Natel Energy Bi-Monthly Newsletter - May/June 2014

what's new

During the months of May and June, the Natel team accomplished many milestones including completing fabrication of a new belt attachment, finishing inspection of key parts, and instrumenting and testing final SLH100 components. Watch the video below!
Natel Energy video: May-June 2014


Natel will be at World Water Week in Stockholm August 31-September 4.

01 product development

SLH100: Axle assembly
The evolution of the axle drive assembly has been a two year process involving intense development and evaluation of multiple configurations. The process was narrowed down to two architectures with different methods for supporting the sprockets. These two architectures were fully specified and sourced to eventually settle on the commercial release. Natel’s team, led by Manufacturing Engineer Rodrigo Linares, completed assembly of the first commercial 500 kW axle which is ready for inclusion in the full SLH100.
SLH100: Inspecting parts
Part of Natel's water-to-wire offering is a complete power-takeoff system, including the gearbox and generator. The first gearbox shipment arrived some months ago. Here, Engineers Kevin Morris and Peder Aune stage a Siemens gearbox for the SLH100 to the new assembly facility.
Controls: Strain gauges on blades
Natel’s initial installations include extra sensors and data gathering systems to maximize monitoring and provide feedback for future product design and optimization. For example, it will be helpful to compare actual loads on the blades to expected values, so Natel is outfitting blades in the initial production units with strain gauges. As the blades extract energy from the moving water they move at about half the speed of the water and complete about 60 elliptical paths per minute. (In contrast, shaft speed is closer to 180 rpm.)
The gauges communicate back to the SCADA system through a wireless transmitter that rides on the blade. This requires a custom sealed enclosure containing battery, antenna, and transmitter to withstand the motion and internal operating environment. Mechanical Engineer Kevin Morris, who leads development of this system, completed testing of the enclosure under pressure in a submerged chamber in Natel’s test facility.
Controls: Hydraulic test system
Mechanical Engineer Ian Tam has been testing and verifying various aspects of the hydraulic test system that was described in the last Newsletter. The belts are tested to 2,000 PSI, and the hydraulic accumulator (basically a pressure / fluid storage component) reaches a maximum of about 3,000 PSI. As a point of interest, 3,000 PSI is equivalent to being 1.3 miles underwater.
Design: CFD modeling
Raymond Tsang, Hydraulic Structural Engineer, works to ensure high performance designs through extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling. These models not only analyze and help optimize existing products but also enable evaluation of expected performance of future products.

02  project focus

Chile project
Adam Atkinson-Lewis returned to Chile in June to continue Natel’s partnership with Wireless Energy to launch the hydroEngine™ in Chile. While there, Adam visited over 8 MW of potential low-drop sites in existing infrastructure.
Also in Chile, Natel and Wireless signed an agreement to develop our first EcoSmartHydro™ project in the country. The project will consist of one SLH100 in an irrigation canal, and will be the first of many projects utilizing the hydroEngine™ in Chile.
Preliminary visit to Colombia
In June, Adam Atkinson-Lewis and Rodrigo Linares traveled to Colombia with the US Trade Development Agency to conduct initial market sizing and to speak with potential market development partners in Colombia. Adam and Rodrigo spent time in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, and Neiva, meeting with government agencies, utilities, and experienced hydropower developers. Interest in the hydroEngine™ was high with next steps focused on developing a pipeline of projects.

03 business development


Natel has decided to locate its first production facility location in Alameda, CA, and successfully closed on the space, with a move-in date of July 1. Natel will outfit the 35,000 square foot space to assemble and test hydroEngines™, starting with the first SLH100's headed to projects in Oregon and Chile in the next 12 months.

New team members: Joanna Noble

In May, Natel welcomed Joanna Noble to the team as a mechanical engineer. She will focus on machine design and manufacturing. She has designed and fabricated a variety of tools used for SLH100 machine assembly and component testing. Joanna has an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley. Before joining Natel, she worked on structural design and fabrication at Makani Power, an airborne wind turbine company. She has also researched 3D ultrasound techniques, repaired hospital equipment in Tanzania, and explored the use of 3D printed tools for injection molding.

04  media & outreach

Website: new project calculator!
Since one of the main differentiators of the hydroEngine™ is its better performance in head and flow ranges where legacy technologies do not operate as well, Natel provides a project calculator on the website. The calculator was recently updated to handle more cases and give more detailed results. While this is still a first-pass estimating tool that does not take the place of full project analysis including configuration, head and flow, it helps to qualify sites and demonstrate the hydroEngine's™ value. Through the calculator, site visitors can also request additional information.
Natel continued outreach at the Association of California Water Agencies Conference, 6-9 May, 2014 and at Hydrovision in Nashville in July.

World Water Week's Ideas' Marketplace August 31-September 4

Natel was awarded a spot at World Water Week's Ideas' Marketplace in Stockholm, to exhibit EcoSmartHydro™ to the world's preeminent water-energy nexus thinkers and doers. 

World Water Week is the premier gathering of the world's water experts across government, non-governmental, and private organizations, and this year it is focused on the important overlap between water and energy issues. We think it's a perfect spot to discuss EcoSmartHydro™, and we hope you can join us!

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