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

enough water flows through to enable fish to pass. At the same time, the flow inhibits vortex formation that would reduce the plant's efficiency and increase wear and tear on the turbine.

The core of the concept is not optimizing efficiency, however, but optimizing cost: Standardized pre-fabricated modules should make it possible to order a "power plant kit" just like ordering from a catalog. "We assume that the costs are between 30 and 50 percent lower by comparison with a bay-type hydropower plant," Peter Rutschmann says. The shaft power plant is capable of operating economically given a low "head" of water of only one to two meters, while a bay-type power plant requires at least twice this head of water. Series production could offer an additional advantage: In the case of wider bodies of water, several shafts could be dug next to each other also at different points in time, as determined by demand and available financing.

Investors can now consider locations for the utilization of hydropower that had hardly been interesting before. This potential has gained special significance in light of the EU Water Framework Directive. The directive stipulates that fish obstacles are to be removed even in smaller rivers. In Bavaria alone, there are several thousand existing transverse structures, such as weirs, that will have to be converted, many of which also meet the prerequisites for shaft power plants. Construction of thousands of fish ladders would not only cost billions but would also load the atmosphere with tons of climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. If in the process shaft power plants with fish gates and additional upstream fish ladders were installed, investors could shoulder the costs and ensure the generation of climate-friendly energy over the long term providing enough power for smaller communities from small, neighborhood hydroelectric plants.

Shaft power plants could also play a significant role in developing countrie
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Contact: Patrick Regan
regan@zv.tum.de
49-892-891-0515
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert  

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