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Students' mini hydropower innovation recognised with national award

An investigation into the use of a mini hydropower turbine in water transmission systems has been recognised with an Australian Water Association award.

The 2020 National Student Water Prize, proudly sponsored by Guidera O'Connor, has been presented to former University of Adelaide students Amber Smith and Anthony Cox for their research into water engineering and renewable energy.

“Australia’s one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters per capita, and 85 per cent of our emissions come from the energy generation industry,” Cox said.

“We need to understand the amazing opportunity the water sector can play in being a part of this solution.

Cox and Smith’s work considered the feasibility of installing a mini hydropower turbine at the Hahndorf dissipator in South Australia. The turbine uses the water’s kinetic energy, which is usually released at the dissipator.

“These dissipators sit at points in the pipeline where there’s high-pressure build-up, and as the water passes through the dissipator, it goes through a series of control valves, where it’s then sprayed out into its next phase,” Smith said.

“This is essentially just wasting all of this energy.”

The mini turbine can convert that wasted energy into potentially up to 1 MW of power, all by using existing infrastructure.

Cox and Smith's research considered the feasibility of the turbine operation in a number of scenarios to ensure the technology was economically viable. Their work considered varying discount rates over a 25-year design life.


Australian Water Association Chief Executive Corinne Cheeseman lauded the students for their innovative work.

“On behalf of the Association, I would like to congratulate all finalists and winners of this year’s Student Water Prize who are helping to inspire and drive a sustainable water future,” Cheeseman said.

“The idea of installing mini hydropower in water distribution systems could revolutionise the way the water industry tackles energy loss within pipelines,” she said.

Cheeseman highlighted the potential the research offered for the industry’s future.

“Their research also offers a solution for how the water industry can further contribute to a circular economy,” she said.

The National Student Water Prize, which is sponsored by water engineering firm Guidera O’Connor, follows on from the Australian Water Awards held this past June during Ozwater’20 Online.