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Title: SLH Timing Belt Powertrain

The main goal of this proposal was to develop and test a novel powertrain solution for the SLH hydroEngine, a low-cost, efficient low-head hydropower technology. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. renewable electricity is produced by hydropower (EIA 2010). According to the U.S. Department of Energy; this amount could be increased by 50% with small hydropower plants, often using already-existing dams (Hall 2004). There are more than 80,000 existing dams, and of these, less than 4% generate power (Blankinship 2009). In addition, there are over 800 irrigation districts in the U.S., many with multiple, non-power, low-head drops. These existing, non-power dams and irrigation drops could be retrofitted to produce distributed, baseload, renewable energy with appropriate technology. The problem is that most existing dams are low-head, or less than 30 feet in height (Ragon 2009). Only about 2% of the available low-head hydropower resource in the U.S. has been developed, leaving more than 70 GW of annual mean potential low-head capacity untapped (Hall 2004). Natel Energy, Inc. is developing a low-head hydropower turbine that operates efficiently at heads less than 6 meters and is cost-effective for deployment across multiple low-head structures. Because of the unique racetrack-like path taken by the prime-movers in themore » SLH, a flexible powertrain is required. Historically, the only viable technological solution was roller chain. Despite the having the ability to easily attach blades, roller chain is characterized by significant drawbacks, including high cost, wear, and vibration from chordal action. Advanced carbon- fiber-reinforced timing belts have been recently developed which, coupled with a novel belt attachment system developed by Natel Energy, result in a large reduction in moving parts, reduced mass and cost, and elimination of chordal action for increased fatigue life. The work done in this project affirmatively addressed each of the following 3 major uncertainties concerning a timing-belt based hydroEngine powertrain: 1. Can a belt handle the high torques and power loads demanded by the SLH? (Yes.) 2. Can the SLH blades be mounted to belt with a connection that can withstand the loads encountered in operation? (Yes.) 3. Can the belt, with blade attachments, live through the required cyclic loading? (Yes.) The research adds to the general understanding of sustainable small hydropower systems by using innovative system testing to develop and demonstrate performance of a novel powertrain solution, enabling a new type of hydroelectric turbine to be commercially developed. The technical effectiveness of the methods investigated has been shown to be positive through an extensive design and testing process accommodating many constraints and goals, with a major emphasis on high cycle fatigue life. Economic feasibility of the innovations has been demonstrated through many iterations of design for manufacturability and cost reduction. The project is of benefit to the public because it has helped to develop a solution to a major problem -- despite the large available potential for new low-head hydropower, high capital costs and high levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) continue to be major barriers to project development. The hydroEngine represents a significant innovation, leveraging novel fluid mechanics and mechanical configuration to allow lower-cost turbine manufacture and development of low head hydropower resources.« less
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE F241.3
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Natel Energy, Inc.
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE; USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Wind and Hydropower Technology Program (EE-2B)
Country of Publication:
United States
13 HYDRO ENERGY low-head hydropower, hydroEngine, SLH, impulse, fully-flooded, belt, chain, wear, maintenance, LCOE, sprocket, timing, powertrain, blade, hydroelectricity, hydro, hydraulic machine, irrigation, drop structure, existing, composite, carbon, SLH100, SLH10, SLH100mk1, Abraham Abe Daniel Schneider, Gia Schneider, Natel Energy