Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Kevin Polak: The Designer Behind the NuCONTAINER

Kevin Polak brings over 35 years of experience in design and manufacturing to his position as mechanical design engineer at NuSTREEM. One of his triumphs has been the design of the NuCONTAINER, a modular powerhouse that fits one, two, or three turbines into a standard shipping container for ease of installation, transportation, and repair. In this interview, Mr. Polak tells Irrigation Leader about his background and his work at NuSTREEM.

Irrigation Leader: Please tell us about your background and how you came to work at NuSTREEM.

Kevin Polak: Until 2017, I owned and operated a product-design and prototyping firm in Connecticut for about 20 years. With over 35 years of experience in design and manufacturing, I have worked with many companies in various industries. I have designed products and managed projects for commercial, industrial, and aerospace industries, supporting numerous companies locally and across the country. In addition to designing products, I have been involved in developing production-document-control and configuration-management standards.

During the 1980s and 1990s I worked with NuSTREEM’s CEO, Andy Sadlon, designing digital mass memory products for military applications. Just over 2 years ago, Andy reached out to me to ask me to help out with some design-related tasks for NuSTREEM on a short-term consulting assignment. In September 2018, I accepted a full-time position as a mechanical design engineer.

Irrigation Leader: What sorts of systems and machines did you design and build during your career previous to NuSTREEM? How has that experience informed your current work?

Kevin Polak: As I mentioned earlier, I have worked in a variety of industries throughout my career. Providing design services in mechanical, electromechanical, and electronic packaging; metal and plastic components; mechanisms; drafting; and more allows me to bring this experience and knowledge to NuSTREEM. The design approach taken with the NuTURBINE is to produce a machine that is modular, uses standard components and processes, and will perform under various operating conditions. This eliminates long lead times and specialty components. Until the NuTURBINE, turbines have been basically custom-built machines.

Irrigation Leader: Please tell us about how the idea for the NuCONTAINER arose. 

Kevin Polak: Juliann Blanford, NuSTREEM’s general manager; another show attendee; and I were having a conversation on the show floor at HydroVision 2019. The idea of putting our turbine in a mobile enclosure like a shipping container arose. My answer was, “Absolutely!” The show attendee we were talking with had been unsuccessfully looking for this sort of solution for quite a while. After the show, I began to package a single NuTURBINE into a shipping container, and NuSTREEM provided a conceptual design for review. It was exactly what they were looking for. Our company’s owner was briefed on the concept and gave us 100 percent backing to fully develop the NuCONTAINER system with up to three NuTURBINEs in one shipping container.

Irrigation Leader: What was the most difficult thing about designing the NuCONTAINER?

Kevin Polak: Fit. Fitting our turbines, configured with larger generators, was a challenge that needed to be overcome. This required looking at different generator offerings and some out-of-the-box thinking. We needed to mount these larger generators in the footprint of our existing turbine with minimal change so that they fit into a standard shipping container.

Irrigation Leader: What are the advantages of the design over other ways of deploying small hydro turbines?

Kevin Polak: The largest obvious benefit is reducing construction costs. Other advantages include a shortened installation time, enabled by the fact that the NuCONTAINER includes the required grid interconnection devices. It is a modular powerhouse. It is built and tested at NuSTREEM’s facility and shipped complete to the site. The NuCONTAINER can also be moved as site conditions change, as in mining applications.

Irrigation Leader: What other current projects are you working on for NuSTREEM?

Kevin Polak: NuSTREEM’s current products are supplied with induction generators. I am actively working on including synchronous generators on our NuTURBINE’s modular platform. Future work will include larger versions of the NuTURBINE that are higher flow and head applications that expand our product offerings. 

Kevin Polak is a mechanical design engineer at NuSTREEM. He can be contacted at kevin.polak@nustreem.com.