I recently met a very driven inventor Iain Glasgow. He is striving to combat climate change by transforming the traditional model of hydroelectric power. This is his story about how he designed a new hydropower generating method and about how you can get involved.
“When I was young I had a dream. There were no wars, our air was clean.What has changed as I grow old? What will our future hold?”
In 1951, the first utility connected wind turbine went online in the Orkney islands in the United Kingdom. In the following forty years the technology went on to revolutionize clean renewable energy. Today modern wind turbines can be affordably installed in the most desolate of areas or even in the ocean and tap the raw power of the wind.
What if a retired engineer in Scotland could accomplish the same feat of clean renewable power utilizing predictable running hydroelectric generating modules?
For the last fourteen years Iain Glasgow has been fighting for the realization of this dream with the invention of the Adaptable Modular Power System (AMPS). When the project is complete; local utilities, cities worldwide, and businesses will have the capacity for affordable access to hydroelectric power.
Iain Glasgow’s story began in Scotland where he was a restless teenager unsatisfied with the academic grind of school. Desperately wanting to work with his hands, he quit school at the age of fifteen and set out to explore the trades at a local vocational school. At first Iain was directionless in his ambitions, but he was willing to experiment with his talents. Still without a diploma Iain applied the local trade school Coatbridge Technical College and was admitted. For the next year Iain sampled every trade that was available. At first Iain studied Mechanical Engineering, but regrettably he couldn’t get his initial machine designs to work. Iain next pivoted into electronics and achieved modest success. He could easily grasp the rules of electricity and went on to build classroom power supplies. Nonetheless his soldering skills were still unimpressive. Finally Iain choose electrician work and with it discovered his natural talent for building very sophisticated electrical grids. He applied for an apprenticeship at Goldie & Ewart and was recruited to build electrical installations for local businesses.
Eight years later Iain’s work ethic attracted the interest of a local cosmetics manufacturing company Boot’s. Iain was recruited to manage all facets of the plants electrical and mechanical maintenance. He also collaborated with the engineers to plan the design upgrades of the plant and all the associated machinery installations. During Iain’s time at Boot’s he found the work to be intellectually challenging and satisfying. It made him feel alive! Probably his proudest accomplishment was designing new control systems for sections of the plant which was a major operation. He had finally achieved complete mastery of his talents.
Then tragedy struck and it was an injury all too familiar to many communities. Boot’s announced that they intended to close the plant and relocate production to Nottingham. The closing wouldn’t be immediate and that reality only made the task more excruciating. Instead the plant was closed in stages and the work was shipped to Nottingham and across Europe. Dear friends Iain had collaborated with for years were dismissed. Close friends that Iain had shared birthdays and weddings with slowly vanished. Then finally in March 2005 it was his turn. Instead of embarking on the painful task of job hunting, Iain choose early retirement after 28 years.
Several years later the Boot’s cosmetics company merged with Alliance to become Alliance Boot’s.
For the second time in his life Iain was adrift, but this time was different. Prior to retirement Iain had pushed himself to succeed and challenge himself. He had reimagined manufacturing operations for his cosmetic employer saving large sums of money.This time he wanted to build a product more novel. Over the years he had contrived a series of ideas including a plan for sending a space station to the moon. Meanwhile the revolting pollution that our fuels were afflicting on the planet still bothered him.
Retirement does come with its advantages. You get ample time for your mind to trek. No idea is out of bounds because you really have the full day to examine it. During one bright afternoon in 2004 Iain found himself walking the public Sustran walkway in the Scottish countryside. It was in that bright light that Iain recognized the brilliance that is hydroelectric power. Inside these immense fluid engines gravity drives millions of gallons of water into turbines. The result is clean renewable electricity that is very efficient to tap.
The drawback of this arrangement is that modern dams can consume years to engineer and fortunes to build before the first megawatt. Plus there is the high cost of maintenance which leaves operators managing dams that are obsolete with decades old equipment.
Iain knew with absolute certainty that an alternative and versatile system must exist. He set to work to develop a system that could be conveniently installed and upgraded over time. Then after about a year of work he created the Adaptable Modular Power Systems or AMPS.
The first AMPS module is planned to be sold as a kit that would be manufactured in three sections. The first section would be the electrical substation module built of transformers and monitors for easy connection to the local power grid. The second section houses the central electric generators. It is anticipated that these generators could easily achieve a megawatt of power output from the flow of a local stream, river, reservoir, or lake. At the very top is the third wet section and its job is to direct and manipulate the flow of water to maximize production. Each of these steel sections could be cheapy manufactured off-site and delivered like a conventional wind turbine. The sections are then stacked at the construction site and the AMPS module is complete. Just as with modern wind turbines, high power outputs could be readily achieved by consolidating together additional modules and at a much lower price than engineering a custom dam.
A: This is representative of modern conventional hydropower power stations. The turbine is fed by pipe from a dam water source.
B: This shows the same water source and an AMPS module with its direct or indirect water water supply. Observe the smaller turbine configured vertically for better versatility and lower construction costs.
C: This shows the same AMPS module configured using circulated captive water for easy recharge from a small external water supply. This method could be sited anywhere wished on the planet.
D: This shows an AMPS module as a structural box that can be configured for either direct water supply or circulated captive water. The design can accommodate both methods with minimal modifications.
Iain also envisions that when complete, these modules will allow communities the freedom to tap power from reservoirs of any scale on demand. Possibly even from internal water towers. The compact design of the module permits engineers the option of easily recharging a module from its lower reservoir without using a pump.
Today Iain is retired in his Scotland hometown, but he is still developing AMPS modules. Iain also knows from his earlier career that product development is a collaborative process. Iain would be very interested in cooperating with researchers and entrepreneurs interested in advancing hydroelectric technology.
Readers interested in connecting with Iain Glasgow can reach him at email@example.com