Centralia College Graduate Develops Micro-Hydropower Technology
Career in Energy: Kelly Fetters Is Leading Project to Bring Technology to Africa
By Amy Nile
While the state last week celebrated careers in energy with events across Washington, a Centralia College graduate was working to bring a new way of producing electricity to the world.
Kelly Fetters is developing a micro-hydropower technology to generate clean, renewable energy.
“We’re talking about a system that seems like it’ll work and no one is doing it right now,” the native Toledo resident said. “It’s a proven technology used in a 21st century application.”
While studying at Centralia College’s Pacific Northwest Center of Excellence for Clean Energy from 2009 to 2011, Fetters said, he saw the economic opportunities in developing efficient, renewable electricity. Fetters opened his business, Renewable Energy Design Concepts, and began researching at a site on Bill Creek in Toledo.
“That set me up for my future in micro-hydropower,” the 42-year-old said. “It just makes sense to look into alternatives.”
Through his research in Toledo, Fetters said, he began formulating his idea, which is based on tapping into energy that is generated when gravity moves water through pipes. In urban settings, storm, waste and drinking water already runs through pipes and that energy can be harnessed when pressurized. In rural areas, pipes can be installed near waterways to capture the energy of the downhill flow. When the weight of the water when traveling downhill creates pressure, it spins a turbine and generates electricity without a dam or any obstruction.
To make his electricity-producing technology more cost-effective, Fetters runs a centrifugal pump in reverse instead of using a traditional turbine. This method, he said, reduces the price at least five times and produces clean, carbon-free energy.
Now, Fetters is leading a project to bring his micro-hydropower technology to Cameroon, Africa. The project involves the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers Power & Energy Society’s Community Solutions Initiative and the Torchbearers Foundation.
“We’re bringing this technology to those who don’t have electricity,” Fetters said. “We’re talking about rural, impoverished areas.”
Because traditional materials remain difficult to get into the third world country, Fetters is researching the use of bamboo pipes in his micro hydropower work.
The now senior at Evergreen State College is preparing to test the bamboo pipes for strength and safety before departing for Africa.
Fetters is also working on a microgrid project and wind turbine taskforce in Kenya, alongside researchers from Seattle University and various energy solutions organizations.
“I’m working alongside some of the brightest minds in energy,” Fetters said. “We’re creating a sustainable business.”
Fetters is developing products for his technology, which in the future he envisions manufacturing in Lewis County.
Once he gains experience through his work in Africa, Fetters said, he will continue trailblazing the future of micro hydropower.
“It’s clean, it’s sustainable, it’s efficient and most importantly it reduces costs,” he said.
Amy Nile: (360) 807-8235