Ian GILMARTIN & Robert CATTLEY
Mini Water Wheel
1 January 2007
It is a mechanical problem that has troubled
scientists since the ancient Greeks. Now a Scottish electrician
has invented a small water wheel that could save thousands of
pounds in energy bills.
Ian Gilmartin, 60, who has no mains electricity, is generating
power from the stream in his garden. He and friend Bob Cattley,
58, have invented a mini water wheel capable of supplying enough
electricity to power a house, with no running costs and zero
The contraption is the first off-the-shelf
water wheel system which can generate a good supply of
electricity from a waterfall as little as 20cm in height.
It is designed to be used in small rivers or
streams, making it ideal for potentially thousands of homes
Mr Gilmartin, an electrician and inventor
born and raised in the village of Springfield, near Cupar, Fife,
was not prompted to think up his device by high energy bills -
he does not own a TV and has never lived in a house with
But he has a stream at the back of his house
near Staveley, in Cumbria, and with the help of PhD engineering
student Mr Cattley, now hopes to see the invention in the shops
by the end of next year.
Mr Gilmartin, who lived in Linwood before
moving to Cumbria in the late-1960s, began experimenting three
years ago with yoghurt pots, toilet rolls and wheelie bins in
the stream, before test-running a prototype.
He took the results to the Lake District
National Park, and secured a £15,000 grant from the
organisation's sustainability fund. The prototype has been
working successfully at St Catherine's, a National Trust site
near Windermere, opening up previously untapped energy.
The water wheel produces one to two
kilowatts of power and generates at least 24 kilowatt hours of
sustainable green energy in a day, just less than the average
household's daily consumption of around 28 kilowatt hours. It
should cost around £2000 to install, and will pay for itself
inside two years.
The Beck Mickle low head micro hydro
generator could potentially provide electricity to more than
50,000 British homes and could be used industrially. The
inventors predict a series of them linked on the same river
course could create enough electricity to power a small town or
Mr Gilmartin said he came up with the idea
after giving up work to look after his son, who had epilepsy.
"There was nothing available on the market to recover any
sensible amount of energy from low (pressure) heads, so in
wanting something to think about at the time, I thought of the
idea of having revolving buckets to recover energy.
"While we cannot say this provides free
electricity, because of the initial cost of buying the machine,
it is expected to pay for itself within two years and then
greatly reduce the owner's electricity bills after then. Because
what we are doing is cheap to make, the pay-back is very quick."
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IMPROVEMENTS IN AND RELATING TO GRAVITY TYPE WATER WHEELS
( 2006-08-10 )
GILMARTIN, John Graham
Applicant: BECK MICKLE HYDRO LTD (GB); GILMARTIN JOHN GRAHAM
Classification: - international: F03B9/00; F03B9/00; - European:
Application number: WO2006GB00351 20060202
Priority number(s): GB20050002142 20050202
7 October 2005
Yoghurt Pot Generator Could Revolutionise
A revolutionary new invention that uses yoghurt pot plastic to
generate electricity could be a significant new step towards
increasing the UK's reliance on renewables.
The Beck Mickle Hydro project uses the plastic device to
generate electricity from shallow waters such as rivers and
streams to a depth of just 20 cm.
"We could be looking at significant changes to power
production," explained the inventor of the device, Ian
"We want to generate energy from water between 20 cm and two
metres deep. No one else has attempted anything like this in
such shallow water."
Mr Gilmartin hopes that the invention, currently being
developed at Lancaster University, will translate into a device
that could generate enough electricity to power a house.
Homeowners could then buy the machine for around £1,000 to
achieve their own renewable microgeneration.
The device could also reportedly be used to provide drinking
water and in air conditioning.
The project has received funding from the Lake District
National Park Authority's sustainable development fund. It is
believed the device, once developed, could be used in up to
100,000 sites across the UK.
Beck Mickle Hydro Ltd in Partnership with
Local inventor and electrician lan Gilmartin has redesigned the
water wheel for the 21st century to provide renewable
inexpensive electricity from even tiny streams without harming
fish or contributing to global warming. This unique patented
technology makes use of recycled plastic and can even provide
power from becks that are no more than a trickle. It is
envisaged units that are scalable will be sold as white goods
that can easily be approved and installed before simply being
Following a referral from Business Link Cumbria, lan has been
working with the Enterprise and Business Partnerships (EBP) Team
of Lancaster University's Environment Centre to assess the
environmental impact of this technology, identify its market
potential and strengthen its patent protection.
The environmental impact assessment focused on the use of
food-grade recycled plastics within the water wheel, to support
a possible demonstration at the National Trust's St Catherine's
site in Winder-mere. This was contracted out to CookPrior
Associates Ltd, a local consultancy experienced in such
assessments, which identified a low risk of any organic
chemicals leaching from the plastics to be used, but recommended
a series of leaching trials to ensure that no unforeseen
Through a variety of literature searches, internet searches and
personal contacts with organisations such as the: NERC,
Environment Agency and Land Registry, the EBP team have
identified several reports providing information on potential
sites for low-head hydro generation and the proportion of the UK
meeting minimum gradient and flow requirements.
However, further work remains to be done, in particular the
development of a comprehensive business plan to successfully
attract investors. Therefore, a team of four MBA students
undertaking a business planning module in the University's
Management School, have been recruited. The team have
enthusiastically accepted the challenge of pulling together the
market information so far obtained and producing a first draft
business plan for delivery in mid December. During the business
planning project, EBP have continued to investigate a means of
actively identifying potential customers, rather than relying
solely on passive internet-based advertising. This has now led
to discussions with the University's Geography
Department regarding the possible development of an automated
system for analysing 1 in 10,000 scale maps and providing the
postcodes of potential customers for use in targeted mail shots,
possibly along with their electricity bills. EBP are also
working closely with lan using the group's patent and
intellectual property experience, to strengthen Beck Mickle
Hydro's patent position and ensure appropriate confidentiality
agreements are in place across their numerous contacts.
Beck Mickle Hydro have also been working closely with the
Lancaster University Renewable Energy Group (LUREG) to evaluate
their technology against siphon technology LUREG are developing
as an alternative means of low-head hydroelectric generation.
LUREG, which has significant expertise in low head hydroelectric
generation in both tidal and non-tidal environments have adopted
lan's technology and are working closely with him to establish a
number of demonstration sites for both technologies.
The EBP team with the financial support of the NorthWest
Development Agency and Higher Education Innovation Fund helps
companies across the NorthWest to access the environmental and
science expertise of Lancaster University. This is accomplished
via company visits to identify areas where assistance would be
beneficial, small pieces of free consultancy, technical and
business based student projects and facilitating the formation
of affinity groups between companies to resolve common issues
through collaborative research partnerships. The EBP team also
serve as the prime contact for the Lancaster Environment Centre,
which is the largest of its kind in Europe and brings people
together from across the university together with the NERC's
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.