Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering /
School of Business
Supervisors: Dr Aonghus McNabola / Prof. Paul Coughlan
Energy Recovery from the Water Supply Network
Water and energy are two of our most important and necessary resources and they are intricately connected. Energy is used to clean and transport water, and water is used to help produce energy. The supply of water is an expensive, energy intensive process and is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
PhD supervisor, Dr. Aonghus McNabola, Dept. Of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering:
“It is a very expensive process to supply water to international drinking standards. If we were to imagine that one litre of water costs €1.00 to produce then 80% of that cost is to do with electricity and because electricity costs are going up and up all the time then the cost of water is also going up. It is an unsustainable process at the moment and something needs to be done about that.”
There is an urgent need to identify more sustainable and economic ways of producing energy to improve the sustainability of the water industry. The focus of my research at TCD is to investigate both the technical and the economic feasibility of energy recovery from the water supply network through the installation of micro-hydropower turbines.
Electricity can be generated from water falling or flowing through a turbine. Here at the Grand Canal you can clearly see the energy potential of falling water. The greater the distance in height the water travels down, the greater the energy created in the water.
Apply this same theory to water in our public water mains. Treated water is commonly supplied from a central storage reservoir. Storage reservoirs are usually located at a height so the water can travel by gravity through the catchment area. The greater the height or slope these pipes travel down, the greater the build up of pressure in the water. These high pressures can lead to burst pipes and water leakage problems. Where the pressure in water flow becomes too high, a Break Pressure Tank is commonly installed in the network. This tank dissipates the pressure, kinetic and potential energy to the atmosphere. Break Pressure Tanks present an opportunity to recover energy through the installation of a micro-hydropower turbine.
This is a collaborative research project between the School of Engineering and the School of Business. My engineering research involves analysis of the water supply network to select suitable sites for energy recovery and also the technical design of scalable energy recovery systems. On the business side, my research involves the development of a business plan, collaboration and implementation guidelines to ensure the successful implementation of such a project in practice.
PhD Supervisor, Prof. Paul Coughlan, School of Business:
“I think the project will work if it produces not just a scalable technical solution but also a scalable organisational solution which when brought together will actually have the possibility to recover the energy that is there and maybe be the basis for a new venture in its own right.”