Today we were pleased to find out that we received a $1.8 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop our design for low-head hydro equipment:
Assessments sponsored by the DOE show that domestic new stream reach potential in the USA alone is about 460 TWh per year. But one of the major problems with harnessing this potential is that LCOE estimates are often much higher than the cost of conventional electricity. The economics ne marchent pas, so to say.
Recognizing this problem and opportunity, LPS conceived a modular low head system, scalable for head from approximately 7 to 50 feet depending on the type of deployment. The system is designed principally for run-of-the-river applications, i.e., installations where you're not impounding a significant body of water. Up-front costs are very low due to an innovative form factor: the components of the system are prefabricated, transported and in fact deployed in modified recycled ISO shipping containers.
The design makes for a highly scalable system. Loosely analogous to solar panels, small or large installations can be made from the same modules – there are just more of them, ganged together.
Repurposing used shipping containers, which are available nearly for free, is highly energy efficient in its own right. A key issue with any renewable energy technology is whether it can pay back the energy needed to manufacture, install, operate and decommission it reasonably quickly -- in other words the “ERoEI” or Energy Return on Energy Invested. Without achieving an adequate energy return it would be pointless to develop such technology, as the pollution from manufacturing it would not be balanced by the savings from using it. LPS believes that real-world ERoEI using recycled/repurposed containers can be as low as 6 to 12 months, out of a project life in excess of 20 years. This suggests a payback of 20 to 40 times ERoEI, which we believe is a good return by any standard.