Friday, May 10, 2013

Hydro: Some insight into nuclear opponent mistakes

My recent post on Nuclear Opponents View of New Hydro in Vermont described a Public Service Board hearing. The post showcased a lawyer for a nuclear opponent as he said the equivalent of:
"Nah, nah, nah, I know about hydro and I am not telling!"

What did he think he "knew" but didn't have to "tell"?

Two engineers contributed to this current post on the topic of new hydro.   William Rodgers commented on my earlier blog post itself, while Jaro Franta (from Quebec) commented on the earlier post at the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page.

Licensing  by William Rodgers:

..But anyway, not to take away from Mr. Simon's moment illustrating his maturity level; the other issue of new hydro is not just available capacity but also licensing.

New hydro needs to walk the path of licensing with FERC. It is one thing to read a few research articles in Hydroworld and proclaim some sort of illusory victory. It is entirely something else to actually make a transition plan to new hydro work so all will benefit and none will suffer. New hydro can take anywhere from 5 to 15+ years to get licensed.

And with the current FERC leadership preferring natural gas plants over all other generation sources to back up wind, it is highly doubtful significant new hydro would be licensed anyway. Especially since actual environmental groups would come out and protest licensing activities.

Then there is the construction costs, number of sites that would have to be used to get even close to the output of VY, issues with run-of-the-river dams where water is already needed for other uses, not hydro-generation. Oh the list goes on and on.

Then there is the dreaded drought year or years. What then?

What is "Hydrologic"? by Jaro Franta

"Hydrologic turbines" seems to be a reference to an aquatic version of windmills:

Greens in Quebec have also been pushing these "water current turbines" or Tyson turbines, as an alternative to standard hydro dams - they would apparently prefer putting thousands of these things in the St. Lawrence and other rivers.

Unfortunately they're clueless about the crud (fouling) that develops over time on these things, due to the low-speed water flow, and the massive job it would be to keep cleaning them.

(Not to mention other undesirable aspects, such as interference with marine traffic and harm to aquatic life)

Developments in ducted water current turbines

Keeping These Turbines Clean, by Jaro Franta

Incidentally, a fair comparison may be made with the Côte Sainte-Catherine Hydromega projects, which I was involved in the mid-1990's.

As I recall, one of the big issues there was the fouling of the trash racks on the intake to the penstocks: These are ***fortunately*** accessible from shore (they are on the high side of the seaway locks dikes), but they certainly keep the plant operators busy cleaning them, especially in the summer.
I can't imagine what that job would be like, with turbine units spread out all over the river somewhere.....

" The Côte Ste-Catherine facility is located at the Côte Ste-Catherine lock of the Lachine section of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The bypass canal upon which the facility is located was constructed as part of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958. The facility has a total installed capacity of 11,120 kilowatts and was constructed in three separate phases, each phase having a total installed capacity of 2,120 kilowatts, 4,500 kilowatts and 4,500 kilowatts, respectively, and each phase was commissioned in 1989, 1993 and 1996, respectively. Due to the year round, high volume water flows of the St. Lawrence River, the facility is expected to operate at full capacity throughout the year. The Côte Ste-Catherine facility uses approximately 2 per cent of the river flow at any given time.

More photos:

My Own Conclusions

As William Rodgers notes, permitting new hydro would be close to impossible.  This is probably why upgrading existing hydro is more popular.

As Jaro Franta notes, upkeep on run-of-the-river turbines is very difficult, since the low flows mean the trash racks are easily fouled.  Also, the Côte Ste-Catherine facility uses only 2 percent of the river flow.  With a mighty river like the St. Lawrence, installed capacity for these turbines is 11.2 MW.  With a smaller stream, the output would be in kilowatts, and the costs of running and cleaning the system might be too high for the amount of power you would gain.


Anonymous said...

In my state we have environmental groups agitating to blow up (i.e., "remove") low-head hydro dams, not upgrade them. The rationale is supposedly "restoring the flow of the stream (river) to it's natural state". Some localities have actually done this. The result has been mainly going from fairly large, calm impounded reservoirs where you could swim and sail boats, to sluggish, muddy streams that are ugly as hell and the drainage uncovers years of submerged trash and dead tree trunks, which has to be removed. But I guess that is more "natural".

Unknown said...

Hi Meredith,

I just read your blog about hydro – thanks for the quotes!

Regarding your conclusions, there is something that needs a bit of clarification:
“the Côte Ste-Catherine facility uses only 2 percent of the river flow. With a mighty river like the St. Lawrence, installed capacity for these turbines is 11.2 MW. With a smaller stream, the output would be in kilowatts…”

I guess I should have explained earlier – sorry about any misunderstanding.

The small capacity of the Côte Ste-Catherine facility has less to do with the technology as it relates to the size of the St. Lawrence river, as it does with the way it is sited on the Seaway that was built parallel to the Lachine Rapids, so that maritime traffic can navigate the river all the way to the Great Lakes.
I think you can see what I mean, if you look carefully at the Google Satellite view of the Côte Ste-Catherine facility, and then zoom out to a larger view of the region:

There were constraints imposed by the Seaway Authority on the location and other aspects of the design of the Côte Ste-Catherine facility.

My intent was merely to use this example to illustrate the issue of fouling – since there are few existing examples of "water current turbines" or Tyson turbines, to draw experience from.

Hope I’m making more sense now.
Please don’t hesitate to ask about any further clarification, if necessary.