Technology Gaps

  • The Water Power Technologies Office Water Power Program works to develop hydropower technology in the following areas:
    • Low-Head Hydropower
    • Materials and Manufacturing
    • Hydropower Systems
    • Hydropower Technology Accomplishments
    • Pumped-Storage Hydropower[1]

    Low-Head Hydropower – There is an opportunity to add new hydropower generating capabilities at low-head sites. These types of waterways are often present at existing non-powered dams, canals, and conduits across diverse areas.[2]

    Materials and Manufacturing – There is a need to test new materials and manufacturing techniques to improve the performance and lower the costs of hydropower. There is a focus on materials that reduce the life-cycle cost of turbine runners, draft tubes, and penstocks as well as ways to improve generator efficiency and reliability.[3]

    Hydropower Systems – The Water Power Program looks for new technologies that can reduce operations and maintenance costs, increase unit availability and plant capacity factors, reduce risk through enhanced system reliability, and improve the quality of the energy produced. Areas of focus include water-use optimization, application of advanced materials and manufacturing, and assessment of the value of water power grid services.[4]

    In its current state, the development of new hydropower is limited by the customized and site-specific approach to construction, powerhouse design and installation, and environmental mitigation.[5] New hydropower resources (such as non-powered dams, new stream-reaches, and conduits) are smaller, have lower energy density, and they are expensive to develop using existing technologies. There are complex socio-environmental impacts associated with existing hydropower designs that could require challenging or expensive mitigation measures. Restraints to hydropower development include the lack of infrastructure and limited capability to test and validate new technologies and designs.[6] The Water Power Technologies Office aims to address these challenges through the following approaches:

    • Enable the development of new technology for existing water infrastructure and new stream-reach applications that incorporate ecological and social objectives.
    • Leverage advancements in manufacturing and materials to significantly lower the cost of components and system design.
    • Explore opportunities for new development in which hydropower is a critical part of a larger suite of benefits.
    • Support the testing of new technologies.[5]
    • Invest in innovative technologies that improve hydropower capabilities to provide grid services (many existing plants are designed for steady generation in a narrow operating range, making them less suitable for flexible operation, which is a need).[6]
    • Develop digitization systems and advanced sensor suites to empower data-driven decisions on operation, maintenance, and asset management.
    • Research advanced technologies and data evaluation approaches to improve equipment longevity and condition-based repair.
    • Create cybersecurity tools and studies to articulate the cybersecurity target, risk, and recovery landscape.[7]
    • Develop technologies and strategies to avoid, minimize, or mitigate environmental impacts.[8]

Updated by Erin Bennett, June 2022