Natel Energy: Making Hydropower Plants More Fish-Friendly and Sustainable

Natel Energy, launched by sibling MIT alumni, is deploying hydropower systems with fish-safe turbines and other features that mimic natural river conditions.

Natel Energy Making Hydropower Plants More Fish-Friendly and Sustainable

Natel Energy . Growing up on a farm in Texas, siblings Gia Schneider ’99 and Abe Schneider ’02, SM ’03 always had plenty to do. However, every Saturday at 2 p.m., no matter what, the family would go down to a local creek to fish, build rock dams and rope swings, and enjoy nature. Eventually, the family started making an annual summertime trip to a secluded river in Colorado. The river forked in two. One side was managed by ranchers who destroyed natural features like beaver dams, while the other side remained untouched. After the family noticed the fishing was better on the preserved side, Abe decided to try measuring the health of the two river ecosystems. He co-authored a study in high school showing there were more beneficial insects in the bed of the river with the beaver dams. The experience taught both siblings a lesson that has stuck with them. Today they are the co-founders of Natel Energy, a company attempting to mimic natural river ecosystems with hydropower systems that are more sustainable than conventional hydro plants.

“The big takeaway for us, and what we’ve been doing all this time, is thinking of ways that infrastructure can help increase the health of our environment — and beaver dams are a good example of infrastructure that wouldn’t otherwise be there that supports other populations of animals,” Abe says. “It’s a motivator for the idea that hydropower can help improve the environment rather than destroy the environment.” Through novel, fish-safe turbines and other features designed to mimic natural river conditions, the founders say their plants can bridge the gap between power-plant efficiency and environmental sustainability. By retrofitting existing hydropower plants and developing new projects, the founders believe they can supercharge the hydropower industry. That’s especially important because it is by far the largest source of renewable electricity in the world but has not grown in energy generation as much as wind and solar in recent years. “Hydropower plants are built today with only power output in mind, as opposed to the idea that if we want to unlock growth, we have to solve for both efficiency and river sustainability,”

Source: This news is originally published by scitechdaily