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Hydroelectric turbines

Francis, Pelton and Kaplan are the names of three different ways to exploit the power of water.

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Hydroelectric turbines are devices that transform the kinetic energy and power of water into mechanical energy. They're an essential element of hydroelectric power stations and have very high performance. It is estimated that turbines are able to convert over 90% of water’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy.

A hydroelectric turbine is made up of a stationary part called a distributor or stator, and a wheel or impeller. The former directs and regulates the flow of water, while the latter transfers the kinetic energy derived from the water to the shaft on which the wheel or impeller is mounted.

Types of hydroelectric turbines: Francis, Pelton and Kaplan

Three main types of turbines are used based on the capacity and height difference of the water: Francis, Pelton and Kaplan.

The Francis turbine was developed in 1848 by French engineer James B. Francis and it’s the most commonly used hydraulic turbine. A centripetal flow turbine, as the water reaches the impeller through a spiral conduit, adjustable palettes attached to the stationary part direct the flow so that it strikes the impeller blades. It’s used for medium height differences, from 10 up to 400 meters, and from 2 to 100 cubic meters per second of water capacity. 

Types of hydroelectric turbines: 1. Francis | 2. Pelton | 3. Kaplan

The Pelton turbine was introduced in 1879 by American carpenter and inventor Lester Allan Pelton. Its principle of operation recalls the classic paddle wheel of old watermills redesigned to increase efficiency. The water is channeled into a penstock with a nozzle at the end. This bottleneck directs the water by increasing its velocity. The jet of water that comes out of the nozzle strikes the impeller’s spoon-shaped blades. In order to achieve higher velocity, Pelton turbines are used for large height differences, from 300 up to 1,400 meters, and less than 50 cubic meters per second of water capacity.

The Kaplan turbine, invented in 1913 by Austrian professor Viktor Kaplan, follows the principle of operation of a boat propeller. Kaplan turbines are axial. The flow of water that turns the propeller blades enters and exits axially in relation to the propeller’s axis of rotation. As the blades’ angle of incidence is adjustable, this type of turbine ensures optimum performance with small height differences, but also with large variations in capacity (200 cubic meters per second and above).

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