From basins to blades: an overview of national research priorities for sustainable hydropower development and operation

Adam Witt, Hydropower Systems Research Engineer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Hydropower is a well-established, low-cost renewable energy generation technology supplying nearly 18% of electricity consumed globally.  A hydropower facility interacts continuously with the surrounding water resource environment, causing alterations of varying magnitude to the natural flow of water, energy, fish, and sediment upstream and downstream.  A universal challenge in facility design and operation is balancing the extraction of useful, carbon free energy and power system services from a stream while maintaining ecosystem processes and natural environmental function. 

In this seminar, I will highlight several research projects underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a science and energy laboratory conducting hydropower research for the Department of Energy.  Our research is committed to promoting sustainable energy production in healthy ecosystems through technology development, systems analysis, and decision support, spanning scales from basins to blades.  At the basin scale, I’ll summarize recent modeling work to optimize a cascade of large hydropower plants for maximum energy production and minimization of total dissolved gas generation.  At the blade scale, I’ll discuss research efforts to define a new class of low-impact, small modular hydropower technologies, including additively manufactured hydropower turbine systems created on one of the world’s largest 3D printers. 


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