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Energy Department Awards $6.5 Million to Advance Low Environmental Impact Hydropower Technologies

September 14, 2015 - 10:00am


Today, the Energy Department announced seven organizations selected to receive $6.5 million to advance the manufacturing and installation of low environmental impact hydropower technologies. The projects will address three technical areas: rapidly deployable civil works technologies, innovative methods and materials for hydropower construction, and powertrain components. While hydropower already supplies approximately 7% of America’s electricity and is considered the leading source of renewable energy, the nation still has significant untapped resources across the country where new hydropower generating capabilities could boost our supply of carbon-free energy. 

Through this funding opportunity, the Energy Department has selected seven projects to help advance hydropower drivetrains, which transfer rotational energy from turbines to generators, and structural foundations that could significantly reduce the lifetime operating and maintenance costs and minimize environmental impacts of new hydropower projects.

The full list of selected low-impact hydropower technology projects includes: 

Rapidly Deployable Hydropower Civil Works Technologies

  • Littoral Power Systems, Inc. of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, in collaboration with Alden Research Lab, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will develop a proof-of-concept design of integrated modules for an integrated dam section. The full-size prototype will be tested for structural integrity, leak resistance, and ease of installation. The technology has the potential to lower construction and maintenance times and costs.
  • French Development Enterprises, LLC of Billerica, Massachusetts, in collaboration with Alden Labs and Oldcastle Precast, will develop a building-block style impoundment technology, which utilizes precast concrete segments with interlocking elements to provide rapid in-field installation and removal. Using pre-fabricated concrete panels in dam construction could significantly reduce construction time and costs.  

Innovative Methods and Materials for Hydropower Construction

  • Colorado School of Mines of Golden, Colorado, will conduct a study on the use of cofferdams—a temporary enclosure built within a body of water to create a dry work environment—as basis for the design and construction of permanent water-retaining structures to sustainably and cost-effectively harness hydropower. The research could significantly reduce dam construction time and cost. 
  • North Dakota State University of Fargo, North Dakota, in collaboration with the Institute for Transportation of Iowa State University, will develop a technique that uses basalt fiber impregnation to increase durability and reduce cracking and shrinkage of concrete. This product could reduce the cost and maintenance of concrete used in hydropower projects.

Powertrain Component Innovations

  • Percheron Power, LLC of Kennewick, Washington, in collaboration with Utah Water Resource Laboratory, Hertelendy Research Associates, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will develop advanced components for use in Archimedes Hydrodynamic Screw (AHS) turbine systems. The advanced components will help improve the efficiency of AHS style turbines and could result in domestic manufacturing of a composite AHS turbine.
  • Composite Technology Development, Inc. of Lafayette, Colorado, will develop composite turbine runners suitable for small hydropower systems. The use of composite materials can reduce the levelized cost of energy (LCOE)—a measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies—by improving fatigue, corrosion, and erosion resistance while reducing maintenance and transportation costs. 
  • Emergy Hydro of Atlanta, Georgia, in collaboration with Ricardo USA, Georgia Tech, and the City of Atlanta, will develop a platform magnetic gear technology to be used with commercial off-the-shelf components in order to complete the most reliable and cost-effective low-impact hydropower drivetrain available. The technology will improve drivetrain reliability and significantly reduce overall maintenance.

Developing advanced water power technologies is part of the Energy Department's broader Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which aims to increase American competitiveness in the production of clean energy products and boost U.S. manufacturing competitiveness by increasing energy productivity. Continued innovation and advancements in hydropower technologies and manufacturing will help deliver more renewable energy to American homes and businesses than ever before.

The Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy 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. Learn more about the Water Power Program’s research and development efforts to advance hydropower manufacturing. To learn more about how hydropower captures energy from flowing water, watch this Energy 101 video.