NuSTREEM is a manufacturer of proven, modular small hydro installations that are suitable for irrigation districts or other water conveyance operators. To make its turbines more portable and easier to install, it has developed the NuCONTAINER, an integrated, modular package in which multiple turbines are transported and can be installed in a standard-size shipping container. In this interview, NuSTREEM General Manager Juliann Blanford tells Irrigation Leader about the advantages of this novel design.
Irrigation Leader: Please tell our readers about the inspiration behind NuSTREEM’s container design for turbines.
Juliann Blanford: Talking with leaders in the industry, we saw a need for an easily integrated, modular hydropower package that would simplify shipping and installation while also significantly reducing the cost required for civil works. The capital costs of small hydro development are often a deterrent to its expanded use. Few sites can reasonably overcome the upfront capital costs to generate a return attractive enough to appeal to investment. To overcome these barriers, the market has been driving toward modular and standardized approaches to hydroelectric generation. To provide a solution, we came up with the concept of the NuCONTAINER. The NuCONTAINER is a prefabricated standard shipping container that can be used in place of a classic powerhouse. This design substantially reduces foundational requirements, the extent of the civil design, and the necessary onsite construction.
Irrigation Leader: What flexibility is there in this design?
Juliann Blanford: NuSTREEM’s design allows for one, two, or three turbines per container. Multiple containers can be used for a single site, encompassing a large variation of flows. A modular system can be installed almost anywhere small hydro is desired—irrigation districts, mining facilities, rivers and canals, existing mills, conduits, and factory sites—whether in an independent micro grid or as part of a larger grid applied system. Anywhere there is moving water with a change in elevation, it is possible to use a modular hydropower solution. Our approach differs in its use of standard shipping containers and in its ability to scale by adding turbines to each container and adding containers to a site. It is a proven, off-the-shelf structure that is inexpensive and readily available.
Irrigation Leader: Are there any other advantages to this kind of design?
Juliann Blanford: In addition to enabling less costly and faster site construction, the NuCONTAINER design has other economic benefits. For example, the ability to transport an entire powerhouse using a truck changes the maintenance and repair concepts. The entire powerhouse can be returned to a central depot or to NuSTREEM for maintenance or repairs. Furthermore, a replacement can be installed quickly and easily to ensure minimal power interruption. The wiring and testing are done prior to delivery from NuSTREEM. The powerhouse essentially becomes the line-replaceable unit. This provides a level of standardization and logistical support that minimizes the need for field disassembly, reassembly, and test by specialists.
Environmentally speaking, the entire NuCONTAINER design is directed at the overall goal of making decentralized hydropower generation economically attractive. This incentivizes the growth of a technology that will provide society with a low-environmental-impact alternative to other power generation methods.
Irrigation Leader: Is the container used for your turbines specially coated or painted?
Juliann Blanford: A standard shipping container is used. The container can be painted with standard industrial paint or to any customer-specific requirements.
Irrigation Leader: What are the dimensions and weight of the NuCONTAINER?
Juliann Blanford: NuSTREEM’s single NuCONTAINER weighs approximately 20,000 pounds, and the triple-turbine NuCONTAINER weighs approximately 40,000 pounds. The larger container can be moved using a crane, while the smaller NuCONTAINER can be moved using a forklift or crane.
Irrigation Leader: What is the energy production capacity of a single NuCONTAINER?
Juliann Blanford: The smallest NuTURBINE in a single NuCONTAINER would produce approximately 75 kilowatts (kW). Three of the largest NuTURBINEs in a triple NuCONTAINER would produce approximately 750 kW. This puts the estimated annual energy production in the range of 350–3,500 megawatt-hours.