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Lunagen: Generating electricity in slow flowing water

London, United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Lunagen is an innovative energy startup that has created a hydropower turbine designed to generate electricity in slow flowing waters. By targeting this underexploited segment of the hydro market, Lunagen is developing a cheap and easy hydro solution for developed and developing countries alike.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if rivers could power the cities and towns that they pass through?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Cities and towns across the UK and Europe are looking to reduce their carbon footprints by investing in local renewable energy resources, including hydropower. However, few hydro technologies are appropriate for the slow flowing waters found near urban areas. Furthermore, these technologies are expensive and come with significant environmental and flood risks resulting from their use of dams. These factors discourage investment in urban hydro.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Lunagen has developed an efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sensitive hydro turbine designed to work in slow flowing waters. Our turbine design mitigates the need for a dam, thus reducing project costs by up to 30% compared to incumbent technologies and reducing the risk to local wildlife and flood-prone areas. Our turbine arrays are ideal for siting nearby population centers, mitigating the need for expensive power network interconnections. Furthermore, local communities benefit from having local power generation through enhanced power system reliability and localized economic development arising from infrastructure investment.


2015 Imperial College I&E Start Competition Winner
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Lunagen's primary business is manufacturing and maintaining our hydropower turbine systems. We are working with hydro project developers to build power projects suited for towns and cities located near rivers in the United Kingdom. Our technology is designed for slow moving water environments, meaning it is ideal for deployment on the UK's main river systems where existing technologies cannot produce cost-effective power projects. As an example, the River Thames in Southern England has 45 weirs. Half these weirs have 1.5m+ of head (water level drop); half have less than 1.5m head. All the weirs with 1.5m+ of head have existing hydro plants on them, whereas none of the shorter weirs have hydro plants. This is our initial target market.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have received £57K in grants and seed investment from public and private sources. This money has enabled us to build and test our turbine system prototypes, conduct computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling, and file a patent application in the UK. Our prototype testing has helped us to prove and refine our concept, showing us how we can design our turbine arrays to boost system efficiency and helping us to identify and fix system weaknesses. The data accumulated from prototype testing will be crucial to demonstrating our proof of concept to investors and future funding sources, whose support we will need to advance our R&D and deploy trial projects. It has also been crucial for developing our patent application and identifying areas for future IP protection. Finally, we have conducted thorough market research in the UK, which will be crucial for our first deployments.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

For 2016, we are looking for £1M in private and public funding to conduct additional R&D and to deploy several scaled pilot projects in the UK. After proving our technology, we will begin commercial roll out in the UK and explore sales opportunities in Europe and North America, specifically in countries with hydropower subsidy schemes. Initially, we will rely on third parties for turbine manufacturing and will subsequently look for additional investment to develop our own manufacturing operations. We will look to partner with third party distributors and eventually license our technology.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We will partially finance our pilot projects through electricity sales and UK's feed-in tariff revenue, as well as post-project equipment sales to the project's host. The remaining investment will come from government and private funding sources. Lunagen's technology has been developed on a shoe string budget and the company's culture is rooted in lean operations. We are prepared to scale our trials up or down based on availability of funds.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

In most instances, we will be competing with other new technologies trying to serve the market in which conventional technologies cannot operate. Examples include Verderg (UK), VHL (French), Sundermann (Australian), Hydroquest (French), and River Energy Systems (UK). Our advantages: ­1. Lunagen can cost effectively generate power in water speeds as low as 1m/s, far better than our competitors. ­2. We can cost effectively generate in sites with little to no head (0-2m). ­3. Lunagen operates at the same efficiency as water levels change. 4. Fish can swim unimpeded through Lunagen's turbines.

Founding Story

Lunagen was founded in 2013 with the aim of developing a tidal power device optimised for slow water flows. By the end of 2013, we were accepted to the first stage of the Climate Kic accelerator. During 2014 we further developed our innovative concept by conducting computer modelling and building our own test tank to enable faster learning. In 2015 we switched our target market to river hydro due to our technology's strong performance in river environments and because of the challenging investment landscape in tidal energy. In 2015, we were accepted into the Royal College of Art's Incubator (Innovation RCA), filed a patent, and most recently won the Imperial College I&E Start Competition.


Founders: Will Penfold, Industrial Design Engineer, BA, MA, MSC (RCA) Will is a proven innovator and entrepreneur, having been a founder of a previous clean­tech startup "Artica Technologies" which was sold in a corporate buyout 2012. Lauren Dickerson, BA, MBA (Imperial College) Lauren's role is business development and strategy and is an expert in energy markets. She has worked as an energy policy consultant specialising in emerging markets, renewable energy integration, and energy communications, completing consulting projects on 6 continents. Paul Noble, BEng Paul is a renewable energy specialist with knowledge on the practicalities of installing and running technology, having founded a PV installation company and a renewable energy consultancy. Tim Penfold, BSc Tim is an IT expert with over 15 years of management experience in the banking and consumer goods sectors. Will and Lauren are both currently working part time to source Lunagen's first seed investment. Once our first investment is in hand, we will become full time employees of Lunagen in the roles of lead technology developer and lead business developer. We will need to hire a lead technical projects developer to manage the deployment of our pilot projects. We will also plan to hire expert consultants (see below) to conduct specialized technical and environmental projects on our behalf.