to create the Eco-Siphon: the industry’s first in-stream fully packaged hydro station.”
Saving time and money
The Eco-Siphon Packaged Hydro Station has many features that set it apart from other hydropower technologies. The clearest is that its self-contained design prevents it from having any substantial impact on the environment. The design also reduces the cost of civil works for installation by 50%.
“With traditional hydropower applications there is a lot of civil work, concrete pouring and similar that has to be done,” says Rogers.
“We’ve reduced that by half, by packaging our system and making it plug and play, so it can be plugged into an existing dam or waterfall. In many cases, our system will fit into a dam in such a way that we need to pour only very minimal concrete; but if it is a natural application, with no dam involved, we can set up our system on four adjustable legs, removing the environmental impact entirely.”
Halving the civil works also halves the time it takes to develop a hydropower project, meaning an Eco-Siphon project is likely to take between eight and 10 months to develop, compared with the 36 months it might take to develop a traditional hydropower project from beginning to end.
In addition, the Eco-Siphon’s operational costs are 30% lower than those for traditional hydropower systems, partly because they do not require a full-time operator. Impressively, the hydro station’s automation and control technology allows Galt to monitor multiple Eco-Siphon systems across the globe from one computer screen in its office.
On and off-grid
Galt’s Eco-Siphon technology is applicable to both grid and off-grid situations, but for its global expansion the company is targeting remote, off-grid locations where it sees great potential to make a positive difference to communities. Galt was inspired to go in this direction by Canada’s northern First Nations communities that don’t have access to electricity.
“Our system is perfect for remote or off-grid areas, because we don’t require the traditional elements of development,” says Rogers.
“We can fly in our system if need be, and plug and play it into a natural waterfall. In addition, our system has unlimited scalability, meaning if a site is able to produce more energy than one system’s capacity, we can put in multiple systems in order to take advantage of all that energy.”
Rogers says Galt is particularly interested in doing irrigation canal applications, and is currently solidifying a number of such projects internationally. Throughout 2013 the company was engaged in travelling and testing the global market, so didn’t work on any projects. But it has a long list of projects pending, including several in Ontario and others in Sri Lanka. In addition, Galt has been working with business partners in India, the Philippines and Chile to establish relationships and outline potential projects for the future.
Galt decided to go global, says Rogers, after government regulations in Ontario began to make it more difficult to do business there; the time required for permitting and approvals made small low-head projects unfeasible. Fortunately, the company’s decision to look further afield paid off when it turned out the international response far exceeded that it had been getting in Canada.
Part of Galt’s international trade mission was executed in Canada, through showing international clients and partners from as far as Africa its demonstration unit in Brantford, Ontario. The first siphon station with the runner at the top of the siphon loop in a horizontal position, the 120kW on-grid Brantford Inverted Siphon System has wide spacing between its track racks to enable the passing of large amounts of debris in the river.
With its eyes on projects across the world, Galt has set its sights for the coming year high.
“2014 is a very big year for us; we’ll solidify the partnerships we have made worldwide and ensure we have working demonstration units in the international field,” says Rogers.
“We have tried and tested the technology in Canada, but now we have to prove it internationally too, to solidify our expansion into those international markets.”
Galt’s long-term goals are even bigger: to become “one of the world’s top suppliers of low head in-stream hydro systems,” Rogers adds.
“We are the only company to have developed a fully packaged hydro system with minimal environmental impact, so we plan on becoming the largest distributor for that market-leading technology.”