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Photo: Ted Karlsson
Joel Sundström, PhD in Fluid Mechanics at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Ted Karlsson. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Optimized hydropower paves the way for a sustainable energy system

Published: 23 April 2018

The introduction of renewable energy sources, such as wind power, gives hydropower an important role as regulating power, so that production of electricity generation can be adjusted depending on how much it blows. This causes more starts and stops, which increases wear and tear on hydroelectric power plants. A new doctoral dissertation now presents research that can reduce these problems.

– My results can hopefully be used to model the flow of hydroelectric turbines in a more efficient way. This allows the hydropower to be optimized, which in turn enables hydropower to control an increased share of renewable energy sources with varying (intermittent) electricity production such as wind power, says Joel Sundström, who is now taking his PhD in the subject of Fluid Mechanics at Luleå University of Technology.

Through experimental studies, partly in collaboration with NTNU in Norway, Joel Sundström has studied flow problems where flow speed varies over time. Either under so-called transient conditions, which means that the flow changes monotonically for a shorter period of time, such as acceleration or deceleration. The second type of variation is pulsating, which means that the flow speed changes continuously over time.

– When hydropower plants now, with the introduction of intermittent energy sources, are forced to work under transient conditions, better knowledge about this type of flow is needed to reduce the damage caused on hydroelectric power stations. In my project I have been able to see a strong connection between transient and pulsating flows. This result will hopefully be used to model the flow of hydroelectric turbines in a more efficient way.

Learning to use new measurement and analysis methods is something that Joel Sundström appreciated from his time as a PhD student.

– It has been fun and rewarding to work independently in a project and learn to use new methods of measurement, and to apply the knowledge I received during my MSc studies.

The research has been conducted within the Swedish Hydroelectric Centre (SVC). However, before the results can be implemented, further research is required where the models are tested directly in hydropower applications.