This Fish-Friendly Hydro Turbine Turns Streams, Rivers into a Zero-Emissions Power Plant
This is a Restoration Hydro Turbine, a fish-safe turbine that produces 100% renewable energy that can be installed in rivers and streams, or wherever water flows downstream. This innovative product is built by Natel Energy, an international water and energy innovation company based in Alameda, California. Its mission is “to redraw the map of where and how hydropower is developed.”
This new hydropower product is more economical because it produces low impact, distributed baseload energy while keeping watershed ecosystems and the communities that surround them safe. According to Natel Energy, traditional hydropower is costly to develop, has negative environmental and community impacts, and it’s inflexible when it comes to climate uncertainty. The Restoration Hydro Turbines’ head can range from 3-20m and its power can range from 50 kW to 30 MW per project.
A key feature of Restoration Hydro Turbines’ is the rounded blades that allow fish to safely pass through them. Purposely built with a low number of blades, they reduce the likelihood of a strike. The slanted blade tips create “a pressure wave and a local low-velocity zone in advance of the runner blade or a fish-saving pressure field.” This gently decelerates fish and safely transports them around the blade. When compared to a well-designed conventional propeller blade, the runner actually has the same high-efficiency. The result is 99% of fish (less than 300 mm in length, such as salmon smolts) survive. These uniquely and carefully crafted blades eliminate the need for fine fish screens, which in turn increases the plant efficiency’s as a whole – while simultaneously reducing both upfront costs and operations and maintenance costs.
Restoration Hydro Turbines are versatile and can be installed in a variety of settings, including retrofit of existing turbines. This is typically done for low-cost compliance with environmental requirements, or to improve the output of old deteriorating units. They can also be adapted to existing non-power dams, irrigation canals, and run-of-river new stream reach developments.
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