Water as an Energy Source


Hydroelectric power: energy-efficient and sustainable

Keeping machines and plants perfectly lubricated is akin to a balancing act: in terms of energy efficiency, the lubricant’s viscosity has to be as low as possible, so as to keep friction and energy losses to a minimum. At the same time, its viscosity must be sufficiently high to prevent direct contact between a shaft and bearing during operation, preventing wear and breakdowns. The better a lubricant combines these opposing demands, the more efficiently a system runs.

The specialists at Klüber Lubrication, part of the Freudenberg Chemical Specialities Business Group, are skilled at finding these perfectly balanced solutions. They select a suitable lubricant and then tailor it – not just in terms of viscosity – to the relevant operating conditions. Their expertise results in longer service lives for both lubricants and machines, not to mention energy efficiency, all of which improve sustainability.  

A recent example: a high-tech lubrication oil from Klüber Lubrication for hydropower plant turbines and generators, which convert water’s kinetic energy into electricity. The lubrication oil reduces the friction-related efficiency losses in generator bearings – more precisely, in plain bearings for the generators – by an average of five percent in comparison to standard oils, as Florian Held, Project Manager Hydropower, explains.

Saving enough electricity for 30 three-person households

A sample calculation shows how this allows hydropower plants to more efficiently generate energy: thanks to Klüber Lubrication’s lubrication oil, a classic hydropower plant with a rated output of 50 megawatts (MW) can produce 92,000 kilowatt-hours more electricity per year using the same amount of water. This is enough to keep 30 three-person households supplied with power for an entire year: without any costly reconfiguration or expansion of the plant, and solely by choosing the optimal lubricant. 

Simply put: Klüber Lubrication’s solutions aren’t just indispensable when it come to harvesting “green energy” from water; they also make it possible to do so particularly efficiently and sustainably. When it comes to hydropower applications, lubricants with a functional water component represent the pinnacle of environmental friendliness. Water has an especially low coefficient of friction, which can be used to reduce the machines’ energy consumption and extend service intervals.

“Hydroelectric power plants are a business that, especially given the increasingly stringent requirements for sustainability and environmental protection, we believe has a great future,” says Held. Viewed globally, hydropower plants are already the number one option for generating electrical energy from renewable sources. China, Brazil, Canada, the USA, and Russia are among the top countries in terms of installed capacity, while Norway’s electrical energy production is almost entirely based on hydropower. In addition, pumped storage plants and reservoirs can be used to store surplus solar and wind energy and rapidly convert it back into electricity as needed – e.g. when thousands of electric vehicles simultaneously charge their batteries on a night with little wind.

Ships, locks and port facilities

For the past few decades, products from Klüber Lubrication have been a household name in another water-related sector, namely the marine segment, where lubricants for ships, locks and port facilities have to adhere to a range of international environmental norms. “When used on ships, for some routes, like in US waters, they have to be made of biodegradable, nontoxic materials, even if they’re used to lubricate gears or propeller shafts but don’t come in direct contact with water,” explains Dirk Fabry, Sales Development Manager Marine Industry.

In this challenging maritime setting, too, Klüber Lubrication stands out not just for its environmentally friendly products, but also lasting gains in efficiency. According to Sustainability Manager Markus Hermann: “We offer synthetic gear and compressor oils that deliver reduced friction in comparison to petroleum oils. On ships, this translates into a lower demand for energy, which is currently almost exclusively produced on board by burning fossil fuels in diesel motors.” 

As Alexander Leis, Service Developer, underscores: “Accordingly, Klüber Lubrication lubricants can help to reach the ambitious goals for CO2 reduction in the shipping industry.” 


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