Beautiful power generation is the theme of this meditation. This grows out of a comment by a friend. We were talking about wind farms and all the silly criticism of them, the worst of which is that they are ugly. I said I found them elegant and he said he found them beautiful. Thus the theme. Here is a post about small hydro. The article includes a build up about large hydrodams and the negative impact on the environment as well as data about Germany where these dams were developed. I have only included the info about the new type dam itself but please feel free to read the rest.
Small Is Beautiful in Hydroelectric Power Plant Design: Invention Could Enable Renewable Power Generation at Thousands of Unused Sites
ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2010)
dot dot dot as they say…
A solution to all of these problems has now been demonstrated, in the small-scale hydroelectric power plant developed as a model by a team headed by Prof. Peter Rutschmann and Dipl.-Ing. Albert Sepp at the Oskar von Miller-Institut, the TUM research institution for hydraulic and water resources engineering. Their approach incurs very little impact on the landscape. Only a small transformer station is visible on the banks of the river. In place of a large power station building on the riverside, a shaft dug into the riverbed in front of the dam conceals most of the power generation system. The water flows into a box-shaped construction, drives the turbine, and is guided back into the river underneath the dam. This solution has become practical due to the fact that several manufacturers have developed generators that are capable of underwater operation — thereby dispensing with the need for a riverbank power house.
The TUM researchers still had additional problems to solve: how to prevent undesirable vortex formation where water suddenly flows downward; and how to best protect the fish. Rutschmann and Sepp solved two problems with a single solution — by providing a gate in the dam above the power plant shaft. In this way, 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.