Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc..
Founded in 2016 by the late Paul Camilleri, Kinetic NRG is a startup with a mission to provide communities across the globe with the technology to generate clean energy in decentralised locations without the need for heavy machinery and expensive infrastructure.
Through private funds, the company has invented and patented a micro hydro-kinetic energy generator which is capable of providing constant base load electrical power generation using untapped kinetic energy flows from small waterways.
Hydro-electric power is a major source of renewable energy in Australia. More than 120 operating power stations were built across the country in the 20th century, the largest of which is the Tumut 3 Hydroelectric Power Station on the Tumut River in New South Wales which is part of the massive Snowy Mountain Scheme. Electricity is produced by using falling or fast-running water to spin a turbine connected to a generator that produces electricity. While hydro-electric power relies on huge dams and water systems and equally large turbine systems, hydrokinetic energy conversion (HEC) uses the velocity of smaller water systems including rivers, streams or irrigation channels to generate electrical power.
Kinetic NRG’s hydro-kinetic energy generator measures 1.5 metres in diameter with an output of up to 30 kilowatts (kW) from water flows of 2.0 metres per second. It is part of a kit that uses an environmentally friendly turbine blade to produce more power from low velocity water flow (1.5 m/s) within a given waterway. It is a modular designed transportable structure powered by a smart technology power management system. The spiral-shaped turbine blade which combined with the nacelle increases water pressure available for capture, extracting more energy than previously thought possible, which is the systems defining feature.
Darren Wren, Managing Director of Kinetic NRG, explains, “Conventionally turbines are forged from metal, which after trials proved unsuitable for our innovative spiral blade model. Alternative manufacturing techniques and materials including nylon, ceramics and 3D printing also proved unsuitable.”
During 2020, the Victorian specialist composites design and manufacturing organisation, Advanced Composite Structures Australia (ACS Australia), was engaged by Kinetic NRG to design and manufacture the hydro-electric turbine. The primary material for the turbine blade is a non-crimp glass fibre epoxy resin composite which is finished with an anticorrosive, marine-grade paint before installation.
ACS Australia says that in addition to the complex manufacturing and assembly process, designing the tooling for the blade’s four interlocking subcomponents was one of the challenging aspects of the design. CAD files show the upper and middle sections of the tool, which was manufactured by Sykes Australia in Geelong. “We are currently looking at refining the fabrication technology which may require a higher-speed process depending on the shape and volumes,” says Paul Falzon, General Manager of ACS Australia. “We are also evaluating converting other metallic components of the system into composites, to cut down on overall weight of the assembly. Cost and performance will determine the material system that will eventually be utilised.” Falzon says.
As a technology company, Kinetic NRG will be forming manufacturing partnerships to scale up to commercial volumes.