The “Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change” clearly stated that global warming must be kept within a maximum of 1.5 °C if one wants to reduce the risk of a global climate collapse. To achieve this goal, steering electricity production toward clean, renewable technologies is necessary.
Hydropower accounts for 16 % of global electricity generation, a greater percentage than all other renewables combined. Of these, it also produces the largest amount of energy, at 64%. Hydropower is a proven, predictable and price-competitive technology that plays an important role in the transition to renewable energy. The wind and solar industries are also interested in hydropower and pumped storage to firm up their variable generation. With the increasing ability to operate hydropower projects and pumped storage facilities to integrate variable solar and wind, we can move faster and more cheaply to a low-carbon economy. Hydropower is also being given a fresh look in combination with other technologies, such as hydrogen production.
Hydropower is a low-carbon technology
- CO2 and methane are natural GHGs present in the earth atmosphere.
- Each human activity has a GHG footprint – reservoirs and hydropower are no exception.
- Within the global energy mix, hydropower is one of the lowest GHG emitters.
- The huge majority of reservoirs and all with a power density (W/m²) >5 emit less than 100 g CO2eq/kWh.
Voith’s commitment on Sustainability
As the world’s largest renewable energy, hydropower is
part of the solution to climate change.
With its pollution-free electricity, hydropower projects are providing a pathway to a sustainable future.
On 24 September 2021, the San José Declaration on
Sustainable Hydropower was issued at the conclusion of
the World Hydropower Congress.
It outlines a vision for hydropower’s contribution to meeting global climate and development goals and sets an ambitious set of principles and recommendations to guide the future of sustainable hydropower.
Voith as a longstanding member of the International Hydropower Association (IHA) signed the San José Declaration and will actively support the further process of it to show Voith’s responsible development of hydropower.
Hydropower Sustainability Governance Committee (HSGC)
Voith is also represented in the Hydropower Sustainability Governance Committee (HSGC), a multi-stakeholder group that governs the Hydropower Sustainability Tools. With these tools, we can define international good and best practice in sustainable hydropower development and assess project sustainability. Just recently a new certification and labelling scheme for hydropower was launched: the Hydropower Sustainability Standard.
Hybrid and symbiotic concepts offer new opportunities
Hybrid solutions – such as pumped storage power plants combined with wind and/or solar farms – are becoming increasingly important for the generation and storage of clean, renewable energy, as well as in the production of drinking water.
Hydrogen production as a key technology for decarbonization & Hydropower as the key technology for green hydrogen production
To achieve our ambitious climate goals, decarbonization is necessary for a large number of sectors. In this context, there is significant potential above all in transport and industry. Hydrogen offers the opportunity to drastically lower the associated CO2 emissions. However, one challenge is the storage of green electricity. Here too, hydrogen can offer a solution, because it can offset the weaknesses of electricity produced from renewable sources, making it transportable, importable, and thus usable in all the above-mentioned sectors like mobility and industry. There is a “hidden champion” among the renewable energy sources that are ideal for producing green hydrogen, and that’s hydropower.
As well as producing electricity and offering pumped storage capacity, hydropower also has significant potential to produce green hydrogen. This is due in part to the fact that it has an unparalleled high-efficiency rate (more than 90% in the case of modern facilities) combined with an extremely long and reliable equipment service life (up to 40 years until the first upgrade) and low CO2 emissions. Run-of-river power plants, in particular, some of which provide more than 6,000 full-load operation hours a year at relatively low cost, provide the ideal basis for the optimum capacity utilization of electrolysis plants.
Green hydrogen: electrolysis with electricity from renewable energy sources
Voith Hydro’s sustainable solutions
All forms of electricity production require balancing tradeoffs with benefits. Throughout Voith Hydro’s unparalleled industrial experience spanning more than 150 years, the organization has been working to minimize the impact of hydropower on the environment. Specifically, ensuring safe fish passage has been one of Voith’s industry goals since the 1990s, leading the company to conduct analytical and physical modeling in its laboratories. Greaseless technologies have been commonly used to maintain water quality for more than twenty years.
To minimize the effects of gap flows on fish survival, Voith Hydro developed the Minimum Gap Runner (MGR) technology as part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Hydropower Turbine System (AHTS) program.
The MGR blades are contoured to a fully spherical hub and periphery so that the design gap remains constant across the pitch range. In addition to the stated goal of improving fish survival, the minimal gap also has positive impacts on turbine efficiencies.
Over the past decade, MGR technology has been implemented at several large axial flow units in the field. Examples are the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District’s Wanapum Dam, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Bonneville Dam and American Municipal Power’s Ohio River projects.
Fish survival rates through MGR units have been documented to be in excess of 95%.
Pressurized oil has been replaced by self-lubricating materials and assures not only the prevention of accidental releases of grease substances into the environment but also allows for easy maintenance, lower friction and good bearing performance without the necessity of increasing servo size.
Often, low pressure regions below the runner can be utilized to draw atmospheric air into the turbine during operation. These machines are referred to as auto-venting turbines (AVT) and are particularly cost-effective for injecting large quantities of air into the discharge.
Auto-venting turbine aeration generally consists of three different aeration options, including distributed, central and peripheral aeration.
The interaction between the incoming bubbles and the surrounding water drives the aeration performance by influencing the pressures at the air injection location, the resulting air flows, the dissolved oxygen uptake efficiency, and the turbine performance.
For each project, individual site characteristics, plant design, and desired operation are incorporated into in-house calculation methodologies which account for the necessary bubble modeling to optimize aeration behavior. Based on the predictions, Voith Hydro selects aeration solutions which provide the best value for the customer by maximizing uptake while minimizing the impact on turbine performance and aeration costs.
The blade shapes are specifically designed to improve the fish passage environment through the turbines by minimizing shear, pressure change rates and minimum pressures within the water passage. Depending on the species, full-scale fish survival rates are expected to range from 98% to 100%.
Through funding made available by the DOE, EPRI and industry partners, Alden Research Laboratory collaborated with Voith Hydro to improve the performance characteristics of the conceptual turbine while maintaining or improving the fish-friendly characteristics. The partnership also focused on ensuring the turbine’s cost-effectiveness while maintaining improvements in fish survival rates.
- Reduced strike probability by optimizing the number of turbine blades, wicket gates and stay vanes as well as improving the hydraulic profile of the turbine components and the rotational speed
- Optimized water passage geometries to meet specified fish passage criteria
Voith to be carbon neutral worldwide from 2022 onwards
From 2022 onwards, none of the Voith locations around the world will leave a carbon footprint going forward. In this way, Voith is making a significant contribution to climate protection.
Sustainability Impulse from Voith Hydro’s location in Shanghai
As a family-owned company we are committed to environmentally friendly, fair, long-term business practices. Furthermore, we intend to create measurable added value for the sustainable development of our company, society, and the environment. The goal we set ourselves regarding the way we conduct business is also correspondingly high: We want to make Voith the benchmark in sustainability issues.Explore now