Standard Modular Hydropower Technology Acceleration

Standard Modular Hydropower (SMH) Technology Acceleration strategy focuses on preserving stream functionality as essential.

Recent small hydropower development in the United States has been concentrated on the powering of unpowered water resource infrastructure such as non-powered dams and irrigation canals.  This trend represents a significant break from traditional approaches focused on development at sites without existing structures, which form an overwhelming majority of the Nation’s remaining hydropower resource potential. This change in focus has occurred over the past few decades owing to increases in the uncertainty of the cost and duration of the licensing process, the cost of site-specific design and customization of equipment and structures, evolving environmental constraints on design and operation, and increased cost competitiveness of other energy sources.  These factors have converged to economically strain new stream-reach hydropower development; in essence, conventional approaches are no longer feasible at the vast majority of potential sites. 

SMH is a stakeholder-validated and user framework, including criteria, models, design tools, testing facilities and assessment protocols.

The purpose of Standard Modular Hydropower (SMH) Technology Acceleration is to overcome these challenges, fundamentally rethink small hydropower development in the U.S., and enable previously unrealized levels of new project development with reduced costs, increased acceptance, enhanced environmental value, increased predictability of outcomes, and increased worth to stakeholders.  The proposed strategy to achieve these outcomes is the incorporation of standardization, modularity, and preservation of stream functionality as essential and fully realized features of hydropower development, technology innovation, project design, facility operation, and regulatory processes. 

The main objectives of the SMH project are as follows:

  • Demonstrate standardization and modularity as essential principles for technology cost reduction;
  • Develop advanced structures and machines that ensure environmental compatibility of the facility during installation, operation, and decommissioning;
  • Achieve wide stakeholder acceptance and approval to enable increased deployment.
  • Investigate the feasibility of a federal test facility for small hydropower technologies

The products of the SMH effort are not physical module designs. Rather, the envisioned end-state of the SMH project is a stakeholder-validated and used framework, including criteria, models, design tools, testing facilities, and assessment protocols for specifying, designing, simulating, testing, and demonstrating the efficacy of SMH as an environmentally compatible, cost-optimized renewable generation technology.