24
Sep
12

juice from water

Post from Harry Hutchinson:

Harry Hutchinson

I’ve never been to Nepal, but judging from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the bars could be pretty exciting there. So it could be an interesting trip.

If I’m lucky enough, I might get to visit the factory where they’re going to build the hydropower turbines.

Nepal has its eye on developing what it sees as a vast potential for hydroelectric power. It is a mountainous country full of rivers. The Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal, estimates that the country has the potential for 40,000 MW of hydropower. Right now, it has developed about 600 MW.

Hydroelectricity represents about 1 percent of the country’s total energy consumption, and just about all of its electricity.

I came across all this because the Global Window department in the October issue of Mechanical Engineering includes a story about a new venture that is going to set up that turbine factory. A Nepali power company, Glow Tech Solutions, ordered some turbines designed to work in river and tidal currents from a Dutch manufacturer, Tocardo B.V International. Now they are in a partnership to make turbines in Nepal.

But later on, just a few days ago, I read about something closer to home. Another manufacturer, Verdant Power, is testing hydroturbines in the East River, near New York City’s Roosevelt Island. I knew that this kind of turbine, designed to be rotated by natural currents, has been in the river for a while. But it seems they have a history of breaking down in the river’s current.

According to a story in the last week’s New York Times, the company has tested a turbine for 10 days, and has retrieved it unscathed.

According to the newspaper, “After 10 days in the river, the blades gleamed in the September sunlight, showing no obvious signs of wear or damage. The turbine’s pristine appearance brought smiles to the faces of Mr. Corren [Dean Corren, Verdant’s director of technology] and his colleagues. Dean Whatmoor, a logistics manager, who had been monitoring the test from a converted cargo container filled with computer screens and gauges, admitted that he was a little sad to see the test end.

“In about five years, the company hopes to have 30 turbines arrayed in the river, each capable of producing 35 kilowatts of electricity. All told, the project would produce about as much power as one wind turbine, enough to power a few hundred homes.”

That comes to a little more than a megawatt, modest for a power plant in the U.S., and certainly a tiny fraction of what the region uses. But there are places in the world where a contribution like that could make a big difference for a great many people—places like Nepal, for instance.

I’m glad to see they’re working on it.

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The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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