TIDAL TURBINES TURN FOR INNOVATOR

Written on the 6 June 2011

TIDAL TURBINES TURN FOR INNOVATOR

AFTER more than 10 years working on its innovative water turbine technology, clean energy company Tidal Energy is developing a project in Bangladesh worth up to $5 million.

Tidal Energy duo Aaron Davidson and Craig Hill (pictured L-R) have researched how their new generation of water turbines could harvest moving water into hydro kinetic energy since founding the Palm Beach company
in 1999.

After many set-backs in the commercialisation process, including a potential $200 million Chinese finance deal that fell through, the duo is now seeing their technology on the world stage.

“We have developed the DHV (Davidson Hill Venturi), a device that maximises energy efficiency from moving water found in currents in tidal areas and rivers by getting up to four times the energy of a normal turbine,” explains Hill.

“We’ve been developing our technology for over 10 years and have patents granted in many countries worldwide. Currently we’re developing a project in Bangladesh which will commence soon and we have interests in South America, Ireland India and Canada.

“The Bangladesh project involves a two megawatts installation, set up as a commercial demonstration. But there’s a lot more to it than that. We’re also developing the site and determining the feasibility of other sites in the region. In total the project could generate up to $5 million.”

Hill says Tidal Energy would prefer to use the Gold Coast’s marine engineering expertise and build the water turbines locally for export. This structure would also secure the company export grants from the federal and state governments.

“The development of technology such as this can result in income to the country of millions of dollars and jobs in a time when we seem to import everything and make nothing,” says Hill.

“We have received support in the way of grants over the years and are very appreciative with the assistance we have received, going back into local community and industry many times over in manufacturing and materials from local suppliers.”

As the density of water is more than 800 times that of air, moving water in rivers, tides and ocean currents could contain the largest source of renewable energy on the planet. Hill is quick to highlight that an eight knot tidal current has more energy than a 380km/h wind.

The biggest obstacle for Tidal Energy remains finding the right partner to financially back the technology. Last year, talks with a Chinese financier could have secured the company $200 million, however Hill and Davidson weren’t comfortable with
the deal.

“We were in negotiations with them for some time and it proved very difficult. Eventually talks stalled,” he says.

“Many companies want to be too big too soon and without the right type of financial backing it’s fraught with danger. The Chinese deal included a range of things, such as listing a company on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

“We didn’t think it was in our best interests. You’ve got to be careful when dealing with venture capitalists because many want full control, an early exit and are only looking after their own interests.”

Tidal Energy has faced its share of barriers, but Hill says it’s all a part of the commercialisation process.

“The potential is incredible and with all the talk of a carbon tax and focus on sustainability, the time is right. The phone never stops ringing; we’re very excited,” he says.

“Along with the rapid development of wind energy systems, the potential of hydro-kinetic energy is receiving more and more attention. The distinct advantages of hydro-kinetic energy include the greater predictability of water currents in river and tides, minimal impact on the visual amenity with turbines placed underwater, and a lower cost of energy production.

“While the moon is in the sky we can predict what the tide will be doing years in advance, unlike solar or wind where as we know the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.”

Tidal Energy scooped this month’s Gold Coast Business Excellence Mayor’s Innovation Award.


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