Engineers usually build hydroelectric power stations at a massive scale to maximize the amount of energy a plant can produce. The thinking goes that it’s more efficient to build massive plants that can accommodate future development and growth. The Hoover Dam, for example, supplies power to rapidly expanding cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas. But a recent project by young Polish architects Dwawu examines the possibility of small-scale hydroelectric power plants, located in dense urban areas that aren’t expected to grow much more.
Like Amsterdam, for example. The Turbine Bridge is Dwawu’s concept for a hydroelectricity-powered pedestrian bridge over the Dutch city’s Amstel River. They’ve taken the turbine--normally hidden within the depths of a plant’s walls--and wrapped it around the footpath. The lightweight wings rotate as water moves the blades, creating a public spectacle that would likely unsettle some visitors. Within the turbine, two interlocking pedestrian and bike paths form the core of the bridge, with a playground above and engine rooms below.
Unlike bigger stations, which typically create a massive reservoir by damming a river, the bridge functions on a “run of river” hydroelectric system. That means the power generated by the turbine’s blades must be used immediately. Which is fine, explain the duo, since the bridge only has the capacity to power its own operation, plus a small part of the surrounding neighborhood. “The rotating turbine is powered by the river’s current,” write Adam Wiercinski and Borys Wrzeszcz. “It generates electricity, making the link self-sufficient. It’s able to accumulate energy for the additional needs of the community.”
[Images courtesy of Dwawu]