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Simple construction and fish gates help make the shaft power station eco-friendly and cheap

Technische Universitaet Muenchen researchers have created a small-scale hydroelectric power plant that is both environmentally friendly and cost efficient. 

Professor Peter Rutschmann and Dipl.-Ing. Albert Sepp of the Oskar von Miller-Institut, which is TUM's research institution for hydraulic and water resources engineering, have developed the small-scale hydroelectric power plant in an effort to address the issues that large-scale plants present. 

Large-scale power plants can be problematic because they destroy natural riverside landscapes with the amount of construction required to build them, and they also cost more money to build since more materials are needed. In addition, the destruction of the environment leads to destruction of ecosystems as well. 

Until now, researchers have had issues with smaller power stations as well. The low dam height of previous smaller power stations made it so that water had to be "guided" past by a bay-type power plant type of construction around it, which presented problems with achieving an even flow of water to the turbines. This type of construction also harmed fish. 

But now, TUM researchers have solved these problems by designing a small transformer station on the river bank called a shaft power plant. This small-scale power station consists of a power generation system that is hidden in a shaft dug into the riverbed, reducing the impact on the landscape and waterways. Water flows into a box-shaped construction where it drives the turbine and is then led back into the river under the dam. With manufacturers creating generators that can be operated underwater, this type of system is possible without a large riverbank power house. This system also prevents vortex formation, where water would suddenly flow downward increasing turbine wear and tear and reducing the plant's efficiency.

The problem with fish safety is solved through the use of a gate, which is placed above the power plant shaft in order to allow enough water for fish to pass through safely. 

Besides being environmentally friendly, the small-scale hydroelectric power plant is cost effective. Despite its simple construction and low dam height, the power station is capable of "operating profitably."

"We assume that the costs are between 30 and 50 percent lower by comparison with a bay-type hydropower plant," said Rutschmann. 

The shaft power plant functions economically despite its low head of water, which is only one to two meters. Most bay-type power plants need twice this "head of water." To accommodate larger bodies of water, several shafts can be dug next to one another. 

Right now, hydroelectric power accounts for three percent of electricity consumed in Germany, and researchers are hoping to increase this number through the use of shaft power plants. There are areas all over the Europe that can utilize this type of power, and according to Rutschmann, developing countries can too.

"Major portions of the world's population have no access to electricity at all," said Rutschmann. "Distributed, local power generation by lower-cost, easy-to-operate, low-maintenance power plants is the only solution."

Rutschmann also noted that turbines may not be "financially feasible" for certain areas, so the use of a cheap submersible pump ran in reverse was his suggestion, which works in the shaft power plant. 

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Actual data
By tastyratz on 10/20/2010 11:22:09 PM , Rating: 5
What I take from this article is that someone invented a better way to make smaller hydro power plants. for less money than larger power plants.
What I did not get was missing information. the 30-50% "assumption" is that on what basis? per kw? per average plant cost?
Also affordable by what scale? How does this compare to other alternatives (nuclear/coal/larger hydro/etc)

This could be an actual advance, or this could just be a scaled down proportional cost to kw solution against what is in place. Obviously a smaller plant has its uses but for arguments sake...

RE: Actual data
By lelias2k on 10/21/10, Rating: -1
RE: Actual data
By tastyratz on 10/21/2010 8:25:55 AM , Rating: 3
Seriously, I read that line, quoted it, and wrote my whole post questioning it. Your just regurgitating the same line from the article I quoted but you got rated up?
lower as in what which was what my whole post was about.

Again, lower cost on WHAT scale? It is NOT mentioned if it is a lower cost per unit of energy produced, or if it is a lower cost per power station produced. Those would be drastically different.
If they lowered the cost of hydroelectric power by 30-50% for actual power produced then that's huge and then makes these larger plants a poor economic choice in most situations.

If they lowered the cost of the plant by 30-50% on an average intallation but these smaller plants only provide 50% of the energy in comparison then its essentially a wash for grand scale power production and only allows for smaller installations.

See what I mean?

Also p.s. on top of that "we assume 30-50%" usually means they inflate their numbers to sound more impressive.

RE: Actual data
By Biologyman on 10/21/2010 9:01:11 PM , Rating: 4
Good points and definitely worth some clarification. Where I see this technology possibly making a difference is in opening up a range of sites that are unfeasible for large scale-hydro, but might be able to accommodate this approach while minimizing environmental impacts (compared with large-scale's impacts). In the US, this could be proposed as a workable solution where there are proposals to remove dams or to correct the environmental impacts from existing dams during their FERC re-licensing process.

The Lower Snake River and the Klamath River in the Pacific NW both have a number of dam removal issues/opportunities, largely related to existing structures that block salmon migration and compliance with the Endangered Species Act. If existing dams could be removed and replaced with these smaller facilities, it seems a reasonable compromise - still allowing power generation (to run frozen food processing in the case of the Snake River) and provide fish passage that is compatible with generation (Klamath River).

Where I see a lot of potential for this tech, assuming it pans out as proposed, is in developing countries that need generation capacity, but do not want to impact natural resources that many people rely on for sustenance.

Environmentally friendly?
By knutjb on 10/21/2010 11:00:45 AM , Rating: 1
Its totally irrelevant how environmentally friendly this plant is. Environmentalist movements are convinced that nothing we, humans, do, can or will ever be environmentally friendly.

With their past actions as a guide as to how they function they will still tie this up in court to prevent its use. After all humans are the problem and cannot be allowed hurt mother earth anymore...

RE: Environmentally friendly?
By kattanna on 10/21/2010 12:07:43 PM , Rating: 2
here in the US, sad but true. they will tie up ANYTHING in court nowadays.

over there in germany where this is coming from though, i can see it used.

RE: Environmentally friendly?
By ppardee on 10/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: Environmentally friendly?
By knutjb on 10/21/2010 5:13:31 PM , Rating: 2
I was specifically pointing to those progressive ideological movements and their tactics. They will do what they can to prevent any beneficial hydro tech from being ever being used. This very small minority is hampering any and all advancements. It hurts all of us in some way or another, though usually they cost us substantial amounts of money while providing no practical or realistic alternative.

We will have an impact on the planet no matter what we do. I do not profess to do anything recklessly but with those groups its entirely irrelevant. Its all about them and how wonderful they are in their efforts to save the planet from all those evil people, i.e. US.

RE: Environmentally friendly?
By roadhog1974 on 10/22/2010 5:59:06 AM , Rating: 2
actually you weren't being very specific at all.

RE: Environmentally friendly?
By knutjb on 10/22/2010 12:19:05 PM , Rating: 3
Environmentalist movements are convinced that nothing we, humans, do, can or will ever be environmentally friendly.
actually you weren't being very specific at all.
Ok, how many environmental movements are moderate or even rational in behavior? Do you need your hand held too?

Power Output
By DN23 on 10/22/2010 8:38:41 AM , Rating: 2
How much power will this plant output? Will this plant put out more Kw per dollar invested vs. Bay-type Hydroelectric plants? While I noted that you said they are 30%-50% cheaper than other designs, do they also put out 30% to 50% less power?

I'm sorry, but...
By menace on 10/27/2010 2:50:24 AM , Rating: 2
water had to be "guided" past by a bay-type power plant type of construction around it

1) Why is guided in quotes?
2) "past by"? how is that different than just "past"
3) bay-type power plant type of construction? can you say "dept of redundancy dept"?

I'm disappointed there aren't "likes" and "you knows" thown in there too, like "water had to be - like - "guided" past by a bay-type power plant type of - like - construction around it, you know?"

Ok I'm ruthless

Cost effective??
By IcePickFreak on 10/20/10, Rating: -1
RE: Cost effective??
By wordsworm on 10/20/10, Rating: -1
RE: Cost effective??
By psaus42 on 10/21/2010 7:14:30 AM , Rating: 5

Thank you, I needed that laugh

RE: Cost effective??
By solarrocker on 10/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: Cost effective??
By tastyratz on 10/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: Cost effective??
By ppardee on 10/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: Cost effective??
By eggman on 10/21/2010 3:24:34 PM , Rating: 2
Bit of a stretch on some of those claims don't you think?

RE: Cost effective??
By wordsworm on 10/22/2010 11:05:38 AM , Rating: 1
I must really be out of the loop - what terrorist attacks on Obama's term have been worse than 9/11? Hell, I can remember the day, the minute, who my girlfriend was at the time and waking her up on 9/11. I can't recall anything worse than that.

In any case, health care is definitely one of the greatest American political achievements in American history. Welcome to the 21st century, America! Now if he could implement gun control... maybe the government could save a bundle on health care.

RE: Cost effective??
By HolgerDK on 10/22/2010 5:04:22 AM , Rating: 3
So, the 8 years under Bush with a republican-majority congress didnt have anything to to with the deficit?

RE: Cost effective??
By knutjb on 10/22/2010 12:31:15 PM , Rating: 2
Bush only had a small majority for 6 years, Dems were in majority the other 2. Obama has had the LARGEST majority in DC since the early 1920s. The very large deficit from 8 years of Bush (1.4T) pale in comparison to Obama's first 2 years(1.2T & 1.3T). Obama has more than doubled the deficit Bush made. And NO, I don't like the one Bush left but I should forgive Obama's? BTW while Obama as a Senator he voted for nearly ALL of Bush era spending increases.

Yep the old two wrongs don't make a right statement.

RE: Cost effective??
By wordsworm on 10/23/2010 3:11:50 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't Bush not count the military budget? Kind of like wishful thinking... whereas Obama is actually counting that as a part of the budget? I think that ought to make a big difference in how many beans are counted.

RE: Cost effective??
By menace on 10/27/2010 3:18:36 AM , Rating: 2
Yep and spending and deficits didn't start soaring until immediately after the Democrats took back Congress in 2005-2006. Remember Congress has the purse strings (and Bush - curse him - seldom used the power of the veto as I wish he should have). And also remember the economy tanked well after the Democrats won a strong majorities in 2006. The deficit and recession is as much if not more Pelosi/Reid's responsibility as GWB's. Not that I'm a big fan of GWB as he was a big govt progressive Republican who promoted the Medicare prescription mess and worthless expansions of federal involvement in education. But that's just kid's play compared to the stuff jammed through in the last two years and the now skyrocketing deficits. Either are kids are going to have to pay dearly or we will pay dearly via the invisible tax called "inflation".

RE: Cost effective??
By assemblage on 10/21/2010 9:01:26 AM , Rating: 2

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