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Design and Optimisation of a Water Vortex

Hydropower Plant
S. Mulligan 1* & P. Hull 1

Department of Civil Engineering and Construction, IT Sligo

Funded by the Sligo Institute of Technology Presidents Bursary Awards

Introduction Aims

The water vortex hydropower system is a new technology which utilizes the This system has only recently been introduced to the family of micro-
energy contained within a large water vortex as it is artificially created over a hydropower technologies and still remains un-developed. Many questions
small head difference on a river. relating to its design aspects, power output and efficiency still remain un-
How it works: answered. Therefore research through design and optimisation is vital in
1. River water is channelled at the bank of the river and conveyed to a ensuring the future potential of the technology is realised.
circulation tank. This circulation tank possesses a circular orifice at its base. The project shall consider the broad range of areas requiring investigation
1. Optimising the shape and geometry of the structure to maximise vortex
2. Standardising an understanding for the vortex velocity field which is crucial
when considering energy extraction.
3. Optimising the design of the turbine to agree with the vortex velocity
(a) (b) structure.
Figure 1 (a) Hydropower System in plan (b) Section between the upstream and downstream reach of a river indicating design 4. Analysing the performance of the turbine in a full scale laboratory model.
parameters1 5. Suggesting a number of empirical relationships to be used in the design of a
2. The combination of localised low pressure at the orifice and the concept of plant.
induced circulation at the tangential entry influences strong vortex flow. 6. Proposing a method to reliably predict the power output for the system.
3. Potential energy is entirely converted to rotational kinetic energy at the
Future research can then branch into more specific areas of study such as economical
vortex core which is then extracted by means of a vertical axis turbine.
construction, costing and environmental impact.
4. Water is then returned to the river through the tail race.

Research Strategy and Method

Numerical Analysis will take a theoretical Physical Modelling offers an inexpensive
approach in considering the kinematic To Optimise a Water Vortex Hydropower System method to physically analyse vortex flow.
characteristics of the water vortex. 3-
Dimensional velocity profiles, vorticity and
circulation can be derived from simplified Review of Literature
Hydraulic Optimisation

forms of the Navier-Stokes equations.

Numerical Analysis Physical Modelling Dimensional Analysis
Phase 1

Optimised Hydraulics Structure
Design and Construction of a
Laboratory Scaled Model
Turbine Design (a) (c)
Turbine Optimisation

Figure 3 (a) Vortex in Physical Model 1 (b) PIV 3 (c) Vector

representation of vortex through a horizontal plane 4
Figure 2 (a) The Rankine and (b) Scully Vortex models are Turbine Numerical Model Turbine
Phase 2

very well established in current literature 2 Efficiency Analysis

Analysis Testing Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) will be used
Turbine Numerical Analysis will combine a to accurately examine the velocity field in
knowledge of the velocity vector field vector representation.
across the vortex with fluid momentum
principles to predict theoretical power Optimised Hydropower System Model Turbine Testing shall take the designed turbine and
outputs. analyse its actual performance in the laboratory scaled
model to indicate a relationship between the predicted
and theoretical power outputs.
Power 120
Figure 5
Design Operation 100
(a) Turbine installed in
Output 80
Efficiency vortex
(%) 60
(b) Typical efficiency
curve expected when
impellor velocity is
Figure 4 Illustrative schematic 0
half that of the fluid
indicating average velocity transfer 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Impellor Velocity (m/s)
9 10 11
velocity (10m/s)1
across a blade water interface. Note
Rankine Vortex Profile1 (a) (b)

Past Work and Findings Future Work and Anticipated Conclusion

This research masters is a continuation of a final year project carried out at the It is expected that a number of key results will be obtained from the above
Institute of Technology, Sligo in Civil Engineering (level 8). The project has research strategy. Each area will be interrelated in order to target the aims set
successfully identified areas which require specific investigation. The following out initially.
are some of the fundamental findings from this previous work: It is envisaged that the results obtained and assessed shall lead to three
1. The water surface profile of the vortex can be modelled mathematically and primary conclusions:
predicted accurately (see Fig. 6 (a)). 1. Optimised geometry One which shall maximise the vortex strength for a
2. Optimum vortex strength occurs within the range of orifice diameter to tank given design head on a river.
diameter ratios (d/D) of 14% - 18% for low and high head sites respectively. Figure 7 Two 3-dimensional views of the structure
indicating elements which need to be optimised
3. The vortex height varies linearly with discharge. 1. Inlet Channel
4. Linear correlations for H v Q can be scaled accurately to prototype size using 2. Entry
3. Circulation Tank (Spiral wall and conical base)
the Froudian Model to be used as a design chart (see fig. 6(b)). 4. Orifice Diameter
5. Maximum ideal theoretical power output = gQH v (H v = Height of Vortex).
6. Maximum hydraulic efficiency should arise when the impellor velocity is half
that of the fluid velocity. 2. Optimised energy extraction The Turbine characteristics in both the
horizontal and vertical plane will be designed to maximise hydraulic
H= 1.5665Q
energy transfer.
3. Design Approach An engineer will be able to design a plant at a selected
site when the parameters of available head (m) and design flow (m 3 /s) are
500 identified. This work is crucial when performing feasibility studies.
0 500 1000
Discharge (l/s)
1500 2000
(a) (b)
Figure 6 (a) Section through circulation tank indicating comparison between actual and theoretical surface 1. Mulligan, S. & Casserly, J. 2010 The Hydraulic Design and Optimisation of a Free Water Vortex for the Purpose of Power Extraction Final Year
Civil Engineering Project, Institute of Technology Sligo
profiles (b) Scaled design chart to determine tank height for a given design flowrate1 2. Aboelkassam, Y. On the Decay of Strong Columnar Vortices, Masters Thesis, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
1The 3. University of Cambridge, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology
Institute of Technology, Sligo equipment.html
* Corresponding Author 4. Noguchi, T. , S. Yukimoto, S., Kimura, R. & Niino, H. Structure and Instability of a Sink Vortex, Ocean Research Institute, University of
Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.