Thordon Bearings has purchased the 67-kW Struzyska hydropower plant in Pila, Poland, with the intent to use the facility as a demonstration site for Thordon’s water-lubricated turbine guide bearing, wicket gate bearing and shaft seal technologies.
Struzyska, on the Gwda River, is located 180 km south of Thordon’s bearing and seal production facility, in Slupsk.
While the primary reason behind the investment is to use the Struzyska plant as a demonstration site, the facility will also be used to develop a series of low-noise, zero-pollution Kaplan-type turbines, Thordon says. Turbine manufacturing marks a new market for the company, which specializes in industrial and marine polymer bearings.
“While we do not wish to encroach on the business activities of the main turbine suppliers and plant operators, many of whom are valued customers of Thordon, we do see a market for small, efficient turbines in the 5 kW to 75 kW capacity range,” said George A. (Sandy) Thomson, founder of Thordon Bearings. “We aim to start working on the design with local partners within the next few weeks. The Thordon turbine will likely utilise Permanent Magnet (PM) technology to deliver a quiet, environmentally-efficient, high efficiency, low-risk hydro-turbine.”
Thordon Bearings has applied for EU funding to develop the new turbine on the premise that it will be designed and manufactured in Poland for the world hydropower market.
The powerhouse contains three turbine-generator units. Thordon plans to overhaul the 37-kW No. 3 turbine, scrap the 17-kW No.2 turbine and redesign and upgrade the 13-kW third unit. All the turbines are Francis type. Once two of the units have been refurbished and are back onsite, Thordon will operate the plant commercially, supplying electricity to the grid.
“Once overhauled, we will run two of the existing three turbines and use the area freed up by scrapping the No.2 turbine as a test bed for the prototype unit, said Greg Auger, Thordon Bearings’ hydro and clean power business unit manager. “At least one of the refurbished turbines will be onstream this year. We have already designed new face seals for the smaller unit and our production plant at Slupsk is working on refurbishing components as required and producing the new wicket gate and turbine guide bearings for both units.”
Additionally, the Struzyska units will be converted to a water-lubricated bearing system. Auger says the company will invite potential customers to see first-hand the benefits of converting from oil or grease to water lubrication, which include reduced environmental impacts and operational costs.