Physical and hydraulic forces experienced by fish passing through three different low-head hydropower turbines.

Knowing the kinds of physical stress experienced by fish passing through hydropower turbines can help optimise technologies and improve fish passage. This paper assesses the hydraulic conditions experienced through three different low-head turbines (a very low head (VLH), Archimedes screw and horizontal Kaplan turbine), taken using an autonomous sensor. In total, 127 Sensor Fish deployments were undertaken across all three turbines, generating 82 valid datasets. Decompression was rare at the VLH and screw turbines and rarely fell more than 10 kPa below atmospheric pressure. In contrast, the Kaplan was capable of generating pressures as low as 55.5 kPa (~45 kPa below atmospheric pressure), over shorter periods of time. More severe ratios of pressure changes could, therefore, be expected for both surface- and depth-acclimated fish at the Kaplan than at the other turbines. Strike was another possible source of fish injury (detected in 69–100% of deployments), and although strike severity was highest at the Kaplan, strike was more likely to be encountered at the screw and VLH than the Kaplan turbine. Shear occurred only near the blades of the Kaplan, and not at severe levels. The results demonstrated that low-head hydropower facilities are not without their risks for downstream migrating fish.

Author: Boys CA, et al. 2018.

Journal: Marine and Freshwater Research.

Funding: U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office


Tool Type
cylinder with half moon shapes
Report Type
Journal Article
Marine and Freshwater Research