The concept of the Water Engine was conceived in 1974 when Alister Reid watched a boat being raised and lowered in a lock by the operation of lock gates. The Water Engine's uses a system of floats (boats) which are raised and lowered due to water entering and exiting a chamber (lock). A system of hydraulic rams is used to convert this motion into high pressure fluid which can be used in numerous ways, including:
The Water Engine unit has been deployed on five previous occasions, including a device that was tested by a university over a period of 4 years. The conclusion of this research programme confirmed the reliability and practicability of the Water Engine, with tests highlighting an efficiency of 80%.
The current UK renewable energy market is being driven by the introduction of the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) mechanism and the disquiet about landscape and ecological impacts of some renewable energy technologies. It is this market force that has led to increased interest in hydro power opportunities.
There are a limited number of high-head opportunities that can be developed, there is a vastly larger number of low-head sites available. One of the main constraints for hydro power is the need for dams, which in many river systems would never achieve planning permissions due to visual and ecological impacts. The Water Engine avoids these issues.