Six emerging hydropower technology trends
Emerging technological trends aimed at increasing hydropower’s flexibility, efficiency and cost-effectiveness were the subject of a workshop organised by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC).
The workshop findings were presented in a recently published scientific paper, ‘Analysis of emerging technologies in the hydropower sector’.
Two of the paper’s authors, Emanuele Quaranta and Ioannis Kougias, here present a summary of the spotlighted research and development (R&D) trends. These technologies cover hydropower flexibility, digitalisation, storage and variable speed turbines, generators with current-controlled rotors, as well as novel small-scale and fish-friendly technologies.
Climate change mitigation strategies require a high share of renewable energy sources (RES). The variable generation of RES requires that new hydropower technologies provide greater flexibility over an extended range of hydraulic conditions.
Some of the most salient flexibility technologies under development are: stabiliser fins, an adjustable diaphragm installed in the draft tube cone, J-grooves, air injection/admission, axial water injection with high/low velocity and low/high discharge, tangential water injection at a cone wall, axial water injection with a counter-flow tangential component, ejector power plants for the excess flow rate, two-phase air-water injection along the axis, hydroelectric energy storage solutions, battery hybrids, and smart modelling and control solutions to increase unit flexibility and operating range.
The collection and processing of real-world data to adjust the actual working conditions of hydropower turbines can provide advanced grid supporting services without compromising stations’ reliability and safety. It is estimated that a total 42 TWh could be added to present hydropower energy production by implementing hydropower digitalisation. Such an increase could lead to annual operational savings of USD 5 billion and a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.