State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2009MT195B
Title: Student Fellowship: A More Efficient Micro-hydro that Utilizes a Tesla Turbine Technology
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 12/31/2009
Congressional District: At-Large
Focus Categories: Models
Keywords: micro hydro, Tesla, Tesla turbine, hydropower, turbine, electricity
Principal Investigator: Garcia, Alaina
Federal Funds: $ 1,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 0
Abstract: Hydropower is based on simple concepts. Moving water turns a turbine, the turbine spins a generator, and electricity is produced. Many other components may be in a system, but it all begins with the energy already within the moving water. This is what limits the electricity produced.

Water power is the combination of head and flow. Water is diverted from a stream into a pipeline, where it is directed downhill and through the turbine (flow). The vertical drop (head) creates pressure at the bottom end of the pipeline. The pressurized water emerging from the end of the pipe creates the force that drives the turbine. More flow or more head produces more electricity. Electrical power output will always be slightly less than water power input due to turbine and system inefficiencies. Pipeline diameter has an effect on net head.

This proposal is to utilize a micro hydro system but instead of a standard bladed turbine, a Tesla bladeless turbine will be utilized in its place. A micro hydro is defined as a hydro water system that has the capacity to produce 100 kW or less. It will be experimented to see if enough pressure can be produced from the head of a stream to produce a higher efficiency of electricity using a bladeless turbine than a standard bladed turbine from a constant water source. Written permission has already been given by Montana landowner's Terry and Paula Scott for this project to take place on their small water source of Cherry Creek, which is a tributary into the Jefferson River.

The goal of this proposal is to expound upon Nikola Tesla's theory of a bladeless turbine. There were a number of advantages to Tesla's radical new invention. For one, bladed turbines are very high-precision machines built to specific tolerances. As a result, the creation of such a device is both long and expensive. As well, bladed turbines are not reversible, whereas, Tesla's device was. Finally, Tesla himself claimed that while running on steam, his device could achieve up to 95 percent efficiency. Even today, bladed turbines operate at approximately 60 to 70 percent efficiency. Tesla's design, however, had one fatal flaw to it. In designs that used both higher speed and higher power, the disks would greatly warp and distort at extended periods of usage. Even today, the alloys of disks are not powerful enough to withstand the tremendous temperatures (over 3000 Celsius) and pressures they are subjected to. For this reason, I propose to use water verses steam which the invention was based on.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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