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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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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".

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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