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SFI National Challenge Fund: Low-Cost Fish-Friendly Micro Hydropower Energy Storage

22 February 2023

school of fish underwater

In a follow-up to our SFI National Challenge Fund news, we would like to highlight the research of Professor Aonghus Mc Nabola of Trinity College Dublin and Professor Mary Kelly Quinn of University College Dublin. These researchers, along with the project's Societal Impact Champion, Dr. Miguel Crespo Chacón, CTO of Easy Hydro Ltd, have been granted an Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) National Climate Challenge Fund award for their inventive project aimed at developing hydropower equipment that is safe for fish populations.

The SubScrewHydro project is focused on the development of fish friendly hydropower equipment for low-cost micro-hydropower energy storage. The project is addressing the challenge of providing greater capacity and opportunities for energy storage in the grid to help increase the penetration of other variable output renewables in our mix of energy sources.

Renewable energy like solar and wind are intermittent sources and when we rely more on these without sufficient energy storage capacity, instability would be created in our energy grid where supply and demand must be closely balanced.

Hydropower energy storage is the most mature and reliable form of energy storage, however on a large scale this has many limitations such as requirements for unique land topography and negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems where large dams are required.

In SubScrewHydro we are developing a fish friendly turbine using pumps previously developed for pumping fish in the fisheries sector without injuring them. We will uncover a method to reverse these pumps to operate as turbines offering a fish friendly device which avoids some of the negative environmental impacts of previous approaches. By using an existing pump in reverse we will also take advantage of significant cost savings offered by pump-as-turbines, which are 5-15 times less expensive than conventional hydropower due to mass manufacture

Finally, SubScrewHydro is focusing on developing equipment for micro-scale energy storage using both fresh and sea-water to increase the number of locations where hydropower energy storage is possible, while reducing their overall impact on the environment.

The award from SFI is a recognition of the important role that research and innovation can play in addressing the urgent challenge of climate change. With projects like this, researchers are taking an active role in developing practical and effective solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.


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