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Feasibility of improving the efficiency of energy obtained from hydropower plant

Nancy J Peterson

Asad Jawed WRIT 3150 Summer 2010 !" "

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1738 Dunedin Avenue Duluth, MN 55803 July 30, 2010 Nancy J Peterson Instructor University of Minnesota Duluth Dear Peterson, 3OHDVHILQGFRS\RI³)HDVLELOLW\RILPSURYLQJWKHHIILFLHQF\RIenergy obtained from hydropower SODQW´7KLVLVWKHILQGLQJRIP\ZRUNIRUWKH:5,7WDNHQRYHU6XPPHU7KHSXUSRVH of this report was to exploit the potential of hydropower in order to provide for green and cheap energy. This report will also form the basis of my UROP project and will be discussed with my advisor for further scope of research. As for now this report is meant for the instructor, however might later extend to other engineers and fellow students. The report enclosed gives background about hydropower, how it works, description about basic components, methods that can be employed to increase the output from hydropower and environmental factors that need to be addressed while exploiting this potential. The results of the research were very positive as expected. There is huge potential and some of the ways mentioned in the report could be employed to exploit it. The most simple and cheap method that was discovered was uprating the plants. Not only does this increase the output by manifolds but also has the least environmental impacts. The help that was received from the fellow students in reviewing the paper and by the instructor is greatly appreciated. Any further recommendations are welcome and will be appreciated.


Asad Jawed

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A bstract Hydropower has become the largest energy source being used in the United States. Work needs to be done on building more plants and efficiency of electricity production through this method needs to be increased as it possesses more potential than what has been explored. There are several ways to increase the energy of a hydroelectric power plant. Refurbishment of existing hydropower plants, building low head hydropower plants at sites where the head is not very large, using pumped storage in times of low demand and tying to other energy forms are some of the ways to increase the efficiency of a hydroelectric power plant. The advantages and disadvantages of all these techniques are stated in the text. Hydroelectric power plants in general also have some disadvantages and environmental implications and ways have been identified in which these can be minimized.

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F easibility of improving the efficiency of energy obtained from hydropower plant !

Introduction According to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the amount of electricity being generated by coal in US accounts for almost fifty percent. This results in a lot of greenhouse gases, which is responsible for global warming. Also a fact to consider is the efficiency of energy produced by coal, which is less than five percent when it reaches the desired destination of use. The increasing need of clean and green energy all over the world has lead to alternate IRUPVRIHQHUJ\EHLQJSURSRVHGPRVWRIZKLFKGRQÂśWKDYHDSRWHQWLDORIIXOILOOLQJ industrial needs and/or are very costly. The power from water has benefited the world for years now. With 2000 hydropower plants operating in the country, it has become the largest renewable energy source being used in the United States. At present the world produces 675,000 megawatts from hydropower, which according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is equivalent to 3.6 billion barrels of oil and supplies about 24 percent of the electricity in the world. However, there is more potential to this source and needs to be explored to further protect the environment. Not only work needs to be done on building more plants but also the efficiency of electricity production. Potential of increasing the efficiency of hydropower plant is what would be targeted in this paper.

H ydropower plant and its components One might wonder how falling water can create energy. /RRNLQJDWDULYHULWÂśVKDUGWR imagine the force it is carrying. Water sports like tubing or white-water rafting give us an idea of how powerful flowing water can be. Same is the case with disasters such as floods and tsunamis. They do give us a good idea of the power a huge volume of flowing water can have. In the case of rivers carrying a large amount of water downhill, its flow quickens as it passes through a narrow passageway. Hydropower plants make use of this energy from water and employ principles of mechanics for the conversion of that energy to electricity. Hydropower plants work on a simple concept Âą water flows through the dam, which turns the turbine, which in turn turns the shaft in the generator. This could be seen in figure 1 below.

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F igure 1: Components of a conventional hydropower plant.

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Dam ± A dam works as a large reservoir, which holds water back.


Intake ± Water flows in through the penstock as the gates on the dam open. The penstock is the pipeline that leads to the turbine. The narrow pipeline causes the volume of the water to build up pressure within it.


T urbine ± The turbine is the first mechanical object that faces the might of the water and traps the kinetic and potential energy in the water. The large blades of the turbine turn as water strikes them. These are connected to the generator by means of a shaft, which rotates to provide the necessary rotator motion to drive the generator. The most common type of turbine for hydropower plants is the Francis Turbine, which looks like a big disc with curved blades. According to the Foundation for Water & Energy Education (FWEE), a turbine can weigh as much as 172 tons and turn at a rate of 90 revolutions per minute (rpm).


Generators ± The generator consists of electro magnets and copper coils. Rotating turbine blades causes the magnets to turn around the coils as well, producing alternating current (AC) by moving electrons.


T ransformer ± The transformer is located inside the powerhouse and takes the AC and converts it to higher-voltage current.

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Power lines ± These power lines consist of four wires coming out of the power plant. Three of them are for the three phases of power being produced simultaneously plus a neutral or ground common to all three.


O utflow ± After the water has been used up for driving the process, it is carried through pipelines, called tailraces, and re-enters the river downstream.

Water stored in the reservoir is considered stored energy. As the gates open, water flows outside through the penstock towards the turbine. This water possesses kinetic HQHUJ\DVLW¶VLQPRWLRQ7KHDPRXQWRISRZHUJHQHUDWed depends on several factors. The volume of flowing water and the amount of hydraulic head are two such factors, which determine the quantity of electricity generated. The distance between the water surface and the turbine is referred to as the head. As these two factors increase, so does the power generated. The head usually depends upon the amount of water in the reservoir.

Dams A dam is a barrier that is built to control the flow of water or to store water. There are many different kinds of dams, ranging from small beaver dams to huge dams made of concrete. However large dams are difficult to build and require a lot of power, time and money. Dams can be made of a variety of materials such as concrete, wood, rocks or earth. An example of a large dam is the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan, which is about 985 feet tall. A dam must be able to support the load of the water behind it. As the depth of the water increases, the pressure with which the water pushes onto the wall of the dam also increases. Thus, dams have a lot of uses and are chosen depending on the location and the purpose they would serve. The two main types of hydropower facilities are: Impoundment This is the most basic and widely used type of facility. An impoundment facility usually has a large turbine because of the amount of water it can store. Water can be released at will to meet the demands or to keep the water level constant.

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F igure 2: Cross-section of an impoundment dam.


Diversion This facility is also sometimes referred to as run-of-river. As the name itself suggests, a canal or a diversion channels the water stream. This not only reduces energy loss because RIDVPDOOHUDQJOHEXWDOVRKDVORZHUHQYLURQPHQWDOLPSDFWEHFDXVHLWGRHVQÂśWQHFHVVDULO\ require a dam.

F igure 3: An example of diversion hydropower plant.


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Turbine A turbine is the key part of a hydroelectric power plant system. It faces the might of the water and traps the kinetic and potential energy in the water. The large blades of the turbine turn as water strikes them. These are connected to the generator by means of a shaft, which rotates to provide the necessary rotator motion to drive the generator. There are two basic types of turbines and their use is based upon the head, flow and the volume of water available. Basically, it is the turbine which determines the efficiency and the cost (Calvert). The two main types of hydropower turbines are: Impulse T urbine An impulse turbine is an axial turbine and is usually best for high heads. The runner as shown in figure 4 is shaped like a bucket. Water from a high pressure nozzle comes and hits the bucket shaped runners at the bottom and rotates the turbine. After completing its job of transferring the energy water exits the bottom (Arjun).

F igure 4: Schematic of one of the types of impulse turbine.


Reaction T urbine A reaction turbine is suitable for low to medium heads depending further on the subtypes. Runner in a reaction turbine is amid flowing water. The runner usually has adjustable blades to adjust according to the conditions. Some reaction turbines even allow IRUDGMXVWDEOHJDWHVLQFUHDVLQJWKH³UDQJHRIRSHUDWLRQ´ 7\SHVRIK\GURSRZHUWXUELQHV 

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F igure 5: Schematic of one of the types of reaction turbine.


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his inability of the conventional turbines arises due to the principal difference between the techniques of the two turbines. Conventional turbines are designed in such a way that they have narrower ducts to facilitate the water, which has high pressure, where the water does not escape the turbine. However free-flow turbines would need a mechanism where they can have large flow openings to capture as much volume of water as possible, which in contrast would have low velocity and pressure. (Gorlov 177) !

E xploiting water power As it has already been discussed that the theoretical size is couple of times more than what has been exploited. It is not that we do not have the technology to exploit it but it is MXVWWKDWWKLVLVVXHKDVQÂśWEHHQDGGUHVVHG yet. The four options that would be discussed to increase this are as follows

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Uprating As the name suggests uprating is the refurbishment of existing hydropower plants. A well maintained hydropower plant could easily run without any trouble for 30 to 35 years. Even more if timely maintenance is done of under-water parts. Refurbishment can increase the life of a plant by several years and can provide better efficiency (Singh, Thapar 1). Uprating a hydropower plant requires several factors that need to be considered. The first and the foremost thing that needs to be considered is the history of the plant. Most plants do have a complete history maintained and can be easily obtained. The second factor that needs to be taken into account is the system parameter(s). After obtaining these things some basic diagnostic tests are performed on the machine. Finally, an engineer needs to consider the after-effects of replacing parts to uprate the plant. If deemed feasible the operation is performed (Singh, Thapar 2). A dvantages x x x x

This is the easiest and cheapest technique to immediately boost the potential of a hydropower plant. Saves the high costs of replacing a hydropower plant Use of new technology and better parts can increase the efficiency by up to 15% No environmental damage Disadvantages


Not all plants can be uprated ! Incapable physical conditions ! Poor design which might not be possible to alter.

Low-head hydropower plants As the name suggests low-head hydropower plants are meant for sites with heads less than 65 feet. These plants can have a generating capacity up to 15,000 kW (Hydroelectric power 10). Although, large power plants can produce power at lower costs compared to low-head plants, low-head plants have other advantages (Low-Head Hydropower and its uses).

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F igure 6: A low-head hydropower plant in operation.

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A dvantages x x x x

Cheaper to buy and install Abundance of sites where they can be installed Lower loss while transmission as they can be installed nearby Easier to maintain Disadvantages

x x

Power produced at a higher cost Low capacity

Pumped Storage Pumped storage can be considered like storing the hydropower in a battery. This can be used to provide power during times of high demand (Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant). A pump is used to transfer water to a higher elevation. Energy for this pumping is supplied by the power that is generated when water passes through the power plant. When the demand is high the same water is sent through the turbine again to produce electricity (Hydroelectric power 12). A dvantages x x

Can act as a battery to reserve power for peak periods. Rapid adjustments to power output is possible

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Low construction costs because of the small scale Disadvantages

x x

Very difficult to use on a bigger scale because of the high costs associated with building a storage place Some of the power is lost because pumps are not hundred percent efficient

F igure 7: Schematic of how pumped storage works.


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Tying to other energy forms Some of the renewable energy that is being developed is very unreliable because it depends on weather conditions. For example solar energy is dependent on sunlight and if WKHUHLVQRQHDYDLODEOHQRWKLQJFRXOGEHSRZHUHG6LPLODUO\DEVHQFHRIZLQGZRXOGQÂśW stop people from wanting to cook food. But this can be brought to use if we link it to hydropower. Energy sources like solar energy and wind energy can be used to power while they are available and during the time when the demand is high or the conditions lack, hydropower could be used to provide electricity. There by, reducing the need of non-renewable resources to provide electricity (Hydroelectric power 13). A dvantages x x x

Can save a lot of precious resources Other renewable sources could be brought to further use Very efficient as its mostly renewable Disadvantages

x x

Very limited use because of the lack of suitable conditions like wind. Very expensive


E nvironmental Impact The hydropower technology is free from emissions as it is renewable but still has negative consequences to the environment and can cause fish injuries and disturb the ecological system. Not only this, building a dam may also cause resettlement of local people to provide for more land and for safety measures in case of floods and other problems. Dams are also known to reduce the oxygen level in the water making it difficult for underwater creatures to survive. However, there are ways these could be countered and are discussed below.

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F igure 8: An example of a fish passage.


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Wor ks C ited Arjun. "Constituents of Hydro Electric Plant." Electrical & N.p., Sept. 2008. Web. 29 July 2010. <>. Calvert, James. "Turbines." Discussion on turbines. Its types and its use. University of Denver, 23 July 2003. Web. 28 July 2010. <>. EIA, U.S. Energy Information Administration: Independent Statistics and Analysis. <> FWEE, Foundation for Water and Energy Education. <> *RUORY$0¾¾+HOLFDOWXUELQHVIRUWKH *XOI6WUHDPœœ0DULQH7HFKQROogy, 35, No 3, pp. 175¹182. "Hydroelectric Power." Pamphlet from the US Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation Power Resources Office. Reclamation: Managing Water in the West. N.p., July 2005. Web. 28 July 2010. "Hydropower: Setting a course for our energy future." Idaho National Laboratory. US Department of Energy, Aug. 2004. Web. 30 July 2010. < >. IEA. Renewables for power generation, statues and prospects, International Energy Agency, 2003. <> "Low-Head Hydropower and Its Uses." Tribal Energy and Environm ental Information Clearinghouse. Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, n.d. Web. 30 July 2010. <>. NREL, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Innovation for our Energy Future. <>

Jawed 13 "Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant." Tennessee Valley Authority, n.d. Web. 30 July 2010. <>. Russell, Tony, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. "MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL . Purdue U Writing Lab, 4 Apr. 2010. Web. 28 July 2010. Singh, Amrik, and Ashok Thapar. "Renovation, Modernization & Uprating Of Hydro Power Plants- Guidelines For Residual Life Assessment & Life Extension." Article. Tech Papers. Bhakra Beas Management Board, n.d. Web. 29 July 2010. <>. "Small Hydroelectric Plants." Cooperative Extension Services of the Northeast Land Grant Universities and the United States Department of Agriculture. West Virginia University, n.d. Web. 29 July 2010. <>.! "Types of hydropRZHUSODQWV´ Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. US Department of Energy, 8 Sept. 2005. Web. 28 July 2010. <> ³7\SHVRIK\GURSRZHUWXUELQHV´ Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. US Department of Energy, 8 Sept. 2005. Web. 28 July 2010. <> USGS, US Geological Survey: Water Science for Schools. <>