Achelous Energy – Technology for Net Zero
Achelous Energy has embarked on the task of bringing clean electricity to remote communities by utilising its innovative Floating Tidal Power System, a simple yet robust and reliable river power plant.
One of the main issues facing most existing renewable technologies is that the natural resources they draw on, such as wind or solar energy, are intermittent – this means power cannot be constantly created. Hydrokinetic, ‘run-of-river’ technology is different.
Achelous Energy’s innovative FITS technology uses the constant resource of flowing river water to power its vertical axis turbines. The device also incorporates a solar deck for photovoltaic power generation, making it unique in the river hydrokinetic market. Power conversion systems supplied by Danfoss Drives ensure that the FITS plant provides an accessible and consistent source of power.
The FITS device is environmentally non-invasive. It requires no dams or large infrastructure such as that required by traditional hydropower, and a fraction of the land needed by onshore solar and wind farms. The technology has been specifically designed as a scalable system, for platform sizes of 20kW all the way up to 500kW+.
A key feature of the FITS plant design is that its two vertical-axis turbines can be tilted to 90º to raise them clear of the water so that the plant can be towed through the water just like any other vessel. This allows it to be easily moved to a new location on any river where electrical power is needed.
Fit for purpose
Who is the company that came up with this pioneering and yet simple, cheap and robust concept? Achelous Energy, established in 2017, was set up by James Diddams and Tim Wood, who had worked together onshore and offshore for over a decade, first as engineers together in offices and shipyards around Southeast Asia, and later managing companies as senior directors.
“We set up the company to address the issues of global warming, and renewable energy access throughout society,” says James. “We started off as a consultancy business but soon realised that there could be a cheap solution that tackled the issue of limited access to energy in remote communities. So, we decided to develop our own robust, scalable technology that would use the river as a constant source of baseload renewable power production.”
Over the last four years, the company has been busy developing its pioneering hydrokinetic technology, with the support of a UK Innovate grant received in 2019. One of the company’s strengths is its very small core team of just 4 people, says James Diddams.
“We specifically operate with a lean central team so that we can execute projects very cheaply. With our background in oil and gas, having executed 100-million-dollar projects in the past, we are confident that we have all the necessary knowledge, and the small team allows us the flexibility to bring in partners as well.”
The company is now reaching the final stages of fabrication for its first FITS power plant on the Hlaing river in Yangon, Myanmar. “We focused from the very beginning on south-east Asia, and chose Myanmar as a project area because some 58% of that country has no access to power,” James explains.
The project has not been without its challenges, primarily brought on by Covid-19 restrictions and the military coup that occurred in the country following its recent election, but he affirms that, given the team’s experience with difficult circumstances in challenging regions, the obstacles have been handled well.
“In terms of the technology itself, we have not faced any challenges yet, which is due to the design being so simple and robust. Saying that, the system has not been tested yet. This will happen in January next year, and we will call on our partners to assist us.”
Scheduled for completion in late 2021, the whole power plant will be assembled, with the turbines integrated into position and overall fit-out completed, by the end of December 2021. The unit will then be towed out to the Hlaing River. Once in the river, the FITS power plant will undergo a rigorous commissioning and testing programme to verify and validate the system performance against design prediction and scale model test data.
“The power plant can be operated and maintained by anyone. Once active, the installation is autonomous, cloud-controlled, allowing us to monitor its performance and all its systems using IoT regardless of where it is located in the world,” says James, highlighting another of the system’s benefits.
The potential for power generation from rivers is truly global. The plan is that Achelous will assist in the set-up, installation and operation of FITS projects until they are sufficiently proven, at which point it will exit these projects through the sale.
“The market is developing very rapidly and we have a number of projects in the pipeline in south-east Asia. At the moment we have a Memorandum of Understanding with Nepal for starting a pilot project there, and a Memorandum of Understanding in Bangladesh. We are also talking to New Zealand about potential project developments.”
Closer to home, the company is also developing a project in the UK and has started surveying several Scottish rivers and approaching potential partners. “We are rapidly going to scale a number of projects in the next year. Following the completion of testing of our pilot projects in Myanmar in early January, we will have all the data we need to optimise the power plants.”
The company is now in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign, aiming to further advance the commercialisation pathway of its FITS technology. James Diddams says: “Despite a temporary respite during the Covid-19 pandemic, the IEA reports that global carbon emissions are set for their second-biggest increase in history by the end of this year. It is clear we cannot continue consuming fossil fuels as we have been doing since the industrial revolution. With support from investors who share our vision, our innovative ideas can help to revolutionise clean energy production and pave the way for Net Zero.”
Tim Wood James Diddams
Directors & Co-founders of Achelous Energy