Paddle wheel power plant on the Elbe as an environmentally friendly alternative
"Our run-of-river power plant at Petriförder, Magdeburg's Elbe-promenade in the city centre, has a capacity of around 130 kilowatts. In one year, we can generate up to one million kilowatt hours of electricity. This is enough to supply 300 households with electricity,” explains Heinrich Schmidt, shareholder and Managing Director of EHG Energie Handel GmbH enthusiastically. He set this pilot project in motion, or more accurately, put it into the water.
The innovative 16 metre long and six metre wide hydroelectric power plant is reminiscent of a catamaran with a paddle wheel attached to the middle of it. The wheel is set in motion through the pressure of the flow of the water and this activates a generator, which produces electricity. This electricity, obtained from renewable energy, is fed into the Magdeburg electricity network. "Of course, it wasn't as simple as it sounds. The Elbe was and is a genuine challenge with its different water levels - from high tide to low tide - and the different flow velocities. After all, our hydroelectric power plant needs an immersion depth of 1.20 metres for the current construction of the paddle wheel to achieve good results,” explains Heinrich Schmidt. Therefore, it was not only the water levels of the Elbe in the past 20 years that have been studied and the flow observed. There were also the construction and environmental regulations which had to be observed. "Navigation on the Elbe will not be hindered and there will be no interference with the surrounding vegetation. Our power plant only uses a small part of the river bed of the Elbe. We make use of the flow twelve metres away from the bank. Even the fish can swim around us without any problems,” laughs EHG-Managing Director Schmidt, who lives in Hanover.
Why was the idea implemented in Saxony Anhalt, rather than in Lower Saxony? "This was for a combination of reasons. Saxony Anhalt is full of innovations, as far as the use of renewable energy is concerned. This includes, for example, the ‘Technology Competence River – Electricity’ network, in which research institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Institute, the University of Magdeburg and medium-sized companies work together. They all have only one objective - to obtain electricity from river water. Moreover, we have found a partner in the MGT Ingenieurgesellschaft and its design engineer, Werner Führer, who has excellently implemented our idea.” Incidentally, the plants in the industrial port in Magdeburg are to be produced, as it shouldn't just be left with the pilot plant. The EHG subsidiary founded specifically in Magdeburg "NEW erneuerbare energien GmbH” is to make these run-of-river power plants known in Germany and throughout the world, starting from Magdeburg. There have already been enquiries from Switzerland, Austria and Cambodia. Adapted to the relevant customer requirements, to the details of the river and to the size of the plant, Heinrich Schmidt assesses the acquisition costs to be 200,000 euros, including all the clearances and fixtures of the site on the land. "We are assuming that there will initially be a potential production capacity for five plants a year. Larger quantities can be produced to meet demand,” explains the enthusiastic producer of hydroelectric power.
The graduate in Business Administration is sure that the future supply of energy can only be secured by the use of renewable energy sources. Even today, 16 % of the electricity generated in the world comes from hydroelectric power plants, such as huge dams or water falls. And here too, the floating hydroelectric power plant has a clear advantage; the natural course of the river does not have to be altered or blocked to put it into operation. Also: the electricity acquired is supported, as is electricity generated by wind power or solar power, by the EEG (Renewably Energy Act). "The policy should relieve the hydroelectric power plant operators from network connection costs for hydroelectric power plants, in the same way as for offshore wind power plants,” claims Schmidt.
It is now just a question of finding a way of storing the renewable energy, for man is powerless without wind, sun or water. "But I am sure that this possibility will soon be found. And then consumers will have electricity generated from renewable energy available at all times, regardless of whether there is a low tide, a high tide, an ice drift or no wind.”
Author: Dagmar Perschke
EHG Energie Handel GmbH
Am Holzgraben 3
Tel: 0511/300 80 20