Friday, November 27, 2009

Distributed Hydropower for Military Use

Fuel tankers are a prime war zone targetRenewable energy has many benefits, but usually saving lives isn't one of them. However, Hydrovolts turbines have the potential to do just that for the United States military.

Marine Corps Major General Richard Zilmer is based in Fallujah, Iraq, and has responsibility for dangerous Anbar province. He and his 30,000 troops generate electricity from diesel generators for cooking, refrigeration, communications, charging batteries and especially for cooling their tents in the 135-degree weather.

The fuel for these generators comes over land in long, snaking convoys of slow-moving and vulnerable tanker trucks. These convoys have been a repeated target of attack and, even with considerable security measures, are extremely vulnerable and very risky for all personnel involved. In an urgent 2006 memo to commanders at the Pentagon, Zilmer warned that US forces "will remain unnecessarily exposed" and will "continue to accrue preventable ... serious and grave casualties" unless they were provided with "a self-sustainable energy solution."

The problem is not new, and dates back at least to the US military effort to drive Iraq out of Kuwait in 1990. A 2004 study by the Rocky Mountain Institute outlined how, "before the recent rise in oil prices, the U.S. Army spent some $200 million annually on fuel and paid personnel an estimated $3.2 billion to transport it. The Defense Energy Support Center reports that in 2005, the U.S. military spent around $8 billion on some 128 million barrels of fuel; in 2004, it spent $7 billion on 145 million barrels." The cost of fuel is higher now than in 2004, and will almost certainly continue to climb.

In response, the US Army's Rapid Equipping Force (REF) may soon solicit proposals from companies to supplement front line diesel generators with renewable-energy power stations using a mix of solar and wind power. Such an approach continues a growing interest in alternative energy sources by the Pentagon.

Projected costs for a hybrid solar/wind solution are high, as much as $100,000 compared to about $20,000 for a comparable Hydrovolts turbine. Wind and solar are also inherently variable and intermittent, and so still require a ready supply of diesel fuel and the risks that entails.

Notes Zilmer: "Continued casualty accumulation exhibits potential to jeopardize mission success." A Hydrovolts turbine solution could provide electrical power in deployments near moving water without an expensive and dangerous supply chain and the mortal risk to soldiers and civilians it entails.Adds Al Shaffer, the executive director of the Pentagon's Energy Security Task Force about efficiency from renewable energy: "We save money; we simplify our logistics supply line, which makes us a more effective fighting force; we free ourselves from dependence on oil controlled by our adversaries; and above all we save lives." Weaning the military, however partially, from oil dependence also has strategic value long term.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Hydrovolts has made a lot of progress in the past year. There is much for which we are thankful!

Being recognized. By entrepreneurs. By the clean tech community. By investors. By the media.

Having a great entrepreneurial team. Expertise, engineering, and experience.

Technological validation. Going from an idea to a full Flipwing prototype making power.

Commercial validation. Purchase inquiries from 15 countries (and counting!) A hosting agreement for a demo project. Engaged customers. (More on all of this in a new post soon.)

Being small. It's a good thing in a crummy economy:
If you think of the big companies as dinosaurs who’ve just been hit between the eyes with a gigantic meteor, remember that you’re the smart, agile, adaptable monkey who’s going to inherit the earth.
Policy momentum. Better policy. Sober but hopeful vision. Slowly, slowly, changing attitudes.

Finally, thanks to all of you for advising, challenging, supporting and encouraging us. Thanks to the thousands of you who have visited our web site, voted for us, and come to our pitches and presentations. Thanks to the dozens of you who follow our Twitter feed, look at our LinkedIn company page, watch our Youtube channel, and join our Facebook fan page. And thanks to the awesome few who have subscribed to this blog, our blog lurkers and visitors. You are all greatly appreciated.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Newpreneur of the Year

Hydrovolts won a $5,000 prize as a national finalist for Newpreneur of the Year in a contest sponsored by and Inc. Magazine. The grand prize winner was Joel Smith and Forward Mobility, a Washington State maker of medical devices, including the innovative Freedom Leg. Although Hydrovolts did not win one of the top prizes we were very pleased to make it all the way to the finals; the $5,000 prize will be a big help in the construction of a full-size version of the Flipwing turbine.

Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hamner gave the 90-second elevator pitch, which, according to the scoring criteria, emphasized the business, the impact of the recession, and how plays (or will play) a role in its success. Sorry for the initially shaky video, the result of some jostling and (finally) finding a stable shooting posture:

All of us at Hydrovolts would like to thank the thousands of you that voted for us on-line. The voting was to select the finalists for the trip to San Francisco. Unfortunately, as some of you found, the voting system had some problems, so, in the end, Publisher Whelan Mahoney made a great decision: to invite all the competing companies!  We were ecstatic to go to the finals, and we really enjoyed meeting and talking with our fellow "newpreneurs" and keynote speaker Tom Peters.

Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence,
makes a point to Burt Hamner and the rest of the audience
at the Newpreneur of the Year finals in San Francisco.

There were over 1000 original entrants in the competition, each of whom submitted an essay describing their business, the impact of the recession and how Alibaba was or would be key to its success. Burt's essay was one of only 30 selected. These 30 competed in six regional competitions of 5 semifinalists each, giving a stand-up elevator pitch (with no PowerPoint!) and answering questions about their business from a panel of expert judges. Chris Leyerle gave the elevator pitch at the regional semi-finals in Seattle:

Hydrovolts COO Chris Leyerle shows the turbine
prototype at the regional semifinals in Seattle.

Congratulations to Joel, Forward Mobility, and the rest of our fellow finalists. And thank you to the good folks at Alibaba and Inc. for a great gala evening at the Bently Reserve in San Francisco, the national recognition and some money to help Hydrovolts succeed!

Hydrovolts press release [pdf]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hydrovolts wins National Sustainability Award

Hydrovolts, already a winner of the Sustainability Award in the Pacific Northwest Clean Tech Open in Seattle, last night also won the first Clean Tech Open (CTO) National Sustainability Award.

The Award includes a prize package of $20,000 worth of software and services that will help Hydrovolts measure and improve its sustainability efforts.

The Regional and National Sustainability Judging panels consisted of sustainability executives and thought leaders. They chose Hydrovolts first from amongst the nearly 300 original entries because of the company's commitment to all three areas of sustainability:
  • Product--the sustainability of the turbine itself, as measured by its overall impact and end-user savings in carbon emissions, waste, water and chemicals.
  • Process--the sustainability of the methods the company plans to use in its operations and in manufacturing the product, including impacts on the environment, mitigation approaches and quantitative process analysis.
  • Pitch--the sustainability of the company's environmental and social efforts that uniquely create value for employees, customers, communities and other stakeholders. It includes transparency and disclosure, employment practices, investors, social equity and community responsibility.
The presentation of the Award came towards the end of an eventful day at San Francisco's Masonic Center that also included an exhibition by CTO finalist, semifinalist and alumni companies, demo presentations, videos from the entrants in the international ideas contest, keynote speakers, and much celebration of the growing success of the CTO.

 Hydrovolts co-founders Chris Leyerle and Burt Hamner
show the turbine prototype during the morning exhibition.

The CTO has been a powerfully positive experience for Hydrovolts. Said Burt:
Unlike any other business contest we know of, the CTO really digs down deep into the roots of sustainable performance. They provided tools and guides to examine almost every aspect of a business with a green lens, while constantly staying with proven management principles that startups need to succeed. The CTO sustainability training for entrepreneurs is gutsy, not gushy.
Added Chris:
The educational value, caliber of coaching, and prescriptive instruction throughout the CTO far exceeded my expectations. The CTO has been instrumental in helping us build our skills, craft a better plan and create a stronger business. I heartily recommend the CTO to both aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs.
In accepting the Award, Burt noted the importance of incorporating sustainability measures into all aspects of  company operations, including into the standard financial statements. He commended the CTO for championing sustainability throughout the process and for highlighting its importance to the broader entrepreneur and business community.

Hydrovolts would like to congratulate the Grand Prize Winner, ecoFactor, and salute the other 10 finalist companies who competed at the Gala. All are exciting businesses with huge potential, and we are pleased to have made so many new friends amongst our fellow contestants, judges, mentors and others. The organizers and hundreds of volunteers of the CTO deserve recognition for their outstanding effort and the superb success in building the CTO from a California competition to a national one. They could use some help, too, for next year, so if you can, be a sponsor or volunteer, or make a donation.

Many people have helped Hydrovolts throughout the CTO process and without which winning this prestigious Award would not have been possible. We wish in particular to thank those that provided mentoring, feedback and ideas on the sustainability parts of the business: Joshua Skov, Itzel Orozco, and Kiran Jethwa. Thank you all!

CTO Press Release

UPDATE: fixed a broken link and some broken grammar...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hydrovolts wins PNW Clean Tech Open

On October 29th Hydrovolts won the inaugural Pacific Northwest Clean Tech Open (CTO) and, as a regional finalist, now heads to San Francisco to compete in the national finals November 16-17. The CTO also recognized fellow semi-finalists Green Lite Motors and LivinGreen Materials as regional finalists. Each of the three regional finalists wins a package of cash and in-kind services worth at least $50,000.

Hydrovolts also won the CTO Sustainability Award in recognition both of how its turbines promote sustainability for its customers and the communities in which they are used as well as how the company is being built to use business practices that are in themselves sustainable. CEO Burt Hamner's more than 15 years as an international consultant in cleaner production has been a large benefit to Hydrovolts in shaping its sustainability approach.
We're off to San Francisco Monday morning for the grand finale Tuesday at the Masonic Center on Nob Hill. If you're in the Bay Area or traveling there, come see us! The Clean Tech Open is a nonprofit and the Awards Gala is intended as a fundraiser. Tickets normally go for $129 and up – but I have some discounted tickets which will give you a 40% reduction – just use this code: CTOGala when you register.
The Pacific Northwest Awards Gala was held at Seattle's ACT Theater following an afternoon investor showcase and exhibit by all ten of the CTO semi-finalists. Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire provided an inspiring keynote speech on the importance of clean technology for the state, the country, and the world. The Governor also toured all of the exhibits and spoke with each of the companies.

Washington Governor Gregoire interested in water power from Hydrovolts
Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hamner shows the company's unique technology and business to Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. Looking on are Pacific Northwest CTO Co-Chair Byron McCann and Hydrovolts Co-founder Chris Leyerle.

Said the Governor: "In its first year the Clean Tech Open has become a critical driver for the type of technology innovation our state needs to create new green jobs and find clean energy solutions for our future. I commend the contestants and the Clean Tech Open community for their dedication to our state's green economy and improving the way we produce and use energy."

Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hamner and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire
Hydrovolts CEO Burt Hamner and Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire recall the days when both worked at the State Department of Ecology.

In accepting the Sustainability Award Burt thanked the CTO organizers profusely for their enormous efforts, the amazing quality of the coaching and the sterling caliber of the many mentors that worked tirelessly to make the entire process such a resounding success. "There are many many people I would like to thank--too many to name, but you know who you are. We could not have done this without you." Burt also saluted all of our fellow semi-finalists, noting their formidable abilities and ingenuity. "We were even a bit intimidated by the strength of our competitors; these are all excellent companies."

Perhaps because he had already spoken, Burt was uncharacteristically speechless in accepting the recognition as one of the three finalists, saying only after a great pause: "Wow!" and "Thank you so much!"

There are far more people we could thank ("you know who you are"!) than time and space will allow. However, we would like to explicitly thank two of the many people who worked with us, exhorted us to aim higher, focused us where we were vague, spotted weaknesses, pushed us to be more specific and generally did what all good coaches do--made us better. Thank you first and foremost our two CTO mentors, Kendall Bodden of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and John Castle of the University of Washington. We recommend both of them highly to anyone looking for dedicated and valuable guidance in building their business.

All of us at Hydrovolts would also like to congratulate our fellow finalists and recognize all of our fellow semifinalists with whom we have spent the last many months side-by-side working, learning, and encouraging each other. This has been an amazing journey, and it has been a privilege to have been a part of such a high energy, motivated and stimulating group. We wish all of our fellow CTO alumni continued success in their businesses.

Clean Tech Open press release news article

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Vote for Hydrovolts

Vote for Hydrovolts!Do you believe in Clean Energy? Then vote for it!

We need your help.

As a reader of this blog chances are you believe in clean energy and its importance for our future.

Hydrovolts is the only clean energy company in a national competition that relies on popular voting, and, while we are catching up, we are still lagging behind.

Vote for us! Give clean energy get the national recognition it must keep getting to make the mission in which we believe into a national movement.

Please vote for us! It takes literally 10 seconds, and just 2 mouse clicks. No registration, no giving your email.

Oh yeah, you can vote very day through Friday, November 6, so vote early and please... vote often!

Tell your friends. Broadcast on Facebook and Twitter. Know someone running a relevant email list? Please tell them too! The world needs distributed hydropower! The country needs more momentum behind clean energy!


About us:

Hydrovolts makes power from water by building small hydrokinetic turbines that generate electricity from fast flows for agriculture, industry and sustainable community development world-wide. The turbines literally drop in without dams, weirs, or changes to the watercourse of any kind in as little as an hour. They create electricity at a fully capitalized cost of less than $0.02/kWh and typically pay for themselves in less than 5 years.

Learn more about us here: (web site) (blog) (YouTube) (Twitter) (Facebook fan page)

The competition:

Inc. Magazine and are sponsoring this high-profile national contest called "Newpreneur of the Year" to recognize an outstanding new start-up company in the US.

There were over 1000 entrants from which 30 (5 each in six cities nationally) were selected based on an application essay. Each of the 5 then competed in a stand-up competition giving 90-second elevator pitches and answering questions about their businesses from a panel of expert judges.

The current phase involves voting by anyone who cares to do so to select 5 from the final 13. These 5 will go to the national final in San Francisco where they will again be judged on merit to pick the winner.

The final 13 are an eclectic group, and include some interesting companies and business models. Hydrovolts is, however, the only clean technology company in the group.

While doubtless some would benefit from a costume company, a new breath mint or folding ballet slippers, Hydrovolts is the only company that can have a powerfully positive impact on the lives of more than a billion people!