Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles provided by the Hydro Research Foundation that highlight potential future members of the hydroelectric power industry and their accomplishments.
The Hydro Research Foundation is actively supporting graduate students to conduct research related to conventional and pumped storage hydropower. These students are funded through the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program and industry partners through a five year US$3.7 million dollar grant.
Chris Schleicher will graduate this fall with a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Lehigh University. Chris graduated Cum Laude at York College of Pennsylvania with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 2011, and completed a MS in Mechanical Engineering at Lehigh University in 2012. In his undergraduate years, Chris spent a year as a co-op student at Voith Hydro in York, Pa., working on projects in the Research and Development group in the Hydraulic Engineering department. This experience heightened his interest in hydraulic machinery and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). His research has encompassed the design of a person-portable hydrokinetic turbine and non-uniformly pitched Archimedean screw turbines.
Chris’s research focused on pumped-storage hydropower design and implementation in an urban setting. Pumped-storage continues to be an increasingly popular topic. Power facilities that make use of pumped-storage hydro (PSH) are actually consumers of power more than producers of power; however, because the price of electricity is cheaper during off-peak consumption hours these plants are able to turn a profit. Typically these plants are near geological differences in elevation because of the need for an upper and lower reservoir to store water. This project entails making this technology more available in a micro-hydro sense rather than a large scale. More specifically this project is investigating using a pumped storage system in an urban, commercial environment.
Such a system would be of interest to commercial buildings with high-energy consumption such as those with large network servers. A considerable amount of money is spent to keep such servers cool and operational each day. The implementation of a micro-hydro pumped storage system would entail drawing from a storage tank on the roof of their building during peak power production hours, and pump the water to the roof during off-peak production hours overtime saving money on their electricity needs.
The scope of this project is to conceive the implementation of a pumped-storage system in this micro-hydro sense. This project entails the design and optimization of this system using CFD and Structural Analysis tools. The goal of this being to derive a runner geometry capable of handling the turbine and pump process, determining a prototype package that could be installed in a urban setting consisting of a possible reservoir-turbine/pump-reservoir system and turbine-generator component. A marketability and break-even study is also being conducted to investigate how feasible such a system could be in an urban setting. Chris is completing his work in December and actively seeking a position in the hydro industry.