Natel Energy, a supplier of sustainable hydropower solutions, has closed a $11 million investment, led by Schneider Electric Ventures and supported by Breakthrough Energy Ventures. The company will use the funding to accelerate deployment of its flagship product, the Restoration Hydro Turbine (RHT), which enables cost-effective production of low impact, distributed baseload energy, while maintaining the health of watershed ecosystems and surrounding communities.
The investment comes on the heels of the successful deployment of an RHT at the Freedom Falls project in Maine. The RHT is a unique, innovative turbine that combines top performance with industry-leading fish safety and an extremely compact footprint that reduces installed cost by over 20% compared to conventional low-head options. The RHT at the Freedom Falls project produces 35 kW of power to a restaurant and school, with excess output net metered to the grid.
The fish-safe RHT enables upgrades to existing low-head hydropower plants which simultaneously improves power output and river connectivity. Natel’s holistic approach of Restoration Hydro aims to build cost-effective hydropower projects that can help restore watersheds generating renewable energy, as well as multiple environmental co-benefits. Data and analytics are core to this hydropower future, and HydroForecast™ and Lens™ - software solutions offered by Natel subsidiary Upstream Tech - deliver decision-support for all watershed stakeholders, including hydropower utilities, to design, build, upgrade, restore and optimize green and grey watershed infrastructure for climate resilience. Over 2019, HydroForecast provided a complete year of seasonal forecasts to utility customers with a more than 25% improvement in accuracy over existing models.
“At Schneider Electric Ventures, we look for innovative companies that enable the world to transition to decarbonized, decentralized and digital energy, and Natel Energy – by providing low impact, reliable renewable energy to communities – fits perfectly in our portfolio,” said Heriberto Diarte, Head of SE Ventures.
“Hydro has long been considered a perfect source for renewable energy, if not for the high cost of capital and inherent risks to wildlife based on most designs,” said Carmichael Roberts of Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “Natel’s patented high-performance hydro-electric turbine cleverly addresses both issues –lowering the expense per unit and making it safe for the environment. Furthermore, the product can be deployed as a retrofit in existing installations or rolled out in brand new developments. This means Natel has the potential to fundamentally change how water is leveraged as a renewable energy source that blends well with other important products like wind and solar.”
“What the Natel team has designed and built is the product of technical creativity and our dual mission to decarbonize the grid and restore watersheds,” said Gia Schneider, CEO of Natel Energy. “With deployment as our primary focus, we are now actively working with customers to make that mission a reality.”