Researchers Analyze Role Of Shear In Turbine Passage

RICHLAND, Wash. - Although turbines have generated power at hydroelectric dams for more than 100 years, not much is known about how water flowing through the turbines may harm fish.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are working to provide some answers. They have begun examining the relationship between water velocities within the turbine chamber and injuries to fish. Pacific Northwest researchers are studying one particular phenomenon called shear force, which occurs when two different water velocities collide. Depending on the shear's intensity, a fish may be disoriented momentarily, lose its scales, or be bruised or cut.

The most common effects on fish observed during this study have been tearing of the gill covers and loss of scales.

Findings from this study could provide hydroelectric dam operators with some of the information necessary to design fish-friendly turbines. Pacific Northwest's research is being done in cooperation with two other national laboratories - Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory - through DOE's Advanced Hydropower Turbine System Program.

To simulate the environment found within a turbine channel, Pacific Northwest researchers built a small-scale facility that uses an underwater jet nozzle to vary water velocity. Researchers have begun testing the impact to fish of velocities ranging from zero feet per second to 60 feet per second. They will identify the injury threshold - the points at which there are no, or few, injuries to fish.

"This is a fishery biologist's opportunity to provide specifications for use in turbine design," said Duane Neitzel, Pacific Northwest project manager. "Turbines are integral to the operation of hydroelectric dams, but they also can injure fish."

Turbine passage can be considered one of the more fatal routes that fish take through hyd

Contact: Staci West
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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