Hydropower has a storied history in the United States and remains the largest source of renewable energy generation in the country. Though the pace of building new projects has slowed over the past decade, significant growth opportunities remain for developing small hydropower. Such development is at present a complex and uncertain undertaking, with design engineering, construction, equipment selection, environmental impact mitigation strategies, and total installed costs driven by site-specific considerations. While new small hydropower developments currently struggle to compete with alternative energy sources, an opportunity exists to transform the existing development paradigm by designing new projects that generate renewable energy at low cost while preserving and enhancing stream functionality.
Creating and deploying environmentally compatible technology that produces cost-optimized renewable power benefits is the existential challenge for new hydropower projects. By successfully balancing these two concepts, small hydropower development can present an attractive stakeholder investment opportunity while maintaining the power of the stream.
The Standard Modular Hydropower (SMH) hypothesis is that new small hydropower development can be realized by shifting conventional thinking in four key areas:
Together, these elements strike a new path toward environmentally compatible, cost-optimized hydropower project development.
More information on the SMH philosophy, research activities, and expected outcomes are provided on the Research page.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy