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Small is beautiful in hydroelectric power plant design, and good for the environment
Date:10/20/2010

Hydroelectric power is the oldest and the "greenest" source of renewable energy. In Germany, the potential would appear to be completely exploited, while large-scale projects in developing countries are eliciting strong criticism due to their major impact on the environment. Researchers at Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have developed a small-scale hydroelectric power plant that solves a number of problems at the same time: The construction is so simple, and thereby cost-efficient, that the power generation system is capable of operating profitably in connection with even modest dam heights. Moreover, the system is concealed in a shaft, minimizing the impact on the landscape and waterways. There are thousands of locations in Europe where such power plants would be viable, in addition to regions throughout the world where hydroelectric power remains an untapped resource.

In Germany, hydroelectric power accounts for some three percent of the electricity consumed a long-standing figure that was not expected to change in any significant way. After all, the good locations for hydroelectric power plants have long since been developed. In a number of newly industrialized nations, huge dams are being discussed that would flood settled landscapes and destroy ecosystems. In many underdeveloped countries, the funds and engineering know-how that would be necessary to bring hydroelectric power on line are not available.

Smaller power stations entail considerable financial input and are also not without negative environmental impact. Until now, the use of hydroelectric power in connection with a relatively low dam height meant that part of the water had to be guided past the dam by way of a so-called bay-type power plant a design with inherent disadvantages:

  • The large size of the plant, which includes concrete construction for the diversion of water and a power house, involves high construction costs and destruction of natura
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Contact: Patrick Regan
regan@zv.tum.de
49-892-891-0515
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert  

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