Anna Hunt, Contributing Writer
Gravitational water vortex electricity plants are a new solution in renewable energy production, and the concept is starting to gain more attention worldwide as a sustainable and environment friendly technology. The first such plant was built in Switzerland in 2009 and was named after innovation pioneer Dr. Bertrand Piccard, inventor of the solar-power airplane and the first man to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon. The gravitational water vortex technology is an example that progress is possible using clean, reliable and renewable forms of energy.
“With renewable energy you can do impossible things.” – Dr. Bertrand Piccard
One of the most important factors for innovations in renewable power generation is to have minimal impact on the environment, while being mutually beneficial to human populations and nature. The water vortex plant is built on top of river beds, with most of the construction work done underground, therefore minimizing above ground environmental impact. With effective landscaping, the plant could be essentially invisible. The technology within the plant is also safe for the organisms living in waterways.
“The innovative technology of a gravitation water vortex power plant poses no danger to fish. They can pass the small power station without any difficulty, upstream as well as downstream. Furthermore, there is an aeration of the water whereby self-purification through microorganisms is supported. Because of turbulences, the concentration of oxygen in the water increases, which has a positive impact on the water’s ecology.” – Cooperative Gravitation Water Vortex Power Plants Switzerland group (GWWK)
The GWWK pioneered the gravitational water vortex technology. In 2011, it earned the Watt d’Or award in the “Renewable Energies” category from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy for its pilot gravitation water vortex power plant in the village of Schöftland, Switzerland. The plant is part of a larger river renaturation effort in the country in order to re-establish and enhance the country’s rivers as a natural resource. The water vortex plant supports renaturation efforts since it supplies clean energy and protects nature and the environment.
This new type of hydroelectric power plant is built on a river bed, where water is led to the rotation basin in the plant from a minimum of 0.7 meters fall height and at a minimum quantity of 1000 liters per second. The passing water turns a rotor, with the aid of gravity and altitude difference. The rotor drives the generator that produces natural electricity and delivers it to the electrical network. The technical equipment used in gravitational water vortex are fairly simple, therefore plants are robust and easy and low-cost to maintain. GWWK’s pilot plant produces 80,000 to 130,000 kWh electrical power annually, which translates into an annual electricity consumption of 20 to 25 households. The plant is carbon-neutral, with 97% of its electrical production being CO2-free. The GWWK has set the goal of building up to 15 water vortex plants each year, throughout Switzerland and worldwide.
“The energy and climate policy are some of our society’s most important subjects. Foremost among solutions are those that are not only economically profitable but also social and ecological responsible at the same time.” - GWWK
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