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Backpack Power Plant offers hydroelectricity on the move

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March 16, 2010

Bourne Energy's Backpack Power Plant is ultra-portable at under 3 feet long and weighing l...

Bourne Energy's Backpack Power Plant is ultra-portable at under 3 feet long and weighing less than 30 pounds (Image: Bourne Energy)

Hydroelectric power specialist Bourne Energy has developed a human-portable hydroelectric generator which can create clean, quiet power from any stream deeper than four feet. The "Backpack Power Plant", which joins the company's Riverstar, Oceanstar and Tidalstar designs, is aimed at bringing cheap, practical energy technology to remote areas.

Bourne Energy has developed two versions of the BPP; BPP-1 is aimed at civilians, while BPP-2 is designed for the military and was recently unveiled at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco. Both measure three feet in length and weigh less than 30 pounds, though the military version is 10% lighter. Both are self-contained with their own integrated power, control, cooling and sensor systems. They collapse into a backpack-sized module comprising three parts; the generator, hub and folded stored blades.

While the military BPP-2 unit produces 20% more power (600W) of high quality continuous power depending on river current, the civilian BPP-1 unit produces approximately 500 W/unit but was not designed to work with a variety of flow rates and produces optimum energy in streams moving at 2.3 meters per second. Both can be arranged singularly or in arrays of 20-30 kW. The BPP-2 however operates silently with no heat or exhaust emissions, is 40% less visible during operation and can also be bottom-mounted to ensure total invisibility if required.

The system is designed to be quickly installed via Bourne Energy's novel submerged horizontal high tension mooring system: two trenches are dug on opposite sides of a river and a lightweight anchor inserted into each bank. A synthetic rope is run between the anchors and the BPP unit. Bourne Energy CEO Chris Catlin said his company designed the system to work like the high-tension mooring systems that hold up floating oil rigs.

Bourne Energy of Malibu California is currently looking for US$4 million in venture capital to take the BPP mini hydro-electric system from prototype to production. The company is aware that the US$3000 price tag for the civilian version precludes all but the most gadget-hungry buyers, but hope to find interested customers in developing nations and the military as they believe their hydroelectric products offer significant advantages over off-grid solar-power which may be quiet, but produce only a fraction of the power.

To illustrate, one commercially available foldable solar panel measures about 12 square feet and produces 62 watts of peak power. Sixty square feet of panels would be needed to get the same peak power as the BPP-2, and the panels would only generate electricity while the sun was shining. This is also true of other renewable energy sources such as wind, which is weather dependent. Hydro-electric power does not suffer from this drawback, and an ultra-portable module will no doubt have many practical applications around the world.

“This can bring a cheap, highly portable energy technology to remote areas and remote villages,” said Catlin.

Bourne Energy via Wired.

6 Comments

this is the best alternative energy gizmo I've seen yet . . . .

Facebook User
17th March, 2010 @ 06:34 am PDT

Wish I had one to put in the creek behind my house... would end up paying for itself in a few years.

matthew.rings
17th March, 2010 @ 05:10 pm PDT

Check out otherpower.com for information on how to build a generator from scratch using powerful rare-earth magnets. The people who run that site live past the end of the wires in the Colorado mountains so their only option for electricity is to generate their own.

Facebook User
17th March, 2010 @ 05:50 pm PDT

At 3000 US dollars it is still way too out of reach of the developing nations that they are targeting. In the absence of a comparable technology from any competitor, they do stand to gain as a result and must make use of this prime mover advantage and strive very hard to bring the price down. Stacking up units individual units to suite the consumption needs is again a winning point, and entire villages can be electrified using this technology very easily. Africa and India are indeed a great market for them. I feel a price of 500 US dollars might break the ice and start things moving. I feel they should consider sourcing the raw material from these countries and sell the finished product here rather than importing fully built units into these countries, which also might have a very high import duty, which in and of itself is a deal breaker by any stretch of imagination. The team needs to come out of the "US mothership" and reach out to the world, for the world needs this technology right now, and my best wishes to the team for success in their future endeavors.

Mohammad R Himayathullah
17th March, 2010 @ 09:24 pm PDT

Hmmm... I wonder if this is just another 'virtual' product. Their website is very vague and NONE of their links go anywhere.

ducati_boy
18th March, 2010 @ 01:10 pm PDT

Good innovative device with bad pricing. I designed a micro hydro device for battery charging from the water falling from Irrigation and diesel pump sets. The height of 1 m head can be utilised to charge 12 V automobile lead acid batteries in parallel (3).All the material including the generator are made locally(Generator available in the market with changed windings for low rpm). The whole system costs around Rs 5000(about US$ 115. There are 12 million irrigation pump sets and 6 million diesel pump sets in India. This is a cost effective method of battery charging.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Dr.A.Jagadeesh
20th April, 2010 @ 09:01 am PDT
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