Department of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering / School of Business
Supervisors: Dr Aonghus McNabola / Prof. Paul Coughlan
Potential for Energy Recovery Using Micro-Hydro Turbines in Wastewater Services
My name is Christine Power and I am investigating the potential for energy recovery using micro-hydro turbines in wastewater services, both in wastewater collection infrastructure and in treatment plants. I am approaching the project from both a technical and an organisational perspective and will be working between the Schools of Engineering and Business in Trinity College.
Wastewater collection and treatment is an extremely energy intensive and thus expensive service. My research aim is to recover energy from the useful flows through treatment plants, pumping stations and sewage networks using micro-hydropower turbines. This will reduce both the cost and carbon footprint of the wastewater service.
My PhD co-supervisor, Dr. Aonghus McNabola from the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering says, “The role of engineering in this project is about marrying hydropower technology, which is a mature technology for generating energy, and the wastewater drainage system.”
My role is to investigate the drainage system as a whole and identify the areas with the greatest energy potential. These will be areas with large flows of sewage and may be found in the drains themselves and/or the wastewater treatment plants. This energy potential will be realised and converted to electricity using micro-hydropower turbines in conjunction with electric generators. I will be designing the turbine and generator operations.
My PhD co-supervisor, Prof. Paul Coughlan from the School of Business comments, “If you’re to realise an opportunity for innovation, a number of different organisations need to come together.”
The business role in this project is to investigate the various modes of collaboration suitable for all of the organisations involved in the project and to encourage collaboration such that the organisations can come together as a learning network, sharing with and learning from one another. In addition, I will be developing a business model with implementation guidelines for these organisations.
This is a relatively new research area. There are, however, a few industry examples of hydropower generation in the wastewater service. One such example is the Yorkshire wastewater treatment plant in England, which uses two hydropower turbines at the inlet works of the plant to recover energy from the large flow of the sewage into the plant. It is the first installation in Britain to use untreated sewage for hydropower generation. It is working extremely well and is saving the plant over £127,000 a year in electricity expenditure.
This is the reason behind my research project. The engineering idea is valid but there hasn’t been enough work done to date to fully realise the potential of hydropower generation in the wastewater industry. I hope to change this by designing turbine operations that can be easily incorporated into various parts of wastewater infrastructure and also by developing a business model to ensure successful implementation of my designs. My ambition is a more sustainable and cost efficient wastewater service