Creative New Sustainable Hydropower Ideas


Sustainable hydropower is undergoing alternative energy’s most dramatic transformation to date. The array of options for new low-impact sustainable hydropower systems is already dizzying, and new ideas keep coming..

Over the past five years, many familiar alternative energy technologies have undergone this kind of radical transformation.

For instance, as recently as 2008, the IPCC estimated that geothermal energy accounted for no more than .01% of all global energy use. Today, the IPCC has revised that estimation such that by 2050 geothermal will account for 3% of all electrical power and 5% of all home heating.

In a similar way, sustainable hydropower is undergoing an innovative transformation due to something called ‘hydrokinetic’ technology.

Traditional hydropower makes use of the energy locked in falling water. The longer the fall, the greater the energy unleashed.

Yet huge dams cause much environmental damage. Habitats and human neighborhoods are flooded, and CO2 is unleashed by decomposing organic matter. Giant dams have even caused earthquakes.

Hydrokinetic power, on the other hand, unlocks the energy present in moving water. Flowing water, such as that found in ocean currents, can be harnessed to create hydrokinetic energy with minimal environmental damage and little or no need to store quantities of water.

The options are many, but some of the most viable options being studied include the following sustainable hydropower systems:

Turbine Systems

Axial or Horizontal: The axis of a rotor lies parallel to the water stream.

Vertical: The axis of the rotor is vertical to the water stream.

Cross Flow: The rotor axis is parallel to the water surface but orthogonal to the water stream.

Venturi: A choke system is used to produce artificial water flow to power a coastal turbine.

Gravitational Vortex: Funnels are used to create an artificial vortex to power a vertical turbine.

Non-Turbine Systems

Flutter Vane: Hydroelastic resonance, a.k.a ‘flutter’, is tapped to generate power.

Plezo-electric: A plezo-property, or charge accumulation, is used to generate power when
a polymer sheet is placed in water.

Vortex induced vibration: Energy is created by vortexes of water on the downstream side of a bluff body in a water current.

Oscillating Hydroflow: Uses the vertical oscillation of hydrofoils to created pressurized water to power a turbine.

Sails: Uses the drag motion of sheets of material placed in a current.

As sustainable hydropower is studied as a new source of alternative energy, more and more ideas are generated.

Sustainable hydropower holds the promise of wedding energy production to conservation principles in a way that benefits both people and the environment.

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