VERBUND Research: Austrian small power station - international innovation


“The world’s first ship lock power station, installed at the Vienna Danube power station of Freudenau, has started its operation successfully. This VERBUND research project opens up new opportunities on an international level for generating electricity from hydropower”, Dr. Herbert Schröfelbauer, Deputy Chairman of the VERBUND Board of Management, announced today, Thursday, at a press conference in Vienna.

The EU-sponsored pilot project of VERBUND, Austria’s biggest power supplier, is using – according to Mr. Schröfelbauer, responsible among other things for Engineering, Environment and Research at VERBUND – a promising Austrian innovation that was developed and built in cooperation with VA TECH VOEST MCE, the Linz-based generator constructor HITZINGER, and the French partner VA TECH BOUVIER HYDRO: the matrix turbine.

The novelty of the 200-kilowatt-small turbine the size of a telephone booth is that it is a both-way cross-flow turbine generating power. Another advantage of this new “red-white-red“ Kaplan turbine is that it can be arranged in a matrix in required numbers. Thus small power stations can be built simply using an add-a-turbine technique, so to speak.

In the Freudenau ship lock power station, 25 turbines have been arranged in a matrix of 5 times 5 units. Half a year ago this machine unit was installed in one of the two lock chambers of the Freudenau Danube power station and subjected to comprehensive tests subsequently.

The small power station can produce an annual 3.7 million kilowatt hours of eco-friendly power – enough to supply 1,200 households. There is no lack of water: More than 6,000 lockage acts are performed annually at the Freudenau power station.

The cost of the pilot project was approx. 48 million ATS (3.5 million EUR). Development expenditure accounts for 16 million ATS (1.2 million EUR) of this amount. The European Union sponsors the overall project with eleven million ATS (800,000 EUR).

“The matrix turbine opens up great opportunities for exporting our know-how and for new, eco-friendly methods of power generation”, says Mr. Schröfelbauer. “The matrix turbine project offers great prospects both in Austria, for the producer VERBUND-Austrian Hydro Power AG, and for our internationally active operations subsidiary Verbundplan.”

“We expect that the Renewable Energy Directive of the European Commission will have a strong impact on this technology in Europe “, Mr. Schröfelbauer says. Moreover, the proportion of renewable energy is to be increased considerably within the EU. The matrix turbine is ideal for new projects in the area of small plants.

“The main advantage of the matrix turbine is that the compact unit can be built into existing structures such as lockages, weirs for regulating lakes and rivers, irrigation channels and inlet structures of drinking water reservoirs “, Wolfgang Semper, VA TECH VOEST MCE Division Manager responsible for the project, explains.

Thus the up-front costs by and large wind down to electromechanical equipment, energy outlet and relatively minor constructional measures. Another advantage of this 100 % eco-friendly technology of power generation is that the existing characteristic features of a river, for example, are not affected in any way.

The most important markets are located on the North American continent. There, flood control in the big rivers is performed by lockages that could now be adapted economically so as to generate power - without major constructional changes, using the matrix technology.

As Gerhard Wedam, VERBUND Project Manager, explained, a wide range of applications presents itself to the matrix turbine also in Europe. There are hundreds of ship locks, for example on the Rhine, Rhône and Maas, that could also serve as power generators in the future. Additionally, there are more power stations on the Danube, and inland waterways.

According to Mr. Wedam, nearly 50 gigawatt hours of clean electricity per year could be generated in the nine power stations on the Danube operated by VERBUND – enough to supply a town with a population of 15,000.