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The most powerful renewable energy


Natel’s vision, called Restoration Hydro, moves away from conventional large dams to a more distributed approach based on biomimicry. Before human intervention and the creation of aqueducts and canals, most North American rivers were clogged with woody debris and beaver dams. Cascades that mimic beaver structures cause water to slow down, creating small ponds and wetlands; this gives sufficient time for water to seep into the ground, which in turn raises the water table. A higher water table means more groundwater storage, which helps watersheds ride out long stretches of drought.

These linked distributed systems are specifically designed to restore river connectivity for fish and other wildlife, enhance water-supply sanitation and agricultural productivity, and support the livelihoods and socio-economic development of local communities, making Natel’s system an obvious choice for developing countries. “Our approach is a distributed one,” says Gia, “with smaller individual projects that are linked into groups operated in coordination so that we can generate hydropower without large dams.”

Because hydropower plants can generate power to the grid immediately, they provide essential back-up power during major electricity outages or disruptions (water power has in fact been in high demand during the Covid-19 crisis, as electricity generation has been little affected due to the degree of automation in modern facilities).

Though still in its early stages, Natel Energy’s turbine is already operational: the company opened their first hydropower plant in 2019 in the United States, and a second is in construction with commissioning planned for later this year. As companies throughout the world look to transition to a low or zero-carbon grid, better designed turbines can help achieve high reliability and power storage, enhancing climate resilience while keeping salmon happily swimming upstream.

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2020-07-13 23:52:16

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