As a child Kelly Fetters grew up along the shore of the Cowlitz River in Toledo, Washington. He loved the river and would spend countless hours fishing and playing in it throughout his youth. The crystal clear, cold water river carried an abundance of trout, salmon and steelhead in it when he was younger. Kelly was an ‘Army Brat’ and moved to Philadelphia with his father at the age of 12 years old and they lived on the Philadelphia Navel Yard, which paralleled the Delaware River.
Kelly wanted to go fishing in the Delaware River and the first fish he reeled in had red & white, round sores on its side and face. He had never seen such a thing and didn’t fish again until coming back home to Washington State after 28 years. He quickly noticed that the Cowlitz River was not the same, but he also remembered what massive populations do to aquatic species. The water was still crystal clear and cold, but the amount of fish had been reduced substantially, over the 28 year period. Trout were almost non-existent. Salmon are not reproducing properly due to none of the three dams on the Cowlitz River have fish ladders. Native Steelhead are essentially non-existent in the river unless produced by the dam owned fish hatchery.
When Kelly returned home, he brought with him a business background and he had even achieved success as an entrepreneur at 29 years old. Kelly got caught in the economic downturn of the real-estate industry in 2007 and lost everything; he was forced to start completely over. He decided to enhance his education and enter college. Kelly chose to enter Centralia College’s Center of Excellence for Power Plant Operations. The program taught Power Engineering, High Voltage Electricity and the Transmission and Distribution of Electricity. While attending this program he fell in love with Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, he couldn’t get enough; he ordered magazines, he researched, he learned, and he volunteered his time with the who’s who of the clean energy leaders in the Pacific Northwest. All he thought about all day was renewable energy.
While Kelly was on Spring Break from college he got a phone call one day from his college study partner. “Hey lets go to go floating down the Cowlitz River” Gabrial said. It was raining like it had on no other day in 2010! “Do you see it outside?” Kelly said. “We are the top students in the class, we bust our asses every day, we deserve one day to ourselves” Gabriel said. Kelly agreed and it was later that day when his passion for sustainable energy and his entrepreneurship personality would mesh.
“We heard a loud roaring sound, like a jet engine” Kelly said. The Bill Creek Flume was inundated with massive amounts of water and it was cascading over a 40’cliff and crashing into the Cowlitz River below. The flume that the water traveled on was concrete. Kelly read about Federal Laws that stated if the infrastructure is already-in-place, a speedy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Permit (a license to generate electricity and put it into the grid) could be issued. He knew from his research that a speedy FERC permit made smaller projects like this one financially feasible to develop. Kelly jumped on it and walked the project into the Mayor’s office the following day. The Mayor loved the idea and he requested Kelly present to the City Council. Kelly presented to the City Council that he wanted to conduct a Feasibility Study of a potential Micro-hydropower electric generation site for the City of Toledo, Washington on the Bill Creek flume. “If the project is Feasible to develop the electricity could be used to power the City’s sewer treatment plant and the residents monthly sewer and water bills would be reduced” Kelly said. They also loved the idea and he was granted permission unanimously. He volunteered his time for two years collecting data about hydraulic flows, potential energy averages, site development costs, payback periods and returns on investments for any future investors on the Bill Creek Micro-hydropower Project. He started his company Renewable Energy Design Concepts Llc. (REDC) in 2010 after he put in place a First Right of Refusal with the City Attorney and Mayor to develop the potential Micro-hydropower clean energy site once he finished conducting his feasibility study.
Kelly took college very seriously and as an older student with a ton of real world experience he used the college life to practice leadership. He was extremely active in his community and college as the Rotaract Business Club President and the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Vice President. He led the Phi Theta Kappa Commercial Energy Audit where the team of 18 diverse students conducted the energy audit of Centralia Colleges Student Services Building. The PTK Energy Audit reduced energy consumption by 70% in the building. The practice, hard work and dedication to his passion earned him the colleges Most Outstanding Student of the Year Award in 2011.
He went on to The Evergreen State College to study geohydrology and business. His reason for choosing The Evergreen State College was because they had an Independent Learning Contract (ILC) and he could do anything he wanted to do as long as a professor signed off on the learning experience. Kelly chose to test and implement a Bamboo Micro-hydropower Clean Energy Site in Morton, Washington. Kelly located a property owner with water rights and he agreed to implement it for temporary testing only and then remove it after the data had been collected. In his final year at Evergreen he proved his Thesis that Bamboo can be used as a pen-stock pipe for Micro-hydropower electric generation system.
During his ILC at Evergreen he invented a coupling and a boring process that allows bamboo to serve as pressurized water piping at a low-cost for those in developing nations. When properly cured the bamboo help pressure up to 120 PSI and water flow of 200 gallons per minute. A working pressure was estimated between 50-60 PSI by Kelly.
To reduce the up-front development costs of the Micro-hydropower site further, Kelly used an inexpensive centrifugal pump as the turbine for his Micro-hydropower application. The technology is mass produced, inexpensive, easy to repair and simple to operate. Kelly simply used the pump in its reverse operation. Water is forced under pressure down the discharge tube of the pump. The force of the water makes the impeller rotate backwards and water exits the suction tube. The connected shaft now rotates and mechanical energy is available for electric generation.
Hydropower provides 24 hour carbon-free electricity and normally costs between $7.00 and $10.00 per watt to develop a site. The “Bamboo Hydropower Project” came in at a cost of just $0.89 per watt.
Kelly wrote a paper for USAID’s Powering Agricultures Energy Grand Challenge. Kelly used the Bamboo Hydropower Project testing results for his grant. In Kelly’s business model, electricity is used for grinding grain and at night women use the electricity to build Bamboo Lightsticks for $1.51 and sell them between $5.00 and $10.00 (USD) at the market. The made in Africa Lightstick is rechargeable, is very low-in-cost and provides new revenue streams for the Micro-hydropower electricity business, women and households. The Bamboo Lightsticks made their way to Muhuru Bay, Kenya where they were used by local community members. The product was well received and tested for a period of 30 days in July 2014.
At the same time that Kelly was conducting all of the needed research, tests and implementation for the Bamboo Hydropower Project he sat on a panel of experts that supervised Seattle Universities Electrical Engineering Students on their Capstone Senior Design Team Project. The students designed a Micro-grid and used the HOMER application to estimate electrical production for the Renewable Energy Micro-grid in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. The project won first place in the nation by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. Later that year Kelly graduated from Evergreen and REDC was selected by Seattle University (SU) for a Capstone Senior Design Team Project. Kelly provided a vision for the 2014-2015 REDC Capstone Senior Design Team Project.
Kelly challenged the 4 person team of mechanical and electrical engineering students, who were guided by two of Seattle University professors who had achieved the highest levels of educational success. Multiple PHD’s in electrical, computer and mechanical engineering professors were available for students. This was a fantastic opportunity for industry to work with education. This was a real world experience for students and professors and the stakes could not get any higher for humanity. REDC provided a technology that needed to be multipurpose in its applications. It needed to work in rivers, pipes, canals, and tides without being impacted by debris. It also needed to be fish friendly. The student team was to complete designs, model it in computer simulation, build a test bench and test the Hydrokinetic In-flow Generator in a river setting. Kelly used his pontoon raft as a test bench by mounting the technology below it.
When the raft stopped in current the system should operate in theory. Kelly’s clean energy vision proved to be correct when the technology was tested at REDC headquarters on the Cowlitz River.
The technology converts the hydrokinetic energy from flowing water into mechanical energy with little impact on the environment. REDC can use that mechanical energy for two things; pumping water up-hill (energy storage and irrigation) or generating carbon-free electricity 24 hours a day.
Simultaneously while leading the REDC / SU Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Project, Kelly began to invent the Solar Food Preservation Facility on paper at REDC Headquarters. To solve the problem of Malnutrition, Childhood Mortality, Stunting (Mentally and Physically) and Food Waste, Kelly would take one year to invent the technology and business model that helps farmers farm sustainably. After completing the paper called the “Solar Food Preservation Facility” (Copy written with Library of Congress) and proving his Thesis by building a test bench, designing & fabricating the new inventions, testing those inventions, documenting the results and proving to himself that the inventions work.
The process took Kelly almost 2 years to complete, he paid for every part, made mistakes along the way and he hired vendors when needed. After the Solar Food Preservation Facilities test results were complete Kelly spent his last dime and took a flight to Alexandria, VA to patent his brand-new clean energy technologies. He called his best friend and asked if he could stay at his house while he took care of his patents. While in the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia metropolitan area he visited a with a long time friend who invested in small-businesses and people.
The 20 plus year friendship helped close the deal between the two friends. Kelly would get the help he needed financially and the path he took to starting REDC was going to be his choice. Kelly came up with a number of different opportunities that that could help pave the way for his inventions to make it to market without costing his investor friends a ton of money. They both agreed that if they had short educational videos about the technologies it could help drive sales into the business. They needed a sales video to explain the purpose of their technologies, how they work, how much they cost and how to order the technologies from REDC.
Computer animation would cost approximately $15,000 per video and we needed two videos. Kelly decided that he would form a team of students that were taking different subjects at different colleges around the Olympia, WA area and try to get it completed without a budget. Maggie a Biologist at The Evergreen State College had enough experience to put together a video. Dane was a Mechanical Engineering student from St. Martins University and he would be in charge of Autodesk Inventor Designs. Rock, he attended South Sound Community College’s Auto CAD program. Rock would created an Auto CAD file that allowed REDC to 3D print our Ammonia Absorption Refrigeration Heat Exchanger and another file that allows REDC to custom cut sprockets for REDC’s Hydrokinetic Prime Mover. Finally there was Andre, he lives in Washington D.C. Andre helped the group polish the video and script into its current form. Together the group was able to re-create Kelly’s inventions on the computer and create an educational video for those interested in REDC’s clean energy solutions without a budget. There was not animation, but they were able to show the technology in computer aided drawings and a narrator explained how the technology operates. Please enjoy the groups work on the website.
Throughout Kelly’s leadership in the clean energy industry he has invented the Bamboo Lightstick, Bamboo Coupling, Fetters Hydrokinetic Turbine, REDC’s Hydrokinetic Pumped Energy Storage System for Micro-grids, the Solar Food Preservation Facility, REDC Solar Heat Exchanger, REDC Ammonia Absorption Heat Exchanger and the REDC Canning Kettle. He’s the Author of the Bamboo Hydropower Project @ Evergreen State College, USAID’s Powering Agriculture Energy Grand Challenge Paper the Bamboo Hydropower Project For Rural Farmers in Developing Nations, The Department of Energy’s Hydrokinetic Pumped Energy Storage System for rural Micro-grids and the Solar Food Preservation Facility.