Energy and Environment


Challenges and objectives

polluted waters © IWW

At a time when climate change and all its consequences are being felt daily in nearly every part of the world in the form of extreme weather events, melting glaciers, and ever-expanding invasive plant and animal species, there are a variety of challenges that revolve around water.

For example, hydropower as a renewable energy source has the potential to slow the development of man-made climate change, but it can also have far-reaching, sometimes negative, impacts on the flow regime and continuity of affected water systems.

Another consequence of the increase of renewables in our electricity supply is stronger and less predictable fluctuations in electricity supply. For this, conventional or innovative storage technologies such as (underground) pumped storage plants can be researched and investigated for their hydraulic properties.

More direct interventions of human activities in and around our water bodies such as water substraction or input of pollutants can lead to an imbalance in the quality and quantity of surface and groundwater, resulting in floods, droughts and poor water quality. On the other hand, the targeted use of technical measures and structures and / or so-called nature-based solutions can help to make our (aquatic) environment more robust and sustainable and thus more resilient to the consequences of climate change.

The goal of the Energy and Environment Research Group is to investigate which measures and actions have which effects.

Hydroelectric power station © IWW

Tasks and methods of research

The research and investigation of these challenges is carried out by methods of the classical constructive hydraulic engineering as well as by the still quite young discipline of ecohydraulics. While in constructive hydraulic engineering the physical flow processes in water bodies and at structures are investigated with the help of hydraulic engineering model tests and numerical flow simulations, ecohydraulics also includes the interdisciplinary context. Building on research into physical processes, the effects of these on the aquatic environment are also investigated. These include biological, chemical and physico-chemical effects. Other aspects can also play a role here, such as sociological and economic issues. All of this can also be studied in hydraulic engineering model tests and numerical flow simulations, but in many cases also in field studies in nature.

Experimental investigationsfield measurements, numerical simulations and theoretical analyses are used as research methods.