An innovative mini-turbine to exploit the energy potential of water supply networks
To develop a new type of hydraulic micro-turbine
The energy strategy of the Swiss Confederation aims to completely replace nuclear energy with other, cleaner energy sources by 2050. Small-scale hydropower forms part of this strategy and, according to the different scenarios outlined, its annual production is set to increase from 0.3 TWh to 1.3 TWh by 2050. To achieve this, new forms of decentralised production must be explored, such as using drinking water supply networks to produce energy.
The Hydro VS project is developing a new type of hydraulic micro-turbine and has been supported by The Ark Energy programme since 2011. This new piece of equipment, which enables energy to be produced within existing drinking water pipes, has been developed by HES-SO Valais Wallis and EPFL. Consisting of two counter-rotating wheels, it is designed to replace pressure reducers and recover hydraulic energy that is otherwise lost.
From research to a marketable product
In October 2014, The Ark Foundation endorsed a new phase of the project, which involves making the transition from academic research to a manufacturing and commercial development, via a consortium of three SMEs in Valais. The first of these, Sion-based Telsa SA, supplies the whole of the electrical part and the control tools. Valélectric Farner SA, whose head office is in Saint-Pierre-de-Clages, builds the motor for the turbine while Jacquier-Luisier SA (Evionnaz) is responsible for constructing the actual turbine.
By the end of 2015, the project aims to offer a mini-turbine whose power varies between 5 kW and 25 kW, and which gives a return on investment within 10 years. Miniaturisation is one of the key elements, because it enables the turbines to be installed in existing pipes.
The entire value chain is involved
This project produces economic benefits for the SMEs concerned and for small-scale hydropower in general. Focusing on a single practical objective, it brings together the entire value chain: basic research (EPFL), applied research (HES-SO Valais-Wallis) and a commercial product manufactured by local SMEs. It also consolidates the position of Valais and its players in small-scale hydropower. The new turbine should be on the market in early 2016.