In the middle of the arid Negev desert, just minutes from the Gazan border, Leviathan Energy unveiled a new hydroelectric technology that operates not in outdoor dams but in underground pipes, where it is fine-tunable according to changing pressure of the pipe flow.

The Jerusalem Post was on a tour of the company’s testing site at Kibbutz Re’im, where the parts for the system are manufactured at the on-site kibbutz company, Isralaser.

Leviathan’s new hydroelectric turbine – called the Benkatina Turbine – can operate inside a water pipe, taking the excess pressure from the piping system and turning it into electricity, according to the company.

Unlike in a dam, where water flow conditions and pressure are stable, the water flow inside a pipe is variable, and Leviathan’s machinery makes use of only the pipe’s excess pressure to maintain the system’s integrity, explained CEO and founder of the company, Dr. Daniel Farb, who was not actually onsite at the day of the launch.

“In spite of these challenges, we are here today to celebrate the fact that we have achieved 55 percent efficiencies even at very low flow rates, and we expect higher efficiencies, closer to that of traditional hydroelectric power, as we continue to test higher flows and develop the next round of engineering,” Farb said in a statement.

Isralaser, whose office parking lot contains a massive water pipe transformed into a kassam-rocket shelter, provides Leviathan – and many other bodies across Israel – with laser beam cutting and water-jet slicing of metals, to quickly mold and meld metal products.

Although around 60% of Isralaser’s clientele is military, the firm also has many private civilian customers, and never shuts down production even in the midst of falling rockets, according to marketing manager Eron Ron.

Isralaser is in charge of assembling every part of Leviathan’s products, from its new hydroelectric developments to its small, tulip-shaped vertical wind turbines.

Outside assembly and in practical use and implementation, three trial phases of the hydroelectric apparatus have thus far occurred, two in Mekorot National Water Company pipelines and one in Malagos, the Philippines, Avner Farkash, vice president of research and development and chief engineer for Leviathan, explained at the launch meeting, also attended by the Energy and Water Ministry’s chief scientist.

Commercially, employing such a system could allow industries to reduce their electricity bills, as the system can inject useable electricity into the grid and thereby provide a feed-in tariff to customers, according to Farkash.

For both agricultural sites in Israel and remote villages in India or Africa that do not yet have electricity, the system could provide a much needed source, he added. In addition, the inpipe hydroelectric apparatus could be a homeland security tool, as it can act as an undercover supply of power.

The generators, Farkash said, have a supply capacity of anywhere between 20 and 60 kilowatts of energy, and the flow of the turbines is constantly “tunable.”

The company is hoping to conduct a full-fledged pilot project of the system in cooperation with Hagihon municipal water supplier in Jerusalem, so that it can further prove the efficiency of its techniques, said Joe Van Zwaren, vice president for business development.

“This is a technology that can be quickly implemented, assuming complete cooperation on all fronts, throughout the country to help relieve the electricity shortage by next summer,” Farb said. “Furthermore, it is completely clean and functions on current infrastructure.”

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