Biologically Based Design and Evaluation of Hydro-Turbines

Biological responses to turbine stressors can be used to improve the biological performance of new turbine designs like this one at Wanapum Dam in Washington.

To address a major environmental concern about hydropower—the impacts of turbine passage on fishes and fish populations—the BioDE project is providing advanced technologies for biologically-based design, operation, and evaluation of hydro-turbines.  The overall goal is to inform advanced, fish-friendly turbine designs that are founded on biological design criteria derived from scientific, validated predictions of impacts on fish from turbine passage.  The vision (endpoint) is that the hydropower community (turbine manufacturers, utilities, regulators, and natural resource managers) are routinely applying BioDE design and evaluation tools to reduce fish injury and mortality rates, decrease design and regulatory review times, and generally advance sustainable hydropower.

The project has three main objectives:  1) develop, deploy, and support computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling and analysis techniques to predict impacts on fish from turbine passage; 2) apply sensor fish (SF) and other advanced technologies to obtain direct measurements of water and fish; and 3) derive dose-response relationships using laboratory experiments to relate mortality and injury of fish to in-turbine stressors, i.e., strike, rapid decompression, and shear and use these relationships to formulate biological design criteria for hydro-turbines.  Supporting tasks include species prioritization to optimize research influence, common response metrics to allow comparison of laboratory results, traits-based fish analysis to maximize inferences from tested fish results to untested fish with similar traits, and field studies with Sensor Fish and other devices.

The effects of blade strike on fish injury and survival are being tested in ORNL’s Aquatic Ecology Lab with a blade strike simulator.

We solidified the project’s scope and priorities in a Multi-Year Research Plan (PNNL/ORNL 2016a).  To summarize, BioDE is focused on 1) new and rehabilitated Kaplan and Francis turbines; 2) rapid decompression, strike, and shear stressors; and 3) downstream passage of species that are of regulatory, conservation, and ecological concern such as American eel, American shad, Chinook salmon, various sturgeon species, and striped bass and species that are representative of species of concern due similar physical and behavioral traits.  The hydropower community expressed support for these priorities during outreach activities in FY14-FY16, such as webinars and conference sessions.