Access to electricity is crucial for remote communities, but traditional sources of energy such as fossil fuels are not always feasible or environmentally sustainable. Moshman Research worked on a 3-year ARPA-E funded project to develop a clean hydropower system that harnesses the kinetic energy from flowing rivers to generate electricity in a microgrid. However, designing a rotor shape that maximizes energy conversion while minimizing turbulence and environmental impact is challenging. In this blog post, we will explore how Moshman Research uses advanced modeling and simulation techniques to develop a high-efficiency and environmentally friendly hydropower system.

Mosaic Meshing

In this project, we are leveraging their expertise to design a rotor that can efficiently convert the kinetic energy from a flowing river into electricity without creating too much turbulence and disturbance to the flow. To achieve this, they are using a new meshing tool called Mosaic in ANSYS Fluent for hexahedral cells, which are more efficient and numerically accurate than the standard tetrahedral cells commonly used in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) calculations. By creating a 3D mesh of the flow domain around the rotor using a minimal number of high-quality mesh zones, Moshman Research can quickly converge the flow solver to a high degree of precision.

Mosaic hexahedral mesh of a 3D flow domain around a submerged rotor
The turbulent wake behind the rotor with mesh overlay

Once they have post-processed the flow, Moshman Research can extract the torque on the rotor due to the forces from the water and combine this with the rotor’s rotation rate to predict the power generated and the efficiency. There is a target efficiency for the clean hydropower system to be economically viable, and it will be up to Moshman Research to deliver a rotor design that meets that efficiency target while also interacting favorably with the rest of the system and the environment under all anticipated conditions.

This clean hydropower system is a part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA-E) under the SHARKS program. By developing a high-efficiency and environmentally friendly hydropower system, Moshman Research and its partners hope to provide a sustainable source of electricity to remote communities and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.