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HYDRO ENERGY POTENTIAL OF COOLING WATER AT THE

THERMAL POWER PLANT

Vladimir D. Stevanovic*), Aleksandar Gajic*), Ljubodrag Savic**), Vladan Kuzmanovic**),


Dusan Arnautovic***), Tina Dasic**), Blazenka Maslovaric*), Sanja Prica*), Bojan
Milovanovic**)
*)
Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, University of Belgrade, Kraljice Marije 16, 11120
Belgrade, Serbia
**)
Faculty of Civil Engineering, University of Belgrade, Bulevar kralja Aleksandra 73, 11000
Belgrade, Serbia
***)
Electrotechnical Institute “Nikola Tesla”, Koste Glavinjica 8a, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia

Abstract: The hydro energy of the gravity water flow from the coal-fired thermal power plant units
to the river in an open cooling system of turbine condensers is determined. The water net head
duration curve due to the river annual level change and the reduction of the hydro energy potential
due to the thermal power plant overhauls periods are evaluated in the case study of the Thermal
Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” in Serbia on the basis of statistical data for a long time period. A
design of the small hydro power plant is defined for the utilization of this hydro energy and the
economic benefits of the project are calculated. The internal rate of returns and pay back periods are
calculated in dependence of the electricity price. The obtain results show that the project is
economically attractive, and it can be realized with standard matured solutions of hydro turbines
available at the market. Even for the relatively low electricity price from small hydro power plants
in Serbia of 0.08 Euros/kWh the internal rate of return and the pay back period are 17.5% and 5.5
years.

Key words: Hydropower, cooling water, thermal power plant.

1. INTRODUCTION

In recent times there are projects that consider the utilization of the hydro energy of the turbine
condenser cooling water at thermal and nuclear power plants. Namely, wherever possible the water
for the turbine condenser cooling is provided from a natural source, such as a river, lake or sea. The
cooling water flow from the thermal or nuclear plant back to the natural water source is provided by
the net head since the discharge of the cooling water from the plant is at a higher elevation. The
hydro energy of this return cooling water flow from the plant can be utilized for the electricity
production in the small hydro power plant. The cooling water energy can be regarded as renewable
since the cooling water flow is the necessary prerequisite for the thermal or nuclear power plant
operation, and its hydro energy is always available during operational periods of the plant. A hydro
power plant with a generation capacity of 7.5 MWe uses the available hydro energy of the sea
water, which serves as a coolant for eight units of a thermal power plant in South Korea [1]. A plant
with two hydro turbines with a power of 5 MWe each has been built at the Kozloduy nuclear power
plant in Bulgaria [2]. The plant is operated by the cooling water from the river Danube that is used
for the cooling of two nuclear units, with the capacity of 1000 MWe each.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the hydro energy potential of the river water used
for the cooling of the turbine condenser at the thermal power plant. The water is pumped from the
river to the thermal power plant condenser and returned back to the river by gravity flow. The water
flow energy potential is determined by its net head and flow rate. While the flow rate of the cooling
water through the condenser is practically constant, its net head in gravity flow from the plant is
variable and depends on the river water level during the year. Also, the hydro energy of the cooling
water flow is available only during the thermal power plant operation, while in periods of overhauls
this energy is not available. The influences of the net head change and the annual thermal power
plant operational period on the energy potential of the cooling water flow are evaluated in the case
study of the Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” in Serbia on the basis of statistical data for a
period of two decades. A design of the small hydro power plant is proposed for the utilization of the
cooling water energy potential and the economic benefits of the project are estimated.

2. COOLING WATER SYSTEM AT THE THERMAL POWER PLANT

Utilization of hydro energy of the water flow for the cooling of a turbine condenser is studied for
the case of the coal-fired Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” in Serbia. The plant has two
identical units with a power of 620 MWe each. The plant thermal unit has two condensers, the main
one for the condensation of steam that exits from the main turbine, and the auxiliary one for the
small turbine which is a prime mover for the steam boiler feedwater pump. These condensers are
cooled with the water from the river “Sava” (Fig. 1). The cooling water flow is provided by the
operation of two parallel pumps. After passing through the main and auxiliary condensers the
cooling water is collected in a water pool from which it spills and flow back to the river by gravity.
The cooling water pool at the plant is several meters above the river surface. Therefore, this water
head and the considerable water flow rate of 20 m3/s per each unit provide an energy source that can
be utilized by the small hydro power plant for the electricity production. The cooling water flow
rate is practically constant, while the water head depends on the river water level that changes
between 69 m and 78 m above the see level as indicated in Fig. 1. These minimum and maximum
water levels of the river Sava are recorded during the 20 years period from 1986 till 2006.
Channels from the water pools at the plant units till the cooling water discharge at the river
bank are shown in Fig. 2. At the plant location there are four such channels, one per each plant unit
in operation, while the other two were built for the planned another two units. At present the
building of one additional - third unit is in preparation, and the hydro energy potential of the cooling
water for this unit is also taken into account in this paper. All channels are built from concrete and
have the same quadratic 3m x 3m cross section, while their lengths are different due to different
distances from the units of plant till the river bank. A planned location of the hydro turbines at the
river bank is also depicted in Fig. 2.

Fig. 1 The cooling water system at one unit of the Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B”.
Unit III Unit II Unit I

Inlet pool
Hydroturbines

"
va
A

Sa
r"
ve
Ri
Cross section A-A
3m

3m 3m 3m

Fig. 2 Discharge cooling water channels from the pools at the plant units till the river.

3. ESTIMATION OF NET HEAD

The gross water head Hg is represented by the difference of upstream Huwl and downstream Hdwl
water levels. In here analyzed case the upstream water level is the surface of the water jet that spills
over the pool wall at the unit of plant and the downstream water level is the river water surface.
Measured daily water levels of the river Sava at the plant location during the period of 20 years are
averaged. The highest river water level is in the spring in April, while the lowest is at the end of
August and at the beginning of September. These data are used for the calculation of the annual
change of the gross head and the results are presented in Fig. 3. As shown, the highest gross head is
at the end of the summer due to the lowest river water level in this period.
The head losses of water flow from the water pool at the plant unit till the pool in front of the
small hydro power plant are calculated taking into account the water friction at the concrete channel
walls and the local hydraulic losses. The local head losses take place at the water spill over the pool
edge at the plant, at the channel bends and the inflow into the water pool in front of the hydro
turbine units. For the channel wall roughness of 1.0 mm, the channel lengths of 470 m, 545 m and
620 m respectively from the units 1, 2 and 3 till the small hydro power plant pool, the water flow
rate of 20 m3/s per channel and the total local loss coefficient of 1.39 (the same for all three
channels), the calculated head losses ∆Hl are 1.2 m, 1.3 m and 1.4 m for the Units 1, 2 and 3
respectively. By subtracting the head loss from the gross water head Hg the net head is obtained Hn.
The duration curves of the gross and net heads are averaged for the annual period based on the
available data of the river Sava level change through the 20 years period from 1986 till 2006 and
these heads are presented in Fig. 4. As presented, the maximum available net head is up to 6 m,
while the mean value of the net head is 3.2 m (calculated as the difference of the mean gross head
of 4.6 m as presented in Fig. 3 and the maximum head loss of 1.4 m that corresponds to the Unit 3).

4. HYDRO TURBINE SELECTION AND ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION

For the low net head of 3.2 m and the total water flow rate of 2 x 20 m3/s = 40 m3/s for the present
operation of two units at the thermal power plant or 3 x 20 m3/s = 60 m3/s in case of three units
operation (taking into account the operation of the third unit, which construction is planned), the
application of the axial type hydro turbines is appropriate, such as the Kaplan, propeller or bulb
turbines [3]. The application of the double regulated Kaplan turbine or the bulb turbine is
considered as the most appropriate solution. The propeller turbine is not considered due to its
substantial decrease of efficiency when the operational parameters diverge from the optimal design
values. Each type of the turbine is equipped with adequate type of synchronous generator with static
excitation system and other necessary electric equipment. The synchronous generators are
electrically connected to the internal consumption of the thermal power plant. Also, it is considered
that the best solution for the reliability of the cooling water energy utilization in the coupled thermal
and hydro power plants operation is to put up one small hydro unit per one thermal power unit. In
this way the failure of one hydro unit or thermal power unit would have the least consequences on
the hydro power plant output. Introduction of more than one hydro unit per thermal unit will raise
the investment costs. The Kaplan and bulb turbines offered by several vendors have been surveyed.
Although the operational characteristics of turbines offered by different vendors are remarkably
different, the conservative judgment leads to the conclusion that under the water flow rate of 20
m3/s, the hydro turbine operates under the net head in the range from 2.5 m up to 5.0 m, with the
averaged plant efficiency of 0.82 (this value of the plant efficiency is also suggested in [4]). The
plant efficiency is determined as the product of the hydro turbine efficiency, the speed increaser
efficiency (which multiplies the lower turbine rotation speed to the higher rotation speed required
by the electric generator) and the synchronous generator efficiency. The overall plant design is
presented in the next section.
The electricity production in kWh during the year is determined as

6.5
6.0
5.5
Gross head (m)

5.0
4.5
4.0
3.5
Monthly mean values
3.0
Annual mean value
2.5
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Months

Fig. 3 Averaged gross head from the surface of the water pool at the plant till the river level during the
year based on the 20 years daily records (from 1986 till 2006).

8
Gross head
7
Net head
6
∆Hl

5
Head (m)

4
3
2
1
0
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
Annual period (-) 8760 h

Fig. 4 Duration curves for the gross and net heads from the water pools in thermal power plant units
till the hydro power plant at the river Sava bank (averaged for the period from the year 1986 till
2006).
1
Eel = 8.76 ⋅ ρ ⋅ g ⋅ V ⋅η HE ⋅ ∫ H ( x ) dx − ∆Er (1)
0

where 8.76 is the annual number of hours divided by thousand, ρ is the water density, g is the
gravity, V is water volumetric flow, ηHE is the mean value of the hydro power plant efficiency, and
the net head that can be utilized in the hydro turbine H(x) is bounded by its maximum (Hn,max) and
minimum (Hn,min) values and it is determined according to

 H n ,max , H n ( x ) > H n ,max



H ( x ) =  H n ( x ) , H n ,min ≤ H n ( x ) ≤ H n ,max (2)

0, H n ( x ) < H n ,min

where net head Hn depends on the time duration denoted as x and it is determined according to Fig.
4. The last term on the r.h.s. of Eq. (1) counts for the electricity that can not be produced due to
overhaul periods at the thermal power plant when there is no flow of the cooling water. These
overhaul periods at both plant units at the Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” are averaged for
the period from the first connection to the electrical grid till recent time, and the result is presented
in Fig. 5. Taking into account the number of hours in overhauls per each month during the year, as
presented in Fig. 5, and the available net head during the year (the net head for each month is
obtained by subtracting the head loss from the gross head presented in Fig. 3), the reduction of the
electricity production is calculated using the first term on the r.h.s. of Eq. (1). The obtained results
are presented in Fig. 6. Although the longest overhaul period is in May (the fifth month in Fig. 5),
the reduction of the electricity production is zero because the averaged net head in May is very low,
i.e. below 2.5 m and anyway the hydro plant can not produce electricity during this period of the
year. The reverse holds for June. The overhaul period in this month is also high and the water level
of the river sinks, and according to Fig. 6 there is maximum reduction in electricity production.
The possible electricity production in the Hydro Power Plant that utilizes the energy of the
cooling water at the Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” is calculated with Eq. (1) and the results
are presented in Table 1 for the operation of one Unit, two Units and three thermal Units.

5. CIVIL WORKS

Within this section the function, location, and dimensioning of the civil works for the small Hydro
Power Plant are considered. The power house and the appurtenant structures are presented in Fig. 7.

300 0.14
250 0.12
Electric energy (GWh)

0.1
200
Time (h)

0.08
150
0.06
100
0.04
50 0.02
0 0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Months Months

Fig. 5 Average monthly overhaul periods Fig. 6 The reduction of the electricity production at the
during the year per one unit of the Thermal Hydro Power Plant due to the overhauls in one unit of
Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B”. (averaged the Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B”.
from the first connection to the grid).
The basic principals for selection and location of the small Hydro Power Plant power house
and the appurtenant structures were not to jeopardize the operation of the existing Thermal Power
Plant “Nikola Tesla B”, and to comply with the environmental conditions, prescribed for the reach
of river Sava downstream of the plant. The other criteria and limitations were: the location of the
existing structures of the Power Plant, the suitable mechanical and electrical equipment to be
implemented, minimal scope and expenses of the civil works, with the appropriate static and
functional stability. In order to keep the permanent availability of the cooling-water channels for
the Thermal Power Plant, the Hydro Power Plant power house could not be located directly within
the existing buried channels. Hence, the flow is by-passed through a short chamber-like diversion,
by a system of gates (Fig. 7). The diversion chamber enables the capacity for the flow-regulation
(including the start-up). A side-channel emergency spillway, with a chute and an energy dissipater,
should pass the superfluent flow from the chamber into the Sava river, in case of the rapid shut-
down.
In the selection of the appurtenant structures location, the main principal was to minimize the
reconstruction of the existing structures. The redirection of the cooling water flow through the
existing channels will be enabled by the appropriate coordination of the gates to be implanted. In
the channel walls the openings will be cut, where the automatically governed gates will be
embedded.
The intake structure and the chamber dimensions are selected so that the most of the available
head is utilized (Fig. 8). Also, the chamber size enables favorable hydraulic conditions for the hydro
power plant exploitation, especially during the start-up and the shut-down. The wall and slab
thickness enables the structure stability during the construction and operation, especially having in
mind an extremely unfavorable influence of the uplift, during the high stages of Sava river.
The gates enable the efficient flow redirection from one cooling water channel to another, and
to the chamber, depending on the system operation requirements. Hence, the existing outlet
structure will be reconstructed, with the new flow-regulation gates. For the case when the Hydro
Power Plant is out of service, the flow will be passed through the outlet structure, directly into the
Sava river. The power house is designed in compliance with the selected equipment. The tailwater
connects the diffuser directly to the Sava river.
The redirection of the cooling flow during the small Hydro Power Plant construction is
foreseen through the existing channels, having in mind that the two of the four channels are not yet
in operation. The reconstruction works will be performed entirely during the maintenance of the
Thermal Power Plant units.

6. ENVIRONMENTAL ASPECTS

and between channel I and the intake structure will be implanted. After the third stage, the refilling,
construction of the plateau and the service road will be built.
Natural water temperatures of the Sava River vary considerably, with minimal values in
January and February and maximal in July and August. The average year temperature is around
12.7°C, the maximal average monthly temperature is 23°C, and the maximal daily temperature
29°C.
The most significant impact of the Thermal Power Plant "Nikola Tesla B" on the temperature
regime of the Sava river occurs in the periods of low flow and high water temperatures. The basic
requirements for the Power Plant operation are:
- The quantity of water taken for cooling of the turbines has to be lower than 25% of the instant
river flow,
- The temperature of the Sava River after the mixing with the water from the cooling system must
not be higher than 28°C.
Plant "Nikola Tesla A" is located 17 km downstream of the Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B”. In the
critical period of a year, the temperature difference at the two intake structures (of the Power Plants
“Nikola Tesla B” and “A”) is maximum 2.5°C, with the average difference of around 1°C.
Table 1 Annual electricity production in the Hydro Power Plant depending on the number of units in
operation (the operational net head is in the range from 2.5 m till 5.0 m, the water flow rate per unit is
20 m3/s, duration of the net head is presented in Fig. 4, the reduction in electricity production due to
overhaul periods is presented in Fig. 6 and the overall plant efficiency is 0.82).

Units of Thermal Power Units


Unit 1 Unit 2 Units 1+2
Plant in operation 1+2+3
Annual production of
3.88 3.78 7.45 10.83
electricity Еel, (GWh/god)

Legend:
1. Cooling water flow
2. The existing outlet structure
3. The existing earth channel
4. The intake structure with the chamber
5. Power house
6. Tail water
7. Emergency spillway
8. Chute
9. Gate plateau
10. Access to powerhouse
11. The existing road
12. A pipeline for the heating of equipment
in the cooling water intake station during
extremely cold winter days.

Fig. 7 Hydro Power Plant Layout.

Fig. 8. Hydro Power Plant cross-section (see the Legend of Fig. 8).
On the base of the available data, it can be concluded that the water temperature in the
cooling-water canals is approximately 9.4°C higher than the water in the Sava River (at the Thermal
Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” intake structure area).
The small Hydro Power Plant is designed to utilize the entire cooling-water flow from the
Thermal Power Plant, which should not affect the average temperature in the cross-sections of the
Sava River close to the tail water outlet. However, the flow velocities of the hot water discharging
into the Sava river will be lower comparing to the present conditions (due to the lower energy),
reducing the likelihood of mixing the hot water with the water in the river. Consequently, it can be
expected that the flow of hot water will be developed close to the right river bank.
On the base of the available data, it can be expected that the small Hydro Power Plant will
have minor influence on the Sava River, comparing to the present conditions. The influence is
limited to the reach of around 10 km downstream from the discharge of the hot water flow into the
river.

7. ECONOMIC EVALUATION

Specific costs of electric and mechanical equipment, which represents investment costs divided by
the installed capacity, decrease with the increase of the installed capacity and net head according to
the following relation [5]

bo
'
I EM = (3)
P H nb2
n
b1

'
where the specific costs I EM are calculated in Euros/kW, Pn is the nominal power in kW, Hn is the
net head in m, and the constants are bo=3300 €, b1=0,122, b2=0,107. The total investment costs in
the hydro power plant are calculated as

I = ( I EM
'
zPn + I CV ) (1 + f ) (4)

where z denotes the number of aggregates, ICV is the cost of civil works, while f takes into account
the costs of equipment installation, electrical connecting to the grid, design work etc. The parameter
f ranges between 0.05 and 0.1 [5], and the value of 0.075 is adopted. The present value of the
annual operation and maintenance (O&M) costs is calculated according to

j =n j
 1+ g 
COM = (m1 ⋅ I EM
'
⋅ z ⋅ Pn + m2 ⋅ I CV ) ⋅ ∑   (5)
j =1  1 + i 

where m1 is a fraction of O&M costs in the total investment in the mechanical and electrical
equipment, m2 is a fraction of O&M in the investment costs in civil works, g is the annual increase
of these costs and i is the standard interest rate. The number of years of plant operation is denoted
with n. The following values are adopted: m1=0,025, m2=0,015, g=0,03, i=0,08, and the planned
period of operation is 20 years. The variable maintenance and operation costs, which could be
caused by replacement of some parts that could fail during the planed lifetime of the plant, are
neglected. The present value of total costs is calculated as

CT = I + COM (6)

and presented in Table 2 for the case of hydro power plant construction at the Thermal Power Plant
“Nikola Tesla B”. Two solutions are considered, one with the introduction of two hydro turbines
that suit the needs of two existing units at the Thermal Power Plant, and the other with three hydro
Table 2 Present value of costs according to Eqs. (3-6)
Power Total Specific Total cost Cost of Total Present Present
per power, cost of of civil investment value of value of
unit, zPn equipment, equipment, works, , O&M total costs
Pn (kW) '
I EM IEM=z ICV (€) I (€), costs, COM CT (€), Eq.
(kW) I ' Eq. (4) (€), Eq. (5) (6)
(€/kW), EM Pn (€)
Eq. (3)
2 turb.,
800 1600 1245 1.992.000 1.670.000 3.936.650 944.425 4.881.075
z=2
3 turb.,
800 2400 1245 2.988.000 1.670.000 5.007350 1.258.600 6.265.950
z=3

1,400,000.00
2 units 3 units
1,200,000.00
1,000,000.00
Cash flow (€)

800,000.00
600,000.00
400,000.00
200,000.00
0.00
0.06 0.07 0.08 0.09 0.1 0.11 0.12
Electricity price (€/kWh)
Fig. 9 Value of annual electricity production in the Hydro Power Plant that utilizes energy of
the cooling water flow at the coal-fired Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” versus
electricity price.

turbines that will be appropriate for the operation of two existing units plus the third one, which
building is being planned. The adopted rated power per hydro turbine aggregate used in the
investment costs prediction is 800 kW. It is assumed that the civil work will be the same in both
solutions (with two and with three hydro turbines).
The present value of the electricity produced during the hydro power plant operational
lifetime of n years is predicted according to

j
n
 1+ e 
VEel = Eel cel ∑   (7)
j =1  1 + i 

where сеl (€/kWh) is the electricity price, i is the standard interest rate, and e is the rate of annual
increase of electricity price (e=0.03). The value of the annual electricity production Eelcel in
dependence of the electricity price is shown in Fig. 9.
The economic evaluation of the Hydro Power Plant project is performed with the calculation
of the internal rate of return and the simple pay back period. The internal rate of return iIRR is
calculated from the equation in which the present value of electricity production during the hydro
power plant lifetime is equated with the present value of all costs
j j
n
 1+ e  j =n
 1+ g 
Eel cel ∑   = I + ( m1 ⋅ I '
EM ⋅ z ⋅ Pn + m2 ⋅ I CV ) ⋅ ∑   (8)
j =1  1 + iIRR  j =1  1 + iIRR 
where the plant operation for n=20 years is adopted. The simple pay back period SPBP is calculated
as the ratio of the total investment costs and the value of annual electricity production.
The obtained results are presented in Fig. 10. For the present price of electricity from the
small hydro power plants in Serbia of 0.08 (€/kWh) the internal rate of return is 17.5% and the pay
back period is 5.5 years (Fig. 10). These parameters indicate that investment in the here presented
project is economically attractive.

30

Internal rate of return (%) / Pay


2 Units 3 Units
25

back period (years)


20 Internal
rate of
15
return
10 Pay back
period
5

0
0.06 0.08 0.1 0.12
Electricity price (€/kWh)

Fig. 10 Internal rate of return and pay back period for the Hydro Power Plant project that utilizes
energy of the cooling water flow at the coal-fired Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B”.

8. CONCLUSIONS

The case study of the utilization of hydro energy available in the cooling water flow at the coal-
fired Thermal Power Plant “Nikola Tesla B” in Serbia is presented. The cooling water flow rate per
each unit is 20 m3/s, while the gross head between the cooling water outflow from the coal-fired
plant and the nearby river of 4.6 m is calculated from the 20 years records of the river water level.
In order to utilize this hydro energy potential the building of the small hydro power plant at the river
bank is considered. As the most appropriate solution of the small hydro plant, which utilizes cooling
water from a technical system that has periodic periods of overhauls, the solution with one hydro
turbine per unit of the Thermal Power Plant is analyzed. The hydraulic losses of the penstock are
predicted and the annual duration curve of the net head is determined. Regarding the available
substantial water flow rate and low head, the application of the Kaplan or bulb turbines is adopted.
The nominal power rate of the hydro power plant with three turbines is 2.4 MW, while the internal
rate of return and the pay back period are 17.5% and 5.5 years for the present electricity price from
small hydro power plant in Serbia of 0.08 (€/kWh). The obtain results show that the project is
economically attractive, and it can be realized with standard matured solutions of hydro turbines
available at the market.

REFERENCES:

[1] Clean development mechanism simplified project design document for small-scale project
activities, CDM Executive Board, http://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/DB/KEMCO1164879501.96/
[2] Kozloduy NPP started the hydro power plant project, Kozloduy NPP Review, 4 (2007) 8.
[3] Guide on How to Develop a Small Hydropower Plant, European Small Hydropower Association
- ESHA, Brussels, Belgium, 2004.
[4] Garrity, J.J., Shiers, P.F., Harty, F.R., Lamb, T.J., Hydroelectric Power, in: L.C. Wilbur (Ed.),
Hanbook of Energy Systems Engineering, Wiley, New York, 1985.
[5] Kaldelis, J.K., Vlachou, D.S., Korbakis, G., Techno-economic evaluation of small hydro plants
in Greece: a complete sensitivity analysis, Energy Policy, 33 (2005), pp. 1969-1985.