Abstract

Energy companies in the power generation field are continuously searching for green technologies to reduce pollutant emissions. In that context, small hydropower plants represent an attractive solution for distributed electricity generation. Reverse-running centrifugal pumps (also known as “pump-as-turbines”, PaT) are increasingly selected in that field. Amongst the existing type of pumps, drag-type regenerative pumps (RP) can perform similarly to radial centrifugal pumps in terms of head and efficiency for low specific speed values. For a fixed rotational speed, RPs with linear blades work as pump or turbine only depending on the flow rate. Such peculiarity makes it particularly intriguing to evaluate RPs working characteristic in the turbine operating mode. In the present paper, the performance of three Regenerative Pump-as-Turbine (RPaT) are analyzed using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). The analysis is supported by an already validated in-house 1D code developed in cooperation with Pierburg Pump Technology Italy SPA. The obtained results are also discussed considering the theoretical behavior of the circulatory velocity in a regenerative machine as described by a widely used 1D model, which is extended in the present paper to the turbine working region. The numerical approach is validated using experimental data for both an RP (in the pump working region) and a regenerative turbine (RT) (in the turbine working region). Finally, the numerical simulation of a small-scale RP allows for the detailed characterization of both the pump and the turbine regions. The numerical analysis shows that for a RPaT it is possible to find a “switch region” where the machine turns from behaving as a pump to behaving as a turbine, the losses not being overcome by the turbine power output. The analysis of the RPaT also shows the inversion of the flow pattern and the positioning of the pivot around which the flow creates the typical helical structure that characterizes RPs.

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