Estimation of the Risks of Collision or Strike to Freshwater Aquatic Organisms Resulting from Operation of Instream Hydrokinetic Turbines

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Hydrokinetic energy technologies have been proposed as renewable, environmentally preferable alternatives to fossil fuels for generation of electricity. Hydrokinetic technologies harness the energy of water in motion, either from waves, tides or from river currents. For energy capture from free-flowing rivers, arrays of rotating devices are most commonly proposed. The placement of hydrokinetic devices in large rivers is expected to increase the underwater structural complexity of river landscapes. Moore and Gregory (1988) found that structural complexity increased local fish populations because fish and other aquatic biota are attracted to structural complexity that provides microhabitats with steep flow velocity gradients (Liao ... continued below

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Schweizer, Peter E.; Cada, Glenn F. & Bevelhimer, Mark S. May 2010.

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Hydrokinetic energy technologies have been proposed as renewable, environmentally preferable alternatives to fossil fuels for generation of electricity. Hydrokinetic technologies harness the energy of water in motion, either from waves, tides or from river currents. For energy capture from free-flowing rivers, arrays of rotating devices are most commonly proposed. The placement of hydrokinetic devices in large rivers is expected to increase the underwater structural complexity of river landscapes. Moore and Gregory (1988) found that structural complexity increased local fish populations because fish and other aquatic biota are attracted to structural complexity that provides microhabitats with steep flow velocity gradients (Liao 2007). However, hydrokinetic devices have mechanical parts, blades, wings or bars that move through the water column, posing a potential strike or collision risk to fish and other aquatic biota. Furthermore, in a setting with arrays of hydrokinetic turbines the cumulative effects of multiple encounters may increase the risk of strike. Submerged structures associated with a hydrokinetic (HK) project present a collision risk to aquatic organisms and diving birds (Cada et al. 2007). Collision is physical contact between a device or its pressure field and an organism that may result in an injury to that organism (Wilson et al. 2007). Collisions can occur between animals and fixed submerged structures, mooring equipment, horizontal or vertical axis turbine rotors, and structures that, by their individual design or in combination, may form traps. This report defines strike as a special case of collision where a moving part, such as a rotor blade of a HK turbine intercepts the path of an organism of interest, resulting in physical contact with the organism. The severity of a strike incidence may range from minor physical contact with no adverse effects to the organism to severe strike resulting in injury or death of the organism. Harmful effects to animal populations could occur directly (e.g., from strike mortality of individuals) or indirectly (e.g., if the loss of prey species to strike reduces food for predators). Although actively swimming or passively drifting animals may collide with any of the physical structures associated with hydrokinetic devices, turbine rotors are the most likely sources for risk of strike or significant collision (DOE 2009). It is also possible that during a close encounter with a HK device no physical contact will be made between the device and the organism, either because the animal avoids the device by successfully changing its direction of movement, or by successfully evading any moving parts of the device. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has been funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Waterpower Program to evaluate strike potential and consequences for Marine and Hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies in rivers and estuaries of the United States. We will use both predictive models and laboratory/field experiments to evaluate the likelihood and consequences of strike at HK projects in rivers. Efforts undertaken at ORNL address three objectives: (1) Assess strike risk for marine and freshwater organisms; (2) Develop experimental procedures to assess the risk and consequences of strike; and (3) Conduct strike studies in experimental flumes and field installations of hydrokinetic devices. During the first year of the study ORNL collected information from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) MHK database about geographical distribution of proposed hydrokinetic projects (what rivers or other types of systems), HK turbine design (horizontal axis, vertical axis, other), description of proposed axial turbine (number of blades, size of blades, rotation rate, mitigation measures), and number of units per project. Where site specific information was available, we compared the location of proposed projects rotors within the channel (e.g., along cutting edge bank, middle of thalweg, near bottom or in midwater) to the general locations of fish in the river (shoreline, bottom/midwater/surface of channel) to ascertain potential interactions. In addition, we are collaborating and communicating with scientists at other national laboratories and industry who are also developing information useful to this task. For example, other studies being funded by DOE include evaluations of different in-current (hydrokinetic) turbine designs for their effects on rates and severity of blade strike and likelihood of cavitation. This report summarizes activities completed during the first year of a three-year study.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2011/133
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/1018269 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1018269
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc846819

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  • May 2010

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  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • June 10, 2016, 1:04 p.m.

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Schweizer, Peter E.; Cada, Glenn F. & Bevelhimer, Mark S. Estimation of the Risks of Collision or Strike to Freshwater Aquatic Organisms Resulting from Operation of Instream Hydrokinetic Turbines, report, May 2010; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc846819/: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.