Hydroelectric power is the largest source of renewable electricity in the United States, producing about 6.3% of the nation’s total electricity throughout the last decade. Even after a century of proven experience with this reliable renewable resource, significant opportunities still exist to expand the nation’s hydropower resources through non-powered dams, water conveyance systems, pumped storage hydropower, and new site development. The Water Power Program supports the hydropower industry and complements existing investments through the development and deployment of new technologies and key components, as well as by identifying key opportunity areas through which hydropower generation can be enhanced.
In addition to conventional hydropower, pumped-storage hydropower is an important piece of DOE’s renewable energy portfolio because it acts as utility-scale grid storage technology. The Water Power Program can play an essential and catalytic role in demonstrating the benefits of pumped-storage hydropower as a part of our clean energy future—acting as a renewable form of grid stabilization and enabler for the high penetration of variable renewables (such as wind and solar). A U.S. Department of Energy 2015 report to Congress outlines key activities that can help accelerate pumped-storage development in the United States.
With more than 2,500 U.S. companies supporting the hydropower industry, adding additional hydropower generation will create a large and enduring economic benefit by revitalizing the domestic manufacturing and hydropower industry.
Learn more about hydro power products in the following areas of hydropower technology development:
- Low-Head Hydropower
- Materials and Manufacturing
- Hydropower Systems
- Hydropower Technology Accomplishments
- Pumped-Storage Hydropower
There is a significant opportunity across the country to add new hydropower generating capabilities at low-head sites (i.e., those that operate with a change in elevation ranging from 2 to 20 meters). These types of waterways are often present at existing non-powered dams, canals, and conduits across diverse areas of the United States. The Water Power Program is investing in innovative low-head hydropower technology R&D, such as Percheron Power’s installation of the nation’s first Archimedes Hydrodynamic Screw system. This project demonstrated that the low-head technology is simple, robust, and economical.
MATERIALS AND MANUFACTURING
The Water Power Program funds R&D to identify and test new materials and manufacturing techniques to improve the performance and lower the costs of hydropower. Program-funded research focuses on materials or coatings that reduce the life-cycle cost of turbine runners, draft tubes, and penstocks. R&D also focuses on identifying and testing ways to improve generator efficiency and reliability.
The Water Power Program works to develop and test new technologies and techniques that can reduce operations and maintenance costs; increase unit availability and plant capacity factors; reduce risk through enhanced system reliability; and improve the quality—environmental performance attributes, as well as ancillary power benefits—of the energy produced. Areas of focus include water-use optimization, the application of advanced materials and manufacturing methods, and the assessment of the value of water power grid services. For example, existing hydropower facilities in the United States show signs of deterioration, and the data used to evaluate these facilities are scattered and outdated. The Water Power Program is working with partners to integrate and update information in order to understand the declines in electricity generation, capacity factors, and facility availability.
TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS
The program has numerous accomplishments in hydropower technology development. The projects described below highlight just a few of the program’s new opportunities and recent successes in cost reductions, water-use optimization, and facility upgrades.
New Opportunities for Advanced Hydropower R&D
In 2011, after revamping its hydropower technology efforts, the Water Power Program released its first major solicitation for hydropower R&D in more than a decade. These projects aim to reduce costs of hydropower technologies and demonstrate the dynamic grid benefits of advanced hydropower and pumped storage technologies. For example, Natel Energy, in consultation with Alden Research Laboratory, designed, built, and commissioned a reliable powertrain for the Schneider Linear hydroEngine™. By reducing capital and maintenance costs, this powertrain enables the development of new low-head hydropower capacity—achieving levelized-cost-of-energy savings of around $2 per megawatt hour. Learn more about Natel Energy’s project and others in the Hydropower Projects Report.
Optimizing Hydropower Systems for Power and Environment
The Water Power Program sponsored a team of U.S. national laboratories to develop and demonstrate a suite of advanced, integrated analytical tools, known as the Water-Use Optimization Toolset (WUOT). WUOT assists managers and operators with operating their hydropower plants more efficiently, resulting in more energy and grid services from available water resources, thus enhancing the environmental benefits from improved hydropower operations and planning. WUOT includes tools for hydrologic forecasting, seasonal hydro-systems analysis, day-ahead scheduling, real-time operations, and environmental performance operations. The following locations are deploying WUOT for demonstration:
- The Oroville Complex on the Feather River in California
- The upper Colorado River portion of the Colorado River Storage Project
- The Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland.
Revitalizing American Infrastructure
Sponsored through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Water Power Program completed three hydropower efficiency projects with overwhelming success—resulting in an increase of more than 3,000 megawatt-hours per year.
- The Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities installed a low-flow turbine to its Abiquiu Hydroelectric Facility in New Mexico. The new turbine boosts overall facility output from 13.8 megawatts to 16.8 megawatts.
- The City of Boulder in Colorado completed a modernization project to its Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric Project by installing a new turbine/generator unit. The new unit resulted in a 30% increase in generation and an 18%–48% increase in turbine efficiency.
- The City of Tacoma installed two Francis turbine/generator units to the Cushman Dam in Washington. The new units add approximately 3.6 megawatts of annual electrical generation.
Turbine / Generator
The turbine will extract energy from the flowing water, and turn it into mechanical energy that turns the generator to create electrical energy. System efficiencies range between 65% and 80% depending upon the turbine style and design.
Turbines in Energising Development (EnDev) Projects
- Energising Development (EnDev)
- Turbines in PSP Hydro Rwanda
Turbine Turgo from China
“Turgo” turbines were the invention of the British company Gilkes of Kendal, and it is an axial flow impulse turbine (like half a pelton wheel). Very adaptable to a range of heads and flows, and it can accept a larger flow volume for a given wheel size than a pelton (the specific speed is higher). So, a good machine to use. “I don’t know if there are any intellectual property issues – the Chinese copied (reverse engineered) the turbine in the 1960s. I expect the patent has expired. So it is still necessary to check on the reliability of the individual supplier in China, but it could be a good choice.” (Ray Holland)
As Ray replied the Turgo concept is technically sound and proofen. What I understood so far about Chinese manufacturers in general is that even from those who can produce good quality you typically get their good quality only if you are experienced enough to specify exactly what you want and at which level of quality you want it. Best is then to go there (at the right stage of the manufacturing process) and let assess by a technical expert the quality of manufacturing the specified turbine. Whether the Chinese offer is then still a financially competitive one of course depends on how much you need to spend for the expert to go there.
Turbine development of Ingenieure ohne Grenzen e.V.
IoG are further developing the classical WIL250 turbine. The design reduces the need of complex machining of the components. It also can be built in the way of do-it-yourself (DIY). The design of this turbine includes also a self-made propeller, generator and load controller. The advantage of this turbine is that no milling machine is necessary. Some parts may be manufactured not by metal but by alternative materials like wood or plastics in order to even more adopt to the local conditions.
See homepage: it is an open source project and they encourage NGOs to contact them for design materials and contruction manuals.
Microhydro-Electric System Types
Off-Grid Battery-Based Micro-Hydro Electric Systems
Most small off-grid hydro systems are battery-based. Battery systems have great flexibility and can be combined with other energy sources, such as wind generators and solar-electric arrays, if the stream is seasonal. Because stream flow is usually consistent, battery charging is as well, and it´s often possible to use a relatively small battery bank. Instantaneous demand (watts) will be limited not by the water potential or turbine, but by the size of the inverter.
Off-Grid Batteryless Micro- Hydro Electric Systems
If the stream has enough potential, one may decide to go with an AC-direct system. This consists of a turbine generator that produces AC output at 120 or 240 volts, which can be sent directly to standard household loads. The system is controlled by diverting energy in excess of load requirements to dump loads, such as water- or air-heating elements. This technique keeps the total load on the generator constant. A limitation of these systems is that the peak or surge loads cannot exceed the output of the generator, which is determined by the stream´s available head and flow. This type of system needs to be large to meet peak electrical loads, so it can often generate enough energy for all household needs, including water and space heating.
Grid-Tied Batteryless Microhydro-Electric Systems
Systems of this type use a turbine and controls to produce electricity that can be fed directly into utility lines. These can use either AC or DC generators. AC systems will use AC generators to sync directly with the grid. An approved interface device is needed to prevent the system from energizing the grid when the grid is out of action and under repair. DC systems will use a specific inverter to convert the output of a DC hydro turbine to grid-synchronous AC. The biggest drawback of batteryless systems is that when the utility is down, your electricity will be out too. When the grid fails, these systems are designed to automatically shut down.
The function of a charge controller in a hydro system is equivalent to turning on a load to absorb excess energy. Battery-based microhydro systems require charge controllers to prevent overcharging the batteries. Controllers generally send excess energy to a secondary (dump) load, such as an air or water heater. Unlike a solar-electric controller, a microhydro system controller does not disconnect the turbine from the batteries. This could create voltages that are higher than some components can withstand, or cause the turbine to overspeed, which could result in dangerous and damaging overvoltages.
Off-grid, batteryless AC-direct microhydro systems need controls too. A load-control governor monitors the voltage or frequency of the system, and keeps the generator correctly loaded, turning dump-load capacity on and off as the load pattern changes, or mechanically deflects water away from the runner. Grid-tied batteryless AC and DC systems also need controls to protect the system if the utility grid fails.
Dump Load (Diversion Load, Shunt Load)
A dump load is an electrical resistance heater that must be sized to handle the full generating capacity of the microhydro turbine. Dump loads can be air or water heaters, and are activated by the charge controller whenever the batteries or the grid cannot accept the energy being produced, to prevent damage to the system. Excess energy is “shunted” to the dump load when necessary.
Battery Bank (Storage Battery)
By using reversible chemical reactions, a battery bank provides a way to store surplus energy when more is being produced than consumed. When demand increases beyond what is generated, the batteries can be called on to release energy to keep your household loads operating. A microhydro system is typically the most gentle of the RE systems on the batteries, since they do not often remain in a discharged state. The bank can also be smaller than for a wind or PV system. One or two days of storage is usually sufficient. Deep-cycle lead-acid batteries are typically used in these systems. They are cost effective and do not usually account for a large percentage of the system cost.
Metering (Battery Monitor, Amp-hour Meter, Watt-hour Meter)
System meters measure and display several different aspects of your microhydro-electric system´s performance and status—tracking how full your battery bank is, how much electricity your turbine is producing or has produced, and how much electricity is being used. Operating your system without metering is like running your car without any gauges—although possible to do, it´s always better to know how well the car is operating and how much fuel is in the tank.
Battery / Inverter Disconnect
In battery-based systems, a disconnect between the batteries and inverter is required. This disconnect is typically a large, DC-rated breaker mounted in a sheet-metal enclosure. It allows the inverter to be disconnected from the batteries for service, and protects the inverter-to-battery wiring against electrical faults.
Inverters transform the DC electricity stored in your battery bank into AC electricity for powering household appliances. Grid-tied inverters synchronize the system´s output with the utility´s AC electricity, allowing the system to feed hydro-electricity to the utility grid. Battery-based inverters for off-grid or grid-tied systems often include a battery charger, which is capable of charging a battery bank from either the grid or a backup generator if your creek isn´t flowing or your system is down for maintenance. In rare cases, an inverter and battery bank are used with larger, off-grid AC-direct systems to increase power availability. The inverter uses the AC to charge the batteries, and synchronizes with the hydro-electric AC supply to supplement it when demand is greater than the output of the hydro generator.
Mains Panel, Breaker Box, Service Entrance
The AC breaker panel, or mains panel, is the point at which all of a home´s electrical wiring meets with the provider of the electricity, whether that´s the grid or a microhydro-electric system. This wall-mounted panel or box is usually installed in a utility room, basement, garage, or on the exterior of a building. It contains a number of labeled circuit breakers that route electricity to the various rooms throughout a house. These breakers allow electricity to be disconnected for servicing, and also protect the building´s wiring against electrical fires.
Just like the electrical circuits in your home or office, a grid-tied inverter´s electrical output needs to be routed through an AC circuit breaker. This breaker is usually mounted inside the building´s mains panel. It enables the inverter to be disconnected from either the grid or from electrical loads if servicing is necessary. The breaker also safeguards the circuit´s electrical wiring.
KWH Meter, Utility Meter
Most homes with grid-tied microhydro-electric systems will have AC electricity both coming from and going to the utility grid. A multichannel KWH meter keeps track of how much grid electricity you´re using and how much your RE system is producing. The utility company often provides intertie-capable meters at no cost.
A turbine converts the energy in falling water into shaft power. There are various types of turbine which can be categorised in one of several ways. The choice of turbine will depend mainly on the pressure head available and the design flow for the proposed hydropower installation. As shown in table 2 below, turbines are broadly divided into three groups; high, medium and low head, and into two categories: impulse and reaction.
|Impulse||PeltonTurgoMulti-jet Pelton||CrossflowTurgoMulti-jet Pelton||Crossflow|
The difference between impulse and reaction can be explained simply by stating that the impulse turbines convert the kinetic energy of a jet of water in air into movement by striking turbine buckets or blades – there is no pressure reduction as the water pressure is atmospheric on both sides of the impeller. The blades of a reaction turbine, on the other hand, are totally immersed in the flow of water, and the angular as well as linear momentum of the water is converted into shaft power – the pressure of water leaving the runner is reduced to atmospheric or lower.
The load factor is the amount of power used divided by the amount of power that is available if the turbine were to be used continuously. Unlike technologies relying on costly fuel sources, the ‘fuel’ for hydropower generation is free and therefore the plant becomes more cost effective if run for a high percentage of the time. If the turbine is only used for domestic lighting in the evenings then the plant factor will be very low. If the turbine provides power for rural industry during the day, meets domestic demand during the evening, and maybe pumps water for irrigation in the evening, then the plant factor will be high.
It is very important to ensure a high plant factor if the scheme is to be cost effective and this should be taken into account during the planning stage. Many schemes use a ‘dump’ load (in conjunction with an electronic load controller – see below), which is effectively a low priority energy demand that can accept surplus energy when an excess is produced e.g. water heating, storage heaters or storage cookers.
Load Control Governors
Water turbines, like petrol or diesel engines, will vary in speed as load is applied or relieved. Although not such a great problem with machinery which uses direct shaft power, this speed variation will seriously affect both frequency and voltage output from a generator. Traditionally, complex hydraulic or mechanical speed governors altered flow as the load varied, but more recently an electronic load controller (ELC) has been developed which has increased the simplicity and reliability of modern micro-hydro sets. The ELC prevents speed variations by continuously adding or subtracting an artificial load, so that in effect, the turbine is working permanently under full load. A further benefit is that the ELC has no moving parts, is very reliable and virtually maintenance free. The advent of electronic load control has allowed the introduction of simple and efficient, multi-jet turbines, no longer burdened by expensive hydraulic governors