Producing renewable energy while restoring river ecosystems and building climate resilience.

Hydro as a restoration tool

FishSafe™️ turbines can be a transformative first step to improve river connectivity, by allowing fish to travel directly downstream. When combined with nature-based engineering techniques used for river restoration, FishSafe™️ turbines can be part of a holistic solution that restores degraded waterways and provides reliable, renewable power.

As the planet changes, the water cycle is changing, and we need smart nature-based solutions that help us adapt.

Before Construction
After Construction
1-3 years after restoration.
20 years after restoration

Why Restoration Hydro?

Countless watersheds, rivers, and wetland ecosystems worldwide have become degraded and disconnected. Dams, with and without hydropower, have historically been the primary disrupters of connectivity in rivers, preventing fish, water and critical sediment from moving through rivers and streams.

Healthy riverine ecosystems depend upon a fully connected river to function, and disruption of connectivity disrupts the critical equilibrium necessary for a river to provide many of its benefits to aquatic animals, plants, sediment, area wildlife, and humans. Disconnection and degradation of a river can cause low flows, dry/incised river beds, and species decline, among other negative effects.

How Does Restoration Hydro Work?

Natel's Restoration Hydro development approach couples hydropower production with river restoration. FishSafe™ RHTs maintain or improve river connectivity by enabling fish and sediment to travel with the bulk of a river’s flow—directly through the turbine. Retrofitting non-powered dams and upgrading existing hydropower plants with FishSafe™ RHTs can open up new downstream passage routes, restoring connectivity in previously fragmented rivers.

By combining FishSafe™ RHTs with engineered structures that mimic naturally-occurring features of a river like beaver dams and rock arches, Restoration Hydro can stabilize eroded river banks, restore habitat, enhance groundwater recharge, reduce flood and drought risks, and improve water quality—all while generating reliable, renewable energy.

Restoration Hydro + Dam Removal Case Study

With support from the United States Department of Energy (DOE), we worked with researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, leading river restoration experts at Natural Systems Design, and recreational designers and engineers from Mclaughlin Whitewater, as well as University of California, Berkeley’s Environmental Systems Dynamics Laboratory, Small Hydro Consulting, and Wells Engineering to apply the principles of Restoration Hydro to a paper demonstration site in Virginia, United States.

The conceptual partial dam removal project would provide meaningful restoration outcomes including reconnecting 137 miles of upstream habitat for migratory fish (eel, shad, striped bass, river herring) and improved sediment transport, while replacing a recreational hazard with a world-class surfing facility — all while delivering 2.4 MW / 13 GWh of fish-safe hydro and replacing ~50% of the existing dam with a rock arch that would enable upstream fish passage.

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Supports ecosystems

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Improves water quality and groundwater sustainability

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Drives investment
in water infrastructure

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Grows local economies and healthy communities

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Provides low-cost renewable power