11/16/2010 04:08

Hydro-electric power is one of the “baseline” energy sources used to power electricity grids.

Leviathan Energy Hydroelectric Ltd. has announced it was awarded a EUREKA grant of over €1 million to continue to develop and test its Benkatina in-pipe turbine.

Leviathan said last week that it has partnered with two Italian companies, Fontana SRL and ENCO Engineering Consultants SRL, to develop a model that delivers up to 50KW per hour, which will be tested in northern Italy. The turbine is installed within a pipe and uses the water flowing through it to generate electricity.

What is unique about the Benkatina as a hydro-electric turbine is that it uses the water pressure to generate electricity but must also ensure that there is sufficient pressure for the water to continue to flow through the piping system, founder Dr. Daniel Farb told The Jerusalem Post this week.

So far, a smaller model has been installed in national water company Mekorot’s system to produce enough electricity to power the adjacent needs of the system.

“However, the turbine could also produce electricity to sell back to the grid,” Farb pointed out.

Could this be a water-based energy generating system for countries like Israel that don’t have enough water to build massive dams to harness hydro-electric power? Farb believes it can.

Hydro-electric power is one of the “baseline” energy sources used to power electricity grids. While the Benkatina would never replace a dam, Farb said it was applicable to the Israeli terrain.

“There are a lot of ups and downs in the piping as it goes over hills, and the Benkatina can harness that energy,” he told the Post.

Israel is constantly concerned about increasing capacity as electricity demand continues to rise 4 percent a year. This past hot summer saw demand reach record levels. The government has also committed to producing 5% of electricity from renewable resources by 2014 and 10% by 2020.

The company has also contracted with a city in the Philippines to sell them a system.

In the context of the EUREKA grant and label, the Israel-based design team would build the turbine here to the specifications of the Italian partners, and testing would occur in Italy.

“Fontana SRL and ENCO SRL, partners de facto in the hydroelectric power plant construction sector, have been looking for products suitable for their niche market and Leviathan’s represents a great opportunity for them to reach this market, which is still in an embryonic state,” the partners said in a statement.

EUREKA is a pan-European network to promote industrial research and development without military applications.

Forty countries, and companies within them, are members.

Israel achieved membership in 2000 as the only non-European country involved and this year holds the rotating presidency, which is being is being run out of the Chief Scientist’s Office of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.

Partnerships between countries and companies form the basis of all EUREKA grants, on the assumption that collaborations can lead to marketable products in shorter amounts of time. One of Israel’s goals this year is to encourage the cleantech sector to take advantage of the generous funding.

In addition to the grant money, a EUREKA label, which Leviathan’s project has achieved, signifies a level of quality in the European market.

Farb explained the origins of the turbine’s unique name.

“Ben Katin was a high priest in the Second Temple Period who designed a system to raise water from the groundwater to the Temple. He’s mentioned several times in the Gemara and I decided to name the turbine after this little known early Jewish engineer. It’s especially fitting as I am a kohen [member of priestly line] as well,” he said.

“Israel is a world leader in reusing and recycling water. I hope we can become a world leader in harnessing the energy of that water as well,” he concluded.