Thordon Bearings has purchased the small Struzyska hydroplant in Pila, Poland, 180km south of its bearing and seal production facility, in Slupsk. The Struzyska plant operates three small turbines capable of generating 67kW of electrical power.
Once two of the turbines have been refurbished and are back onsite, the Canada-headquartered company will operate the plant commercially, supplying electricity back to the grid. The intention is to overhaul the 37kW-capacity No. 3 turbine, scrap the 17kW No.2 turbine and redesign and upgrade the 13kW third unit. All the turbines are Francis type.
Thordon Bearings’ founder George A. (Sandy) Thomson, said: “The Struzyska power plant is located on the Gwda River in a beautiful part of northwest Poland noted for its lush parks and forests. When we heard the plant was available we took the opportunity to invest as part of a wider strategy to increase our market presence in the European hydropower sector.”
While the primary reason behind the investment is to use the Struzyska plant as a demonstration site for Thordon’s water-lubricated turbine guide bearing, wicket gate bearing and shaft seal technologies, the facility will also be used to develop a series of low noise, zero pollution Kaplan-type turbines.
Turbine manufacturing marks a new market for the company, the global leader in industrial and marine polymer bearings.
“While we do not wish to encroach on the business activities of the main turbine suppliers and plant operators, many of whom are valued customers of Thordon, we do see a market for small, efficient turbines in the 5kW to 75kW capacity range,” said Thomson.
“We aim to start working on the design with local partners within the next few weeks. The Thordon turbine will likely utilise Permanent Magnet (PM) technology to deliver a quiet, environmentally-efficient, high efficiency, low-risk hydro-turbine.”
Thordon Bearings has applied for EU funding to develop the new turbine on the premise that it will be designed and manufactured in Poland for the world hydropower market.
Greg Auger, Thordon Bearings’ Hydro & Clean Power Business Unit Manager, said: “Once overhauled, we will run two of the existing three turbines and use the area freed up by scrapping the No.2 turbine as a test bed for the prototype unit.
“At least one of the refurbished turbines will be onstream this year. We have already designed new face seals for the smaller unit and our production plant at Slupsk is working on refurbishing components as required, and producing the new wicket gate and turbine guide bearings for both units.”
Thordon Bearings, which has been supplying water-lubricated turbine guide bearings and shaft seals to hydropower plants for more than three decades, has seen a steady increase in oil-to-water lubricated bearing conversions.
“Once the Struzyska facility is fully up and running we will invite potential customers to see the benefits first hand of converting from oil or grease to a water-lubricated bearing solution. When they realise that environmental conservation pays dividends, those that continue to operate oil-lubricated systems will be easily swayed,” said Auger, adding “a fully water lubricated plant needs less attention; you’ll never worry about replenishing oil or grease.”
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits of converting to water-lubricated bearings, operational costs are reduced since the purchase of costly lubricating oils is eliminated and the fear of polluting the river, disappears.