The future of hydropower
Water is the world’s largest developed source of renewable energy. Undeveloped hydropower potential in the US at drops between 5 and 20 feet is estimated at 70 GW – nearly equivalent to existing installed hydropower capacity – of which 7-10 GW can be found in manmade waterways or at existing nonpowered dams.
Global distributed hydropower opportunity
North & Central America
Australia & Oceania
But hydropower has a problem. Conventional hydropower technology requires high pressures to be cost effective. Large dams or long penstocks are needed to accumulate that pressure, leading to:
- Large environmental footprint
- Large social footprint
- Long permitting timeframes
- Capital intensive infrastructure
Hydropower also sits at the nexus of a global challenge – how do we meet growing demands for water and energy sustainably in the context of climate change?
Water needs are growing…
…but the resource is shrinking
EcoSmartHydro is the design, implementation, and management of hydropower systems that are climate resilient and that create co-benefits to enhance the health of local ecosystems and communities. While conventional hydropower plants are designed solely to maximize power output, EcoSmartHydro networks are designed to maximize power output while maintaining the health of watershed ecosystems and the communities that surround them.
By shifting from a centralized power plant to a distributed network that combines multiple low head plants, it is possible to generate 70-90% of the power of the high dam, while flooding less than 10% of the land, while using a third less concrete. In addition, the distributed system provides greater flexibility to the developer and stakeholders in the siting and development process.