26/10/2010 02:42


Shaft Power Plant

What's the little dam that's an energy


The shaft power plant dam, that is. An innovative new design could put clean, river-friendly power within reach of everyone.

Hydroelectric power doesn't produce greenhouse gases and once built a dam can provide electricity for decades.

But, dams can doom fish and other river life to death by turbine blade. Dams also change ecosystems by blocking migration routes and altering water flow and flood cycles.

For humans, the expense of building a massive dam puts them out of reach for many developing regions. Even worse, huge loans for dam construction have shackled some developing economies to crippling debt.

A simple-to-build, small scale dam may help solve these problems.

Engineers at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany developed the shaft power plant. The innovative dam's design allows fish to avoid being sucked against protective grills or into turbines.

Also, slower rivers can use the power plants, opening up many new waterways for power production. Many of the power plants' parts are placed underwater and out of sight, reducing the impact on the environment and improving aesthetics.

Shaft power plant dams aren't just for producing power in wealthy nations. The price tag is right for developing nations, too.

Engineer Albert Sepp and Professor Peter Rutschmann developed the dam to be cost-efficient. The shaft power plant uses standardized parts, so no custom engineering is necessary. A one-size-fits-all dam could be ordered as if out of a catalog.

The inventors estimate that the shaft power plant dam will reduce costs of construction by 30 to 50 percent compared to conventional dams.

Clean energy from local, hydroelectric dams could provide power to remote villages on the banks of Congo, as well as hamlets along the Rhine.


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