Undercurrent: The Alden Blog

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Industrial fluid dynamics insights


Takeaways from HydroVision 2017 in Denver, Colorado, July 27-29
HydroVision International is the largest gathering of hydro professionals worldwide. Over 3,000 hydro professionals and over 300 hydro related product and service providers were on the exhibit floor. The participants are from 51 countries. The event highlights perspectives on the role of hydropower, explores issues affecting the hydropower industry, covers issues and concerns affecting hydro resources, publicizes current market opportunities and challenges, and facilitates development of a vision to meet challenges and to ensure sustainable development. Alden is active in supporting the hydro industry, with physical hydraulic modeling, 3D and 2D numeric modeling, fish passage design and testing. We attend Hydrovision every year, and participate in the exhibit, as well as technical conference and training sessions. I was able to meet with most of our dams and hydro clients and teaming partners. The attendance from the private power producers, utilities, consulting companies and equipment manufacturers were adequate but there was clearly less participation from the federal government, especially from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). I observed increased energy and optimism in developing renewable and small hydro with a ...

Eel Shining to Locate Upstream Passage Routes
Searching for eels is an activity reserved for those who like to stay up late. Only under the cover of darkness is one able to have the best chance to find these nocturnal fish. Surveying for American eels, Anguilla rostrata, with lanterns at night or “shining” is a common method to document their presence in rivers across eastern North America. Juvenile American eels often congregate downstream of obstacles that block their upstream movement (eels are catadromous fish, meaning adults spawn in saltwater and the young move into freshwater to rear and mature before returning to the marine environment to complete the reproductive cycle). Hydroelectric dams are common impediments to upstream migrants along river courses. Finding optimal areas to establish passage routes for eels to move upstream is a primary reason to shine for eels.  Eels, being a fish, become more active as the water temperature rises. When the temperature is above 10 degrees C, which generally occurs from May to October in New England, eels of all ages and sizes become more active. The recently born glass eels, (so called ...

Energy Dissipating Devices: Total Dissolved Gas Production at High Head Dams - Part 3
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series we talked about production of total dissolved gas (TDG) at high head dams, and the use of air supply systems to mitigate cavitation damage to spillways and spillway modifications. In this part, we’ll discuss the structural designs used to reduce TDG during flow release from spillways. Super-cavitating roughness elements, or baffle blocks for short, are designed to break up flow as water travels down a spillway. Depending on the placement of the blocks on the spillway surface, they can also help spread out the jet of water laterally as it exits the spillway, resulting in a larger impact area on the tailrace. Why does this help reduce TDG production? As we discussed in Part 1, dissolved gas supersaturation in the tailrace is a function of how long it takes the bubbles from the aerated flow to reach the water surface. By spreading out the impact zone of the spillway jet, and decreasing the amount of energy the jet has, plunge depth of the jet is reduced and the aerated flow can rise ...

Takeaways from the Alden Forum 2017: Hydropower and Fish Passage
On May 17-18, Alden hosted a forum on hydropower and fish passage that was attended by more than 45 industry, state and federal agency, and NGO representatives.  The forum focused on fish passage issues typically encountered at projects in the Northeast and Southeast U.S.  It was particularly timely because the relicensing of 231 hydropower projects will occur throughout the U.S. between 2018 and 2025, with an additional 100+ projects to be relicensed between 2026 and 2030.  More than half of these projects are located in the Northeast and about 30% are located in the Midwest and South.  All of the projects will need to address a variety of environmental issues associated with their operation and, in many cases, mitigation alternatives will need to be developed to reduce or minimize impacts to affected resources.  The two most prevalent environmental issues addressed during relicensing typically are instream flows and fish passage.  Fish passage can be problematic with respect to biological, engineering, and project operation considerations. It can also be very costly.  Based on these issues, the goal of the Forum was ...

Improving Water Quality: Total Dissolved Gas Production at High Head Dams – Part I
During spill season at hydroelectric dams, more water flows into the upstream reservoir than can be used to generate electricity in the powerhouses. This excess flow must pass through a number of different flow release structures in order to bypass the dam and powerhouse. Spillways, diversion tunnels, and low-level sluice gates are commonly used to route flow past dams. Open channel spillways are one of the most common flow release structures at high head dams, and create a highly aerated, turbulent jet of water that exits the spillway up to 150 feet above the river downstream of the dam. This waterfall of aerated flow can plunge to the bottom of the tailwater pool, where the bubbles of atmospheric gases are slowly dissolved into solution with the water. The deeper the jet plunges, the more pressure is exerted by the water on the bubbles, dissolving them faster and preventing them from rising to the surface. This is why we see a frothy white plume of flow that can stretch up to half a mile downstream of a dam when flow ...