This week, I’m attending the hydro power module of our MSc university course – Renewable Energy in the Built Environment. And I can only say: It’s great fun! Today the day started with a lecture on the different types of turbines, delivered by someone who normally works as a consultant in the hydro power industry. And then, after a short coffee break, CAT engineer Arthur Butler took us on a tour up the hill to CAT’s reservoir and followed the run of our pipes down to our own Pelton wheel turbine, commenting on important practical considerations for installing such a system. Then, as the last thing before lunch, we actually built up a small turbine and carried out some experiments with it. Measuring the flow rate with buckets and varying the number of light bulbs switched on while measuring voltage, current and rotational speed, we checked how well the formulas matched our observations. It’s one thing learning to sit in the comfort of the Shepherd lecture theatre and learn about the runaway speed of an impulse turbine under conditions with insufficient load. It’s quite another to actually hear the turbine make scary howling noises and to be sprayed with water during the practical because you switched off too many light bulbs at the same time.
One element that’s very refreshing about CAT’s MSc course is the fact that the lectures delivered by professionals who tell you about the kind of things that can give you headaches when you’re actually trying to make things happen. From the practicalities of getting your turbine connected to the electricity grid to the complications that could arise if the land on the other shore of the river is owned by someone else, there is an amazing wealth of “real world” experience passed on to us. And that’s it from me for now, the lecture on Civil Engineering in Hydro Electric Systems is about to start, so I better stop blogging.