ALAMEDA, CA (Dec. 10, 2020) — N​atel Energy,​ a supplier of sustainable hydropower solutions, today announced the successful completion of the Monroe Hydro Project with the installation of its 1 MW class D190 Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT), and 100% safe fish passage test results from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The Monroe Hydro Project in Madras, Oregon is a first-of-its-kind design making use of an existing irrigation canal and a new fish safe turbine technology to generate reliable, renewable energy. With the installation of the commercially released 1 MW class D190 RHT, the site will now contribute 100% renewable energy to the local grid. Grant funding from the Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) supported the development of the RHT, and the ​fish passage testing that was conducted by PNN​L. The successful completion of the Monroe Hydro Project and the industry-leading fish passage results extend Natel Energy’s work to make distributed, sustainable hydropower a large scale source of reliable, renewable energy.

“We are thrilled with the successful completion of the Monroe Hydro Project, marking our second commercial installation of Restoration Hydro Turbines,” said Gia Schneider, CEO of Natel Energy. “Ensuring successful fish passage is a fundamental challenge for hydropower developers and operators, and the results of this testing are groundbreaking for low-head deployment. The 100% safe fish passage results achieved in the testing by PNNL marks a new milestone that solidifies the RHT as delivering fish safety without compromising on energy output.”

The RHT is a compact propeller-style turbine with specially designed blades that allow large fish to pass safely. In September 2020, PNNL conducted turbine passage tests that revealed a 100% survival rate for rainbow trout up to 15 inches long passing downstream through the 1.9-meter diameter D190 RHT. Over the course of testing, the gross head at the site was approximately 5.2 meters, and the turbine produced approximately 300 kW electrical output. With the support of the WPTO, PNNL scientists and engineers used Sensor Fish, RFID tag, radio tag, and balloon tag technologies to assess physical turbine stressors and enable the recovery of all fish after their passage through the turbine. Each fish was carefully inspected after passing through the turbine, and no evidence of passage related injuries was observed. This is surprisingly good performance given the compactness of the turbine relative to the large size of fish tested.

At less than 2-meters in diameter, the RHT is the most compact turbine that has demonstrated this successful survival rate for large fish. The RHT requires no fine fish screens and minimizes the need for excavation and installation materials, reducing the overall cost to install. In addition, the RHT features a variable-speed direct-drive permanent magnet generator, delivering high efficiency across a wide range of flow rates on a simple and reliable powertrain.

The RHT is suitable for upgrading or repowering existing small hydro plants with modern, high-performance fish safe turbines; for adding a new generation to existing non-power dams; and for new hydro development through Natel’s Restoration Hydro design approach. Restoration Hydro combines best practices from stream restoration, whitewater recreation, and even dam removals, with modern low-head hydropower technology to create a blueprint for a new generation of water-power-restoration projects. In addition to producing reliable, renewable energy, Natel Energy’s Restoration Hydro projects generate multiple environmental co-benefits that may include habitat creation, improved water quality, and sustained increases in groundwater and aquifer recharge rates. When deployed strategically at multiple sites across a basin, Restoration Hydro projects enhance river, wetland and watershed connectivity, which can help mitigate the impacts of droughts and floods.