Around $4.4 million in new funding is headed to two new projects in Pennsylvania and Michigan in order to aid the development of “advanced” small hydropower materials & manufacturing, via the Energy Department, according to a recent press statement.
Specifically, the funding is expected to be supporting new “low-head” technologies.
Reportedly, the US has a number of big, potentially lucrative options across the country with regard to the construction of new hydropower generating capabilities at low-head sites. “Low-head sites,” by the way, refers to those that operate with a change in elevation of between 2 and 20 meters, including “waterways at existing non-powered dams, canals, and conduits.”
The electricity-generation potential at these sites is considerable when you add them up. “According to Energy Department assessments, there is a technical resource potential of more than 50 GW of potential capacity at these low-head sites.”
The Energy Department provides further information:
New, low-cost, integrated hydropower turbine and generator sets made with modern materials and manufacturing technologies will help power providers harness the full generating potential of these existing low-head sites and produce cost-competitive, renewable electricity. In support of the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, the funding will advance research and development of new technologies that can be quickly manufactured at low cost and rapidly deployed without the need for expensive powerhouses.
Eaton Corporation of Southfield, Michigan, will develop a turbine and generator system that uses lightweight advanced materials and advanced manufacturing techniques such as laser-assisted welding, surface treatments, and processing. The turbine will be designed to deliver a constant source of energy despite changes in water flow by using a system that operates efficiently across a range of ebbs and flows. The Eaton Corporation will design, fabricate, and test its turbine at 1/10th scale.
In addition, Pennsylvania State University is developing, and will soon be demonstrating, a low-head hydropower turbine and generator system prototype combining “lightweight, corrosion-resistant metallic components that can be produced through an additive manufacturing process.” The development of a “condition-based monitoring system” is also expected to improve operation and maintenance efficiency.
The funding is coming via the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy — an office tasked with spurring the development/deployment of energy efficiency & renewable energy technologies, as well as market-based solutions to the problems of environmental degradation, energy security, and economic health.
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