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Tailwater hydrokinetic turbines: performance and environmental impact

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  • Full or part time
    Prof V Nikora
    Dr S Cameron
    Prof Vishnu Pareek
    Prof Daniel Packey
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The hydrokinetic energy conversion devices, known as hydrokinetic turbines, have attracted significant attention in recent years as they provide multiple benefits compared to conventional ways of renewable energy extraction such as hydro-dams in rivers or tidal barrages in coastal areas. For example, hydrokinetic turbines extract kinetic energy of tidal or river flows and thus do not require large-scale infrastructure. Although some visible progress in the development of tidal turbines has been made, implementation of this approach for river environment is only at the very beginning (e.g., Riglin et al., 2016; Muratoglu & Yuce, 2017). Recently, it has been proposed (Liu & Packey, 2014) that in-stream hydrokinetic turbines for free-flowing rivers can also be placed behind existing hydropower dams to generate extra hydropower and thus to form a ‘combined-cycle hydropower systems’ (CCHS). Such an approach has a significant potential in producing additional renewable energy at the large scale, particularly in areas with developed conventional hydro-power installations. Liu & Packey (2014) have identified a number of technical, environmental, and economic challenges that need to be addressed to accelerate world-wide development of CCHS, i.e., (1) establishing a global database of river characteristics within the vicinity of large-scale conventional hydropower facilities for assessing the potential of combined-cycle hydropower systems; (2) assessing environmental impact on river hydraulics, sediment dynamics, and aquatic biota; (3) developing optimum designs of hydrokinetic turbines that would account for conditions of tailwater flows; and (4) assessing economical performance indicators based on the outcomes of challenges (1) to (3).
This project proposes to address the above challenges, at least partly, in an interdisciplinary PhD study "Tailwater hydrokinetic turbines: performance and environmental impact". Thus, the key objectives of the project are:
(1) To assemble a database of relevant river characteristics within the vicinity of large-scale conventional hydropower facilities in Scotland and Australia (by collecting available data and performing direct measurements at selected field sites).
(2) Using the outcomes of objective (1), to design and conduct a set of laboratory experiments and numerical simulations for assessing the impacts of hydrokinetic turbines on rivers including environmental impacts on flow hydraulics, sediment dynamics, and aquatic biota. The experimental conditions will mimic typical tailwater environments; the models of hydrokinetic turbines will be selected following a comprehensive review of available and perspective designs, and aquatic species will be modelled following recently developed scaling theories (e.g., Nikora, 2010).
(3) To develop recommendations for designs of hydrokinetic turbines that would account for conditions of tailwater flows and minimise impact on biota.
(4) To develop technical and environmental indicators to underpin the assessment of the economical performance of the combined-cycle hydropower systems.

Applicants should have (or expect to obtain) a UK honours degree (or equivalent) at 2.1 or above (and preferably a Master degree) in Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Aeronautical Engineering.

If English is not your first language please visit the link for details of the requirements

The start date of the project is April 2019.


Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering (Joint Degree with Curtin University), to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing. NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR and EXACT PROJECT TITLE ON THE APPLICATION FORM.

Informal inquiries can be made to Professor V Nikora ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Fully funded studentship that includes an (international) tuition fee scholarship and stipend of £14,777 per annum in the UK (the first and third years) and AU$27,082 per annum in Australia (the second year). £1,500 will also be provided for travel between the UK and Australia, students will be responsible for their own visa costs.


Professor Vladimir Nikora, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, [email protected], School of Engineering, University of Aberdeen, UK

Dr Stuart Cameron, Environmental Fluid Mechanics, [email protected], School of Engineering, University of Aberdeen, UK

Professor Vishnu Pareek, Fluid Dynamics, [email protected], WASM, Curtin University, Australia

Professor Daniel Packey, economy and renewable energy, [email protected], WASM, Curtin University, Australia

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