A revolutionary new hydroelectric system has been built on a section of the Ale Water which flows through Newhall Farm, near Melrose.
The Water Engine System has been designed to generate electricity from water courses with a drop of as little as 50cm and is the first to be installed on a river in the world.
Having invested £150k into building and installing the technology, Clovenfords based Water Engine Technology (WET) Ltd will now use this system to showcase its power generating potential to investors and buyers.
Owners, Euan Hogg and Stan Johnston, who are currently working with Business Gateway Scottish Borders, believe the Water Engine, which also has the capability to provide clean water and generate heat as well as power, has huge potential both in the UK and abroad.
Already a series of Water Engine Systems have been earmarked for installation on the Gala Water as part of the Gala Hydro project.
Euan said: “When you think of hydro schemes you automatically think of big intrusive systems, so when the designs for the Water Engine came across our desk, Stan and I realised there was scope for much smaller systems that could be community-based. Over the past four years, we’ve worked to secure the investment needed to install on the Ale Water, securing funding from Scottish Enterprise, private individuals, and investing £40k prize money from Shell Springboard.
“It was always our intention to build the first system in the Borders, as people need to see it in action to understand exactly how it works. Although small scale, the Water Engine at Newhall allows us to showcase the technology to potentially interested parties and it helps remove any doubts about its ability to generate power. It also allows us to highlight how incredibly simple and effective the system is, not just in terms of generating power but its maintenance.”
He added: “We first made contact with Business Gateway a number of years ago. Our then adviser helped us secure funding through Scottish Enterprise and connected us to numerous organisations. So, when we knew we were entering into the next phase of our business development, we re-connected with them last year. Our adviser, Annie Watt, has helped us secure funding to work with a financial consultant to update our business plan, and has put us in touch with local companies who we are looking to work with to help promote our technology.”
Annie Watt, Business Gateway, said: “The Water Engine is an impressive piece of technology that could help private and public land owners, with rivers on their land, generate renewable power for community use or to establish a cash flow. The technology will also be of great interest to utility and energy companies looking for cost-effective ways to displace grid-purchased electricity with renewable energy. By re-connecting with Business Gateway, we have been able to provide them with support through our Expert Help programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, which has allowed them to create investment readiness documents as they look to secure funding to drive the Gala Hydro project forward.”
The idea for the Water Engine was first thought of in the late 1970s by inventor Alister Reid, who is now a shareholder in WET Ltd. Inspired by watching how boats were raised and lowered in a canal lock, he designed a float-driven hydraulic system, where floats are raised and lowered due to water entering and exiting a chamber. A system of hydraulic rams then converts the motion into high-pressure fluid which can be used for hydroelectricity, water treatment, and irrigation.
Euan said: “Because we are offering a cost competitive system to generate electricity, we are initially looking to help establish community-based hydro schemes on low head waterways throughout the UK. Ultimately, however, we want to take the technology to the developing world where it could have a hugely positive impact, providing power, clean water, and an easy to maintain irrigation system at low cost.”
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