ORNL Water Power Technologies Team

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) supports the Department of Energy’s mission to research, test, evaluate, develop, and demonstrate deployment of innovative technologies capable of generating renewable, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective energy from water resources. ORNL supports hydropower research, technology development, deployment, and market acceleration.

This team consists of researchers, post-docs, students, and support staff across multiple divisions within the laboratory.   For more information about our team please visit our people page.

The research outlined below is related to highlighted projects focused on hydropower research.  If you are interested in more research conducted on hydrokinetics please see www.ornl.gov/sci/waterpower or specific information about the ORNL’s Energy-Water-Ecosystem Engineering Group please see www.esd.ornl.gov/WindWaterPower.

Research Development and Deployment

The National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program is an integrated research effort to advance sustainable hydroelectricity generation and water management. The NHAAP New Stream-reach Development (NSD) project uses an innovative geographic approach to analyze the potential for new hydropower development in U.S. stream segments that do not currently have hydroelectric facilities. The NHAAP Environmental Attribution constitutes a geospatial framework that categories GIS data from multiple sources into broad groups representing ecological, geopolitical, socioeconomic and landscape issues. The framework is used to identify environmental concerns related to hydropower construction and operation.

The Basin-Scale Opportunity Assessment emphasizes an integrative approach to assessment of sustainable, low-impact hydropower development along with identification of opportunities for environmental improvements in particular stream basins. For more information please see hydropower.ornl.gov/bsoa .

Collaborations with other agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation and US Army Corps of Engineers, are focused on advanced water quality modeling on the Cumberland River in Kentucky and Tennessee for opportunities to maximize energy production while minimizing environmental impacts.  Researchers are also working on a tool to predict total dissolved gas concentrations below hydropower dams in the Columbia River Basin to protect aquatic life. The Turbinator project is examining the feasibility of installing a small turbine/generator at a Bureau of Reclamation site to generate electricity from an irrigation canal.

Market Acceleration
Market acceleration includes research on hydropower environmental impacts. ORNL is developing tools, methods, and information sets that will assist industry and other stakeholders in the development of environmental flows that can maximize power production to the extent possible while at the same time ensuring acceptable environmental protection. Fish passage research focuses on refining our understanding of hydropower and hydrokinetic turbine and reservoir passage stresses and predicting the responses of a wide range of fish species to those stresses. For more hydropower related information please see hydropower.ornl.gov/environmental , for more hydrokinetic environmental research please see www.ornl.gov/sci/waterpower/EnvProjects.shtml

Research is being performed on behavioral responses of aquatic life to electromagnetic fields, potential toxicity of protective coatings, and acoustic disturbance are researched as riverine hydrokinetic devices are considered for permit and launch into US waterways.

Archived Projects
Hydropower Advancement Project: The overarching objective of the Hydropower Advancement Project (HAP) is to accelerate increases in U.S. hydropower asset performance and value. Performance in this broad context includes hydropower asset reliability, availability, production, capacity, and water-use efficiency. This project ended in FY2013. For more information please see hydropower.ornl.gov/HAP

Grid Interconnection: This project focused on the value of hydropower resources to the grid through examining the power system (market and reliability) needs and the constraint on hydropower resources in providing these services to the grid.

Quantifying the Value of Hydropower in the Electric Grid:Final Report
The report summarizes a 3-year DOE study focused on defining value of hydropower assets in a changing electric grid. The study looked at existing large hydropower operations in the U.S., models for different electricity futures, markets, costs of existing and new technologies as well as trends related to hydropower investments in other parts of the world.