Catching the Flood waters and reuse as a valuable resource for hydroelectric energy generation and other sustainable use.
This topic is built on a vision or an idea that flood waters could be utilize as a valuable resource for sustainable energy generation. This initiative is bored out of the need or desire to proffer solution to combat the flood problem. I thought of the possibility of moving from floodwaters as problem, to floodwaters as solution to our other needs. Could we possibly tame the flood and catch it? Is it possible to use it for other sustainable purposes including energy supply?
This idea intends to channel the course of the water through engineering design. These channels are engineered in such a way that when there is flood, the larger volume of water triggers a start-up signal that opens them and allows the floodwaters to flow through. This water could be replacing the source of water being utilized for an already existing hydroelectric dam or switch on the source for a flood water hydroelectric dam.
Flood periods could become the period of time in which electricity generation is boosted in certain areas. And as it is known that huge flood waters could cut off electricity in affected areas; and electricity may often not be needed in flooded areas during flood times, this instigated the idea of the possibility of stored energy in energy packets (small or large) that could be utilized after the flood waters are gone. This proposal also hopes to explore other means of harvesting energy from floodwaters which may include the use of wave energy converter.
Hydroelectric energy generation from floodwaters could address and integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals SDG. SDG 1 – No poverty, SDG 2- No hunger, SDG 3 – Good health and well -being, SDG 4 – Quality education, SDG 7- Clean energy, SDG 9 – Strong institution and decent work, SDG 11 – Sustainable urbanization, SDG 13 – Climate change mitigation, and SDG 14 – Ecosystem conservation. In fact, this idea could integrate all the SDG goals to a considerable extent with minimized tradeoffs and maximized synergies.
1. Community Micro hydropower generation in the Hispaniola Island- Proposal for Energy supply by REDSER
2. We Capture the Wave's power and transform into electricity- Proposal for Energy supply by ARRECIFE SYSTEMS
3. Energy Packet Networks: Smart Electricity Storage to meet surges in demand- Erol Gelenbe, email@example.com DOI 10.4108/icst.simutools.2012.247805
4. The Financial justification for transforming to renewable energy supply- Proposal for Energy supply by Daniel Howard
What actions do you propose?
I propose that floodwaters be channeled in such a way that the kinetic energy in it could be utilize to drive turbines to generate electricity using hydropower plants technology. Hydropower plant captures the energy of falling water to generate electricity. This technology is not new. The innovative content could be the overall process through which this could be applied to harvest energy for electricity generation from floodwaters.
I propose that engineering design be fashioned in a way that the head and the flow which are essentials for a hydropower system kicks start a start-up that begins the operation of the flood water hydro electricity generation. Several years of mastering the hydropower plant technology process by experts have shown that for a micro hydropower plant, it only takes a small amount of Flow (as little as few liters per minute) and a Head drop or height as low as 1m to generate electricity. Needless to say that Flood waters are usually enormous and could come in huge magnitude that "seems" to be out of control. There could be more than one channel designed to follow through the course or around a predicted or forecasted flood prone area.Hydroelectric energy generation may however not be in the area since electricity may not necessarily be needed in such area at the time.
From ‘early warning signal’ or remote sensing reports or from experienced past, flooding events may be anticipated in certain areas and a drainage system is channelled to pass through such place in preparation for the floodwaters flow. However, in a case of flashfloods, flood rises rapidly with little or no warning. Flood control systems are used to reduce or prevent the detrimental effects of floodwaters.
What this proposal suggests is that flood control methods may not just be utilized to reduce or prevent the detrimental effects of flooding alone but also possibly explored to generate electricity and other forms of energy. The losses and tragedies that have occurred from flood events are enough to make us come up with alternative solutions, other than managing the negative effects.
Some methods of flood control which could be explored for electricity generation are : construction of floodways - which is a man-made channel to divert floodwaters and construction of dams.
Floodways are engineered paths that are constructed to redirect excess water through temporary holding channels or other bodies of water so as to reduce the adverse effects of flooding. Floodways as it has been utilized for flood control could be: Water-gate Flood barrier, AquaFence, Inflatable tubes and others.
Flood control dams are designed to hold floodwaters and then release or divert the water for other uses. Water bodies from various source have been dammed since ancient times for energy generation such as grinding mills and electricity generation. Power from hydro dam as over the years proven to be the most matured and stand alone source of electricity generation. In most places, it could be the only source of electrical power. For instance in Nigeria just like most other places, hydropower has not only been used at micro scale but also in large scale both for rural and urban areas.
How could flood control systems possibly be explored for energy generation?
This proposal intends to build on the techniques utilized in flood control systems and engineer them such that stored energy in the floodwaters could be captured while they are being retained or in the process of being retained in the temporary channels using hydropower technology, wave energy converter and possibly other techniques. The energy could then be utilize for our other needs; majorly electricity generation.
The design could also be in a way that the floodwaters are channelled to be re-useable, that is to go through the cycle in which the water flows through the energy generation system again. This is to achieve the aim of using the floodwaters for some extended period of time after the flood is over. This approach may not be altogether new as several years of generating power from hydroelectric energy has proffered ways that could be applied to maximize the use of floodwaters using hydropower technology. A type of hydropower technology called- Pumped storage; works like a battery, storing the electricity generated by other power sources like solar, wind and nuclear for later use. Also, hydropower technology has been developed to be used in more efficient forms. They do not have to be huge, the facilities can be tiny too. They could even be dam less, using diversions or channeling facilities. I believe it is possible to explore these already existing technologies, improve on them and apply to sustainable energy generation using floodwaters.
In the integrated proposal by REDSER titled: Community micro hydropower in the Hispaniola Island, a case study of Dominican republic and Haiti was used. An estimated 3.9 gig watt of electricity is hope to be generated from seven micro hydropower systems with a total capacity of 450 kW and more than 1000 families benefiting directly. The initiative solves a basic need- access to electricity using clean energy- hydropower, for isolated rural population. The amount generated was large enough to replace the source from fossil fuels; thereby meeting the sustainable development goal SDG7- clean energy. It also remove the higher investment that it would have required to connect the isolated areas to national grid. It ensured access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In relation to my proposal, the use of hydropower for electricity generation in REDSER projects implies that this approach for electricity generation could yield power adequate enough to meet impactful needs even though it is from a micro hydropower source. Although the water source is from community water body, the use of floodwaters also promise to yield similar if not greater result as it could reach out to the energy need of not only the rural but also the urban areas. Using floodwaters as a possible replacement or complement to river body in hydropower generation could check the adverse effects on ecosystem that is often occur when rivers are dammed. This could help in achieving SDG14 for ecosystem conservation. Also, the processes and activities required in the operation and generation of electricity from the micro hydropower plants could open the way to local enterprise as identified in the REDSER proposal and I believe my proposal holds a better promise that includes the urban area too. This could improve family incomes and reduce migration. Household environment becomes cleaner and healthier as there would be no need to use candles, kerosene or burning of fossil fuels for electricity. Women and girls benefit more from these, as housekeeping gets easier and have time to be empowered. Standard of living could also be improved as there could be better access to education, health and other modern facilities. These benefits could help address SDG1- to end poverty in all its forms everywhere, SDG2-end hunger, SDG3- ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages, SDG4- quality education, SDG5-gender equality, SDG8- decent work and SDG9- sustainable industrialisation. All these actions are also geared towards combating climate change and its impacts, part of which is the potential to meet energy needs without use of fossil fuels; and thereby addressing SDG13.
Another action I propose is the use of wave energy converter to capture the energy in floodwaters. This approach was proposed in Climate-Colab's energy supply contest by Arrecife technology - 'We Capture the wave's power and transform it into electricity'. This technology uses a device it designed to capture wave's power offshore and transform this to drive a system that generates electricity. The system opposes the strength of waves creating resistance and absorbing large part of its energy. This technology is also not new and not peculiar to Arrecife; it dates back 1799 and was modernised in 1940 and became popular in 1963 with invention of eponymous 'Salter duck' by Stephen Hugh Salter. The device was able to convert 90% of wave motion into electricity generating 80% efficiency (Rinkesh, 2017). Floodwaters often come with huge velocity and sometimes it may be mild and increase gradually. How ever it comes, I believe this energy can be captured and the flood tamed before the force result in destructive events; this is based on previous works that has shown that when wave energy is captured the speed of the wave reduces or is destroyed. This approach is also environmentally friendly and could address some of the SDGs. It promises the provision of clean energy with no risk of pollution often experienced with fossil fuels, creation of decent jobs as a result of this and improved standard of life. All of these could end poverty, end hunger, ensure healthy living, quality education, sustainable urbanisation and combat climate change. The SDGs that could be addressed here are SDG1, SDG2, SDG3, SDG4, SDG7, SDG8, SDG9 and SDG13. In addition, what is also important to me in consideration of this approach is the fact that as the energy is captured in the wave, the strength of wave coming out of the energy converter reduces and apart from having been able to utilise that energy for useful work, their destructive effects are reduced. This is also helping us achieve SDG11- safe cities.
I also propose and would like to integrate the work done by Erol Gelenbe on- Energy Packets Networks EPNs: smart electricity storage to meet surges in demand. Although this work is not on Climatecolab, it offers a useful approach that could be explored to effectively maximise energy use from renewable sources. As a result of the seasonal behaviour of flood and the hope to be able to utilise it benefits effectively and sustainably, I propose the storage of energy from floodwater source in energy packets. EPNs may be used to store and forward quantised energy units to and from a large range of devices and integrate multiple energy buffers especially multiple renewable source. The aim of an EPN is to provide a flexible, economical and efficient response to dynamic energy needs, it is able to store energy originating from renewable source when it is cheap or plentiful and complement traditional sources of energy during demand peaks. What this would imply is that the approach could be explored to store energy from hydropower and wave energy converter captured from floodwaters and this could fluctuate depending on which one is cheap and plentiful, but most important thing is that the energy is being stored and can be made available when needed. SDG7 is also being achieved here.
I believe these approaches and others that could be discovered along the line may be explored and synergised for sustainable development.
On the other hand, floodwaters could also be the source of other useful materials. No doubt floodwaters often come with a huge force.The water often carries with it large and different types of materials and wastes, huge and small. Most of the time, they end up as litters on the road and other water courses. I propose that segmentation could possibly be used along the course of the water channels to collect and separate materials that could be useful; such as plastics and other materials. This could help in achieving SDG6- Water and sanitation.
There could also be other benefits that this proposal may achieve. For instance, when floodwaters can no longer be used for hydroelectric generation or after wave energy has been captured, the water could be channelled for irrigation purposes on other farms or farms cultivated for that purpose; and we could have floodwaters seasonal crops. Also, the possible improved availability of energy promises better storage or preservation of available food, making them available for a long time. This could help achieve SDG2- no hunger.
Who will take these actions and which types of actors are involved?
This proposal could involve a multi-stakeholders approach. Who will take the actions would therefore be determined by the benefits and who will benefits.
At the early stage, the proposal is more of a research study and ground preparation in terms of design, applicability, workability and the relevance. In this case, the actions would be taken by environment enthusiasts, scientists, engineers, researchers other academics and related professionals, economists, financial analysts and members of the public.
Secondly, if the project is viewed as a disaster relief approach, or from the point of view that flooding and its corresponding effects would be minimised; non-governmental organisations would be at the lead the actions. United Nations, Red Cross, community groups, national government, disaster and emergency relief bodies. Private and corporate organisations who would like to be identified as fulfilling part of their corporate social responsibilities. These set of stakeholders are not actually in it for profit making but are focused on the humanitarian benefits and the value that they will add from being a part of it.
The third set of actors are those that would be considering the project as a potential profit making and for business. This set of stakeholders want to explore the energy generation potential of the floodwaters and how viable and sustainable it would be. These actors would include: government ministries- ministry of environment, agriculture, energy, power, water and finance. It would also include environmental consultants and managers, private and corporate companies as well as community members.
The stakeholders involved here could act together or individually. Each group of stakeholders could work individually to achieve their individual purpose and the three could also work as a large team to achieve the integrated purpose of sustainable development through energy generation from floodwaters.
The proposal author could be involve in any of the individual stakeholder as a research consultant, a member of environmental enthusiastic non-governmental organisation or as an environmental consultants or manager. I think a lot about our environment and very passionate about how to work it out from floodwaters as a problem to floodwaters as a solution avenue to meet some of our energy needs and synergising many of our sustainable development goals.
Where will these actions be taken and how could they scale?
These actions could be taken anywhere in the world where there is record or a prediction of periodic or seasonal flooding that has lasted for an extended period of time or long enough for it to be collected or channelled through a flood control system path. Flood waters go very slowly and this is usually often determined by the soil condition of the land in the flooded area. Countries with high frequency of flood occurrence, top the list of where these actions could be taken. Recently on 5th January 2018, flooding in Malaysia leaves two dead and 12000 evacuated. Other more recent events are the Phillipines, Oman and UAE. These locations could be top preferred areas for taking these actions. According to reports, South Asian countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan top the list of locations with high flood events. Others are China, Netherlands and United States. Also a 2013 study in Nature Climate change found large increases in the frequency of floods in eastern Africa, south east Asia, and parts of India under climate change. In glacial areas, studies also found that climate change is likely to contribute to devastating floods.
All these point to the truth that, many countries around the world would be qualified for these actions. The actions could be taken on a community or regional basis, which is most appropriate in terms of all the cost implications and benefits of minimising flood effects and generation of energy.
For the purpose of research into this study, this actions could be taken in learning institutions, research centres, research collaborations, laboratories and work fields where necessary, anywhere around the world. The ultimate purpose is to come out with workable plans or designs and reports that could be used in taking valuable decisions on climate change issues and synergising sustainable development goals while minimising tradeoffs.
In addition, specify the countries where these actions will be taken.
What impact will these actions have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
The actions proposed here will contribute significantly to climate change mitigation.
In the integrated proposal on community micro hydropower in Hispaniola Island, 450kW power estimated to be generated from micro hydropower systems will contribute to avoid the emission of more than 3900 tons of carbon(iv)oxide annually. This value was calculated while considering that the same amount of electricity was produced through a diesel generator of the same power. When similar projection is considered for floodwaters, it is possible to avoid similar if not more emissions than this.
Also, in the proposal by ARRECIFE technology, there device will supply the energy for 460 US homes in a year without carbon(iv)oxide emissions. They also estimated that there device could save 78TN of carbon(iv)oxid/year.
Lastly, access to increased information due to improved standard of living as a result of energy generation could improve adaptation to climate change and ability to understand synergising actions.
What are the most innovative aspects and main strengths of this approach?
The actions suggested in this proposal, are not all together new, the innovative aspect could be the ability to integrate the suggested approaches to catching the flood and generating energy for other useful purposes.
Several renewable approaches have been developed for electrical energy generation, the process of being able to use hydropower, wave energy converter and energy storage system to catch the energy from floodwaters are the main strength of this proposal. Water from many sources including flood has been with us; except when there is drought. If it is huge excess as floodwater, we need to expand the body of knowledge to utilise it and meet our other needs and synergisise the SDGs. Not to be carried away with the flood. I am not ignoring the fact that there could be tradeoffs, I forsee a time when renewables would be our only source of energy generation, I sees hydropower playing a major role and floodwaters not being a nuisance but a necessity to achieving part of this.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
According to one of the proposals I integrated titled Financial justification for migrating to renewable energy supply by Daniel Howard, the data gathered there suggests that when environmental and health costs are considered in energy production, the costs that society incurs can be 10x less with renewables than fossil fuels. The relevance this would have to this proposal is that, it gives or explain that the overall costs of generating energy and other benefits from floodwaters when considering other factors is largely considerable and strong enough for the suggested approaches to be explored.
Hurricane Harvey, Irma and many of the many flooding events that occurred in 2017 and that have been experienced in the past years has cost us huge amount of money, loss of property and life that we may not be able to quantify in monetary terms. However the integrated proposal by Daniel Howards, attempt to do this by placing a value on what this costs could be in terms of amount in US$.
His model shows that when the full lifecycle of environmental and health costs are valued, they average $1.06/kWh for the US in 2015, which is 10x greater than the average retail cost of electricity of $0.104/kWh for the US in 2015.
Also, studies have shown that when flood is controlled, huge amount of investments with value estimated in about one billion Euro could be safe compared to when there is no flood control system. When we are now able to not just control the flood but also able to integrate energy generation mechanisms into the flood control systems, the benefits would be large and the costs greatly reduced if not negligible.
Huge amount of money, properties and lives are often lost due to flood events. In a very recent flooding event that occurred on 5th January 2018 in Malaysia, two dead and about 12000 people were evacuated from the area as a result of this event. This is just one of the many events and could be among the less costs incurred probably as a result of improved response time and technology to manage emergencies in flood events.
Other costs of impacts due to pollution and health implications when more energy need to be generated from fossil fuels when also considered and compared are worth the tradeoffs to synergise benefits form energy generation from floodwaters.
About the Authors
My name is Adejoke Victoria Bayowa. I live in Nigeria. I hold a bachelor of science in environmental management and a master of science in environmental science from the University of South Africa UNISA Pretoria. I am a private researcher with much interest in environmental topics. I have research interest in environmental toxicology issues, environmental management, sustainable development and climate change issues. I am a member of Nigeria Environmental Society and participate actively both individually and as a team in environmental deliberations both at local and national level.