what's new

Natel has released a photo collection documenting progress on the new Free-Jet hydroEngine™, and the move into new facilities at Building 23 in Alameda, CA.

Natel is hiring! View all open positions on the Natel careers page.



Natel will soon ship the first Free-Jet hydroEngine™ to the Freedom Falls project in Maine.  In April, Natel will attend the NHA Annual Conference in Washington DC.


01 Product Development

First Free-Jet hydroEngine™ blade assemblies complete

Natel has completed production of the first blade assemblies for the new Free-Jet hydroEngine™. The blade assemblies function similarly to those of the Fully-Flooded hydroEngine™, but the hydraulic design increases efficiency and reduces internal machine stresses. The Free-Jet also incorporates a new blade end-plate design which is optimized for ease of fabrication.
Assembly of other Free-Jet hydroEngine™ subsystems commenced
In addition to the blade assemblies, work commenced on all the other major Free-Jet hydroEngine™ subsystems. These include the belt tensioning system, nozzle, and control panels.  Here Mechanical Engineer Peder Aune inspects part of the belt tensioning system.

Production begins on belt testing system

The hydroEngine™ belts are a key component which transmit the blade’s linear motion into the rotary motion of a generator. Building on the robust existing fatigue testing program, Natel is adding a testing system to fatigue test a variety of new belt options. These belt options could allow an expanded head, flow, and power range for future hydroEngines™.
Production begins on plant intake design improvements
Natel’s hydroEngine™ enables a variety of new plant layouts that reduce civil works costs and enable low head hydro to be developed more efficiently and cost effectively.  One of these improvements, an intake flow conditioner, is currently in production.  The flow conditioners will optimize flows through the trash rack, reducing intake loses and helping plants generate more power.

02 Project Focus

Freedom Falls progress

Assembly of the Free-Jet hydroEngine™ for the Freedom Falls Maine hydro project has commenced. The majority of civil works at the project site are complete with a planned equipment delivery date in Spring 2016.  As the project involves retrofitting a historic mill site with significant configuration constraints, the developer had to manage some complex and interesting construction challenges. Fortunately, Natel’s Free-Jet, which does not require a draft tube, simplified some of these constraints as it can be placed above the tailwater, minimizing excavation. The Freedom Falls Project owner is maintaining a very nice weblog with updates and photos of the work.
Chile updates
Design and approvals for the first project in Chile, developed in partnership with Wireless Energy and supported by the U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA), are close to complete. The first pilot is a 250kW project in an existing irrigation canal drop in the Metropolitan Region of Chile. Construction is expected to commence later this year. In addition, development work started on the second USTDA supported project, targeted for construction in 2017. This project will be a cascade of 3 powerhouses in existing irrigation canal drops in the O’Higgins Region of Chile with an approximate total rating of 1.3 MW. 

Bhutan updates

In Q4 2015, Natel completed a survey of five prospective pilot sites in the Thimphu and Paro valleys for Bhutan’s first EcoSmartHydro™ project. Over the past two months, Natel and our partner in Bhutan, Druk Holding and Investments (DHI), have screened these sites further. In February, three Natel team members traveled to Bhutan for a week to select the preferred site, which is located approximately 13 kilometers northeast of Paro. Natel and DHI will now collaborate with other key stakeholders, including the National Land Commission and the National Environmental Commission, to commence permitting and detailed feasibility and design studies.

03 Business Development

Natel's new facilities move in complete

Natel has completed the move to Building 23, a combined design and manufacturing space near our old headquarters in Alameda, CA. The floor of the former shipping warehouse has been cleared to make room for larger scale hydroEngine™ production.  Work has also begun on a new machine shop.

04 Hiring

Natel is hiring!

Natel is actively seeking highly qualified candidates for key engineering and technician positions. This is an opportunity for a few new team members to make big contributions to Natel and this exciting, growing industry. Currently open positions include:
  • Civil Engineer – Hydropower
  • Senior Mechanical Engineer
  • Civil Engineer
  • Mechanical Engineer 
  • Mechanical Technician
  • Field Engineer/Technician
  • Office Manager
View all open positions on the Natel careers page.
New Team Member: Ryan McKinley
At Natel, Ryan designs and develops the watershedOS software platform for ecoSmartHydro development.  Prior to working at Natel, Ryan founded Voyager Search, a tool for finding and using complex geospatial  data.  Ryan was also a founder and developer of Instructables.com.  He received a BS in computer science from the University of California, San Diego, and an MS from MIT. 

New Team Member: Jessica Andrews

At Natel, Jessica engages the NGO, University and environmental sustainability community to grow strategic partnerships and leverage the growth of the distributed hydropower industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Oregon.

05 Media and Outreach

NHA Annual Conference

Natel’s CEO, Gia Schneider, will attend the NHA Annual Conference from April 25-27 in Washington DC, to discuss Natel’s vision for climate resilient, distributed hydro.



Eric Thompson and Meghan Harwood will be at the Natel Booth and at meetings at the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) conference in Monterey from
May 3-6.  Please stop by!

Hydrovision International

Natel will display at booth 206 at Hydrovision International from July 26-29 in Minneapolis. Natel will have a large contingent there from our technical and commercial teams.  

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