BCIT engineering students invent mini turbine
Two mechanical engineering students at B.C. Institute of Technology have invented a mini turbine that produces electricity off small creeks.
Eric Clegg, 25, and David Sauve, 26, created the mini power plant as their fourth-year project after taking note of a small dam on Guichon Creek on the Burnaby campus.
"We walk by this every single day but we never talk about the fact it could be used for something," Sauve said.
The students decided to explore the potential of smaller waterways that would typically be overlooked by proponents of larger micro hydro projects, a concept that's been around for some time, he said.
With Clegg's experience as an inventor—he previously developed a high-speed winch for water-skiing and wake-boarding—the pair produced a prototype which they installed at the dam recently.
They worked with BCIT's Rivers Institute and its fisheries and wildlife restoration department to ensure the project would not have any adverse environmental impacts, Sauve noted.
The turbine is designed to be used year-round, staying on even during periods of minimal creek flow. As for applications, it could produce enough power, about 100 watts, to power a laptop computer for use in rivers and fisheries research. It could also be used to recharge batteries or even to produce electricity for cabins located within sight of running creeks.
The advantage over solar power is "it runs all the time," said Clegg. "The more rainy, even better."
With B.C.'s rainy weather, solar will never be the total answer to our power needs, he said. "Hydro, in this area, is where it's at, in my opinion."
Several of the turbines could be combined to increase power production off a single small waterway, but the students' goal is to find ways to make it even smaller and lighter to improve its portability. While it would be a "huge project," Sauve said, a much smaller version could potentially be used for camping.