While living in Honolulu, Richard Navarro liked to stroll along the beach near Waikiki, enjoying the oceanside view in one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. But those daily walks were more than just a leisure-time activity.
For Navarro, who has been churning out inventions since he was a teenager, they provided the inspiration for a new product — a hydroelectric turbine to generate electricity from water, such as lakes and oceans.
“I would walk past the ocean and said there has to be a way to harness this energy to help people,” recalled Navarro, who is now the president and chief innovation officer of Creative Minds Solutions LLC, of Grapevine, which develops non-polluting, inexpensive forms of alternative energy.
“I would walk past the ocean and said there has to be a way to harness this energy to help people.”
Navarro, who leads a 14-member team, said his “hydro-dynamic turbine” can produce electricity far more cheaply and efficiently than dams and is drawing widening attention as a source of affordable, renewable energy. The invention is in the prototype stage but is now moving into production, Navarro said.
The Texas governor’s office selected Creative Minds Solutions as one of 10 companies to represent Texas at one of the world’s largest power generation conferences Dec. 13-15 in Orlando, Florida. Known as Power-Gen International, the conference is expected to draw more than 20,000 attendees and representatives from 1,400 companies seeking markets for their products.
Navarro was in Austin on Wednesday to tout the hydro-dynamic turbine at the 2016 Defense Innovation Conference that showcases innovative and emerging technology to hundreds of representatives from businesses and government agencies, including the defense department. The three-day conference at the J.W. Marriott Austin ends on Thursday.
Navarro said the governor’s office reached out to the company after it was named the winner of the annual Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Fort Worth Business Assistance Center, a nonprofit arm of the city government’s economic development department. Capital One Bank and The Alternative Board are founding sponsors.
CREATIVE MINDS SOLUTIONS TOPPED 50 COMPETITORS
The competition was created in 2011 to put small businesses on a path to success by encouraging effective planning. Creative Minds Solutions was named the winner this year among three finalists winnowed down from 50 original competitors, and received prizes valued at $41,000, including cash.
Cheryl Jones, economic development specialist with the City of Fort Worth, said Navarro scored high in all areas rated and was “very passionate” about his company’s product, which she described as “an awesome new innovation.”
Navarro says potential markets include city and county utility districts, government agencies, the military, as well as foreign governments. His company is working on a version to produce low-cost electricity from the irrigation ponds of Indian farmers. The device can also enable the military to provide alternative electricity in a terrorist attack if terrorists knock out the main grid, Navarro said.
Creative Minds Solutions has plowed nine of years of research and more than $200,000 of investments into the project but envisions potential sales of nearly $40 million in five years after production starts rolling. With global energy expected to increase by 50 percent by 2050, demand for alternative sources is expected to accelerate sharply, but presently only 6 to 7 percent of U.S. electricity comes from hydroelectricity, according to an executive summary from Navarro’s company.
The company began working on the project in 2007 and secured an initial patent in 2013. It received another patent in 2015 and has two more pending. The prototype was built in the company’s lab in the Dallas Communications Complex in Irving.
Navarro, who has rotated from Texas to Hawaii since 2007, holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University and has created 15 inventions since his teen-age days. He was a 16-year-old farm boy in Michigan when he came up with his first creation, an idea born out of the oft-quoted truism that necessity is the mother of invention. It was designed to reduce the amount of labor needed to till the soil so “we didn’t have to go over the field so many times,” he recalled.
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