Intermodal Dams?

I am a summer intern at LPS, having graduated this past spring with an engineering degree from Northeastern University.

Today, the LPS team met for a design review discussing the civil works end of a low-cost, low-head hydropower system. It was a great experience to see multi-disciplined engineers gather to discuss preliminary design drawings. This seven-hour review consisted of experts from UMass Dartmouth, Alden Research Labs, and GZA GeoEnvironmental.

In order to develop a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) that will be commercially competitive across various site conditions, LPS's design makes use of prefabricated modular units, with an easy and fast installation process and extremely low environmental impacts. This approach fundamentally differs from a traditional poured-in-place dam, and holds the promise of greatly reducing civil works costs.

The form factor on which this modular approach uses standard shipping container specifications, to take advantage of existing cargo logistics and decrease shipping cost.

But you can’t just adopt standard dimensions and connector specifics to any old box and assume it will be allowed for intermodal freight transport!!! The process of becoming a certified shipping container is no joke. In order to earn an ISO insignia and be welcome on board a container ship, would-be containers must meet several conditions governing the necessary dimensions, loading criteria, lift points and materials necessary to survive the harsh conditions to which they are subjected. Eye-wateringly large racking forces are just one example.

These ISO certifications were discussed along with numerous other criteria for the impoundment, penstock, spillway, and turbine modules.

For only a preliminary review, I was impressed with the overall amount of detail that was examined for this project. Having the whole team together in one room made it incredibly easy to communicate and bounce ideas off each other in a way you just can’t do over a conference call.

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