an integral fish protection system




Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)

Project coordinator

  • Univ. Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Markus Aufleger
    Unit of Hydraulic Engineering, University of Innsbruck (UIBK)

Project partner

  • Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management (IHG), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna 

  • Albatros Engineering GmbH, Herzogsdorf

  • IUS Weibel & Ness GmbH

Staff (Unit of Hydraulic Engineering, UIBK)

  • Univ. Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Markus Aufleger
  • DI Ruben Tutzer

  • DI Dr. Barbara Brinkmeier

Project duration

  • 03/2017 - 05/2019


Project description

Hydropower is a sustainable way of energy production, but it also implicates ecological disadvantages. In this context, the longitudinal continuity has to be mentioned as well as the safe passability of such hydropower plants for migrating fish in both directions. Especially the harmless downstream fish migration through large sized hydropower plants is challenging and effective mitigation measures are largely missing. Therefore the University of Innsbruck`s unit of hydraulic engineering developed the flexible fish fence and subsequently the electric flexible fish fence, which constitutes a fundamental development of the new, innovative fish protection system.

The electric flexible fish fence combines the advantages of a physical barrier (flexible fish fence) and a behavioral barrier (electric field). Its horizontally clamped steel cables can be used as electrodes to create an electric field (low voltage) in the adjacent waterbody. It is placed in front of the turbine inflow and arranged in a way that it directs the fish towards a downstream fish passage. Hence, fish are protected and guided to a bypass. The spatially limited electric field, which causes a controlled escape reaction if a fish approaches to the fish protection system, is variable and can be adapted to different conditions/fish species.

The development of an electric flexible fish fence bears the potential to

  • efficiently create a spatially limited electrical field directly at the flexible fish fence and to reach therefore a controlled escape reaction with a guiding effect to the bypass system due the orientation of the fish protection measure
  • reach a, so far not possible, homogeneity and spatial coverage in its controlled scaring effect,
  • allow larger vertical distances between individual rack elements (tensioned cables) compared to a non-electrified version (which reduces construction cost and operational cost) while maintaining the fish protection rates and
  • serve as the basis for the establishment of a cost-effective and very potent fish protection system that is suitable for small, medium and large run-of-river plants.

The fish protection efficiency as well as the guiding efficiency of the system should be quantified and assessed in ethohydraulic experiments, which will be performed at the testing facility in Lunz am See (BOKU) for various potamodromous species. Further, the behavior of fish in close proximity to the electric flexible fish fence will be observed and classified- using underwater cameras and differences by species should be examined.

The goal of the project is to develop a cost-effective, widely applicable and efficient fish protection system as well as solving technical issues and showing typical behavioral patterns of fish in relation to the electric flexible fish fence. Further, its potentials and limits as a fish protection measure for an ecologically compatible use of hydropower should be presented clearly.













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