A new turbine design underwent 200 hours of testing at the University of Michigan’s Marine hydrodynamics lab, team calculated that the prototype already improves power output of a single turbine blade by 40%. Studying the bumpy protrusions on the fins of humpback whales has already led to more efficient wind and tidal power turbines and now nature is once again the source of inspiration for a new and more efficient hydroelectric turbine. The latest source of biomimicry is the basking shark, which industrial design student Anthony Reale has borrowed from to create “strait power,” a water-powered turbine generator that tests have shown is 40 percent more efficient than current designs.
Worldwide there is an installed capacity of 777 GWe supplied 2998 TWh of hydroelectricity in 2006. This was approximately 20% of the world’s electricity, and accounted for about 88% of electricity from renewable sources. There is an estimated 8500 TWh commercializable hydropower in the world based on current technology and prices. Current projects in China and the rest of the world appear likely to have 4000 TWh of hydropower in 2020. A 40% improvement from retrofitting turbines could add up to 1600 TWh by 2020.
Reale designed his ‘Strait Power’ turbine with a double converging nozzle or an opening within an opening. The water enters the turbine through the first opening and the second nozzle – like the shark’s gills – compresses the water and creates a low-pressure zone to draw the water through and generate more energy.
Reale has filed a patent for the technology and has designed five potential commercial uses of the Strait Power system ranging from a portable and collapsible version for charging small electrical devices designed for outdoor and military use, up to industrial versions with 10-foot (3 m) diameter blades for powering high-power electrical generators of 40,000 watts and higher.