The Energy Department today announced $4.4 million to support the application of advanced materials and manufacturing techniques to the development of next-generation hydropower technologies. Significant advancements in manufacturing over the past decade, such as the use of advanced materials, computer-aided design, and additive manufacturing technologies, have the potential to boost the performance of new, cost-effective hydropower technologies built to operate at small, distributed hydropower facilities. As a part of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, this funding opportunity supports the Department’s broader effort to increase the efficiency of the U.S. manufacturing sector and ensure that innovative clean energy technologies continue to be made in America.
There are significant opportunities nationwide to substantially increase the efficiency of existing hydropower equipment and add new generating capabilities at “low-head” sites – those with a change in elevation between 2 and 20 meters – ideal for small hydropower applications. These types of waterways are typically capable of providing between 100 and 30,000 kilowatts of renewable energy capacity, and are often located at existing non-powered dams, canals and conduits across diverse areas of the United States. Additionally, many of these potential sites are close to existing transmission lines, roads, and infrastructure, reducing economic and permitting barriers and environmental impacts from the expansion of these hydro-ready water resources.
This funding will help researchers develop low-cost, integrated hydropower turbine-generator sets that can produce cost-competitive electricity at low-head sites. To fully take advantage of the generating capacity of these existing resources, the funding will pioneer new designs that apply advanced materials and innovative manufacturing techniques to next-generation, low-head hydropower systems that are:
- lightweight, modular, self-contained, and easily shipped and installed upon delivery;
- able to operate efficiently at variable speeds in a diverse range of water conditions;
- cost-competitive and able to compete with local pricing;
- ecologically non-disruptive; and
- made with advanced materials and manufacturing techniques to maximize efficiency and improve performance, survivability, and reparability, while minimizing production costs.
The Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. For more information on funding opportunities for water power research, development, testing, and deployment see the EERE Water Power Program’s financial opportunities Web page.