Science and Technology

Técnico researcher leads renewable energy pilot project

The micro-hydro power plant inaugurated this week is located in Moleiro da Costa Má, Portugal, and will allow for greater sustainability and energy efficiency.

The micro-hydro power (MHP) plant resulting from a pilot project involving Técnico researchers was inaugurated this Monday, August 30. The project was carried out within the scope of the EU funded Interreg project REDAWN. Located in the Moleiro da Costa Má Hotel, the MHP plant is a sustainable and flexible solution in terms of energy and will create a totally self-sufficient agro-tourism attraction by generating sustainable energy as an alternative to grid energy.

The project combines applied engineering, sustainability and natural resources and aims to take advantage of some of the existing water potential of Rio Mau (Mau River) that supplies the MHP plant, built on the site where there was once a mill.

The Técnico team was coordinated by Helena M. Ramos, professor at the Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georesources (DECivil) and researcher at CERIS – Civil Engineering, Research and Innovation for Sustainability. Professor Helena M. Ramos is also leading the WP7: Pilot Demonstrations of the REDAWN project. “The IG Energy joined the project and promptly gathered all the necessary elements that allowed us to carry out preliminary laboratory tests and later its implementation in situ”, recalls professor Helena M. Ramos.

The CERIS researcher shares “the Moleiro da Costa Má Hotel was already interested in carrying out the energy transition to more sustainable forms of energy based on renewable resources”. So, this idea was reconciled with the REDAWN project, resulting in this pilot demonstration.

The installation was built in record time, in about two and a half months, thanks to the effort and dedication of the Técnico team and the IG Energy consortium: from the water intake, to the penstock and the turbine manufacturing, and the entire civil, mechanical and electrical construction. “It is possible to design, execute, test and implement in a competent way, and in convergence with the defined goals of hydropower production”, highlighted the team leader.

The project was based on many previous studies and publications by the DECivil / CERIS research team, under the guidance of professor Helena M. Ramos, and in collaboration with the team coordinated by professor Paulo Branco, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (DEEC).

The MHP plant will meet around 55% of the hotel energy needs. “This is very important for decentralised energy, energy transition and carbon neutrality, and sets the tone for its application in the water sector”, stresses the Técnico professor. An investment return is expected after 5 years.

Hydropower plays an essential role in the energy transition, not only because of its carbon neutrality, but also because of the flexibility to integrate other renewable sources and their storage capacity. “The MHP plants have significant potential for the Atlantic water systems and it is estimated that in Portugal it can reach a capacity of around 30 MW to be installed in the water networks, without considering industrial processes”, highlights professor Helena M. Ramos.

The implementation of MHP plants allows decentralised energy production, both in water supply networks for human consumption, and drainage networks for irrigation systems, as well as in industrial watercourses.

An example to follow

The pilot installation will serve as an example in the water sector, in industrial processes, as well as for companies interested in acquiring and implementing this technology. The Técnico team is available to provide technical support to project teams interested in applying this technology, wherever practicable.

“The integrated solutions began to take on special relevance in this new paradigm of carbon neutrality”, says the CERIS researcher. “The water sector faces extremely high energy consumption costs that correspond, in many cases, to around 80% of its expenditure, which has opened this window of opportunity for water-energy nexus”, adds professor Helena M. Ramos.

This is the last pilot installation of the REDAWN project, out of a total of 5. “One pilot installation (irrigation system) was built in Spain; two in France (supply system) and two in Portugal, of which one is the MHP plant at Moleiro da Costa Má and the other is a pilot installation in a family house.

“All partners of the REDAWN project are extremely pleased, especially the entire team involved in the design, laboratory tests and practical implementation”, stresses professor Helena M. Ramos. The team is aware of the opportunities that will result from this project and the full potential of the sustainable and environmentally friendly energy solution. “These pilot installations have created greater confidence in the future market of water solutions”.

“Nothing is impossible. We can do everything. We are able to adapt and to think of better and more sustainable solutions”, says the Técnico professor. If you still have any doubts about this, watch the REDAWN project videos.