Testing, evaluating and commercialising alternative energy with the I2C project
H2O Turbines Ltd is a specialist in pressurised wind turbine technology. The company has built a 3kW domestic turbine, which converts wind into power, using patented technology. The turbine is small enough to be installed in a back garden without planning permission being required and converts rotary motion into stored heat energy. Expressed in the simplest terms, when the wind blows, the top of the turbine spins and a rotating shaft goes to the bottom of the turbine in order to operate it. It uses no electrical components and does not burn carbon or use precious metals during its operation and production of power.
Having established its patented technology, the company needed to begin the journey towards commercialisation. Initially visiting Thornton Science Park looking for business premises, H2O shown around the on-site Rapid Prototyping facility, met the engineers at the University of Chester’s Energy Centre and quickly realised the huge potential of expertise and facilities available through the I2C project. As well as signing up to the I2C project and using the Energy Centre to develop its technology, H2O Turbines also became a tenant at Thornton Science Park.
Mastering new skills, harnessing technology
Staff from H2O Turbines attended multiple I2C masterclasses, including Institute for Manufacturing, Business Strategy Development, Process Control and Automation and 3D Printing. They took forward what they had learned from the masterclasses and applied it to their own technology. As a first step, H20 Turbines was seeking a means to measure precisely how much power can be generated from one of its 3kW turbines in different conditions and crucially, how long the power can be stored for. In collaboration with I2C’s engineering team, H2O Turbines designed and built an experimental demonstrator in the Energy Centre, implementing the principles learned in the Process and Control and Automation masterclass. This experimental system features a motor to turn the turbine to mimic different wind conditions, while the correlating amount of heat produced can be measured.
The demonstrator uses water as a transport mechanism and the water heats up very quickly from room temperature to 90 degrees Celsius. Most domestic boilers heat water up to around 60 degrees Celsius. However, for this system, having the capacity to reach such a higher temperature easily is important. It enables heated water to be stored in a well insulated tank for over 24 hours without it cooling down too much to be useful for domestic purposes. From an environmental point of view, domestic gas or oil fired boilers both produce CO2, while this wind powered system is a zero carbon operation, with no by-products.
Tests being carried out on the demonstration model are being conducted as an independent experiment on how well it is performing. These will result in an independent University of Chester report being produced, which will state findings including an assessment of the technology, how fast it can work, how much heat it can produce and how long the heat can be stored for. This report will add further appeal to potential investors, who are already showing a promising amount of interest in the technology.
Powering ahead, thanks to turbine technology
Looking ahead, this turbine technology could be used to generate electricity to be stored in batteries, widening its practical applications in the home still further. The Energy Centre has a micro-grid so in time, using H2O’s turbines, a small substation could be created, producing sufficient energy to power a small community.
Thomas Adams, Head of Commerce at H2O Turbines, says, “Taking part in the I2C project means that our new product has reached a milestone in its journey to commercialisation. Attending multiple masterclasses meant we acquired new skills and adopted new processes within the business too.
The research report stating the University’s independent findings will be of huge benefit. It will provide validation of our technology, which promises to revolutionise how a free source of fuel can be harvested efficiently and effectively at a local level."
The I2C initiative was part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. SMEs registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington, who met the eligibility criteria, were eligible to apply for support from the I2C project. Applicants had to have a turnover of less than €50 million and employ fewer than 250 employees. In addition to I2C’s in-house team of engineers and specialist equipment, SMEs that enrol in the project had access to the world-class facilities at the University of Chester, via its state-of-the-art skills, equipment and resources based at Thornton Science Park and the NoWFOOD Centre in Chester.